I've spent half a century (yikes) writing for radio and print—mostly print. I hope to be still tapping the keys as I take my last breath.
This is a list of very unusual words ancient and modern, English and foreign. It is presented in the hope it will generate mild amusement. A few of the words may be useful in Scrabble or crosswords, most will not be. Caution is advised about tossing any of them out during a dinner conversation; bread rolls might fly. Because of the capricious nature of the writer, this list goes from Z to A.
Zinzulation is the high-pitched whining sound made by power tools such as a circular saw, or, deep joy, a dentist’s drill.
If you’ve ever read James Joyce’s book Ulysses congratulations, you’ve got greater staying power than most. Somewhere in the very difficult text the word Yogibogeybox appears. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) calls it a nonce word, which is a word that has only been used once. The OED offers the explanation that a yogibogeybox is a container for “the paraphernalia of a spiritualist.”
Xenon is an ancient Greek word meaning foreigner or stranger. Science fiction writers borrowed it in about the mid-20th century and added “ology” to give a sort of scientific veneer. Xenology means the study of the biology and culture of extraterrestrial life; as none has yet been found it remains in the realm of fiction.
So you are trying to whistle a merry little tune and someone in front of you is sucking a lemon. The feeble little sound you emit is called a Wheeple.
Vagarious means unpredictable in direction, erratic. Kind of like where this article seems to be going.
It’s a warm day, you are outside with your i-thing reading all the brilliant content on HubPages and you are sitting under a lovely tree. You are enjoying the Umbriferous gift of the shade cast by the spreading branches and leaves.
Tiramisu – yum, yum – in Italian it means “pick me up.” That seems to be about right.
Susurration is a lovely word and it describes the sound that dry leaves might make as a light breeze moves them over a hard surface such as a patio. Rustling or murmuring.
Turn your hand over so the palm faces you. Now bend your wrist towards you. See those creases on the inside of your wrist? They have a name and it’s Rasceta.
We’ve all met someone who quotes statistics ad nauseum; boring aren’t they? It’s a behaviour called Quantophrenia, and it really ought not to be allowed.
A Poecilonym is a synonym for the word synonym. As if one was needed.
Britney Spears is a world-class nail biter; a habit that is known as Onychophagia. However, Dr. Kieron O’Connor of the Université de Montréal says according to a study he conducted in 2015, chronic nail biters are more likely than others to be perfectionists. Nibble. Nibble.
Back in the days when witches roamed among us they had to be winkled out and dealt with. Medieval logic dictated that if a witch was weighted down and thrown into a pond her evil powers would allow her to float, and would be ready for execution. If she sank and drowned she was clearly not a witch; something that must have been a great comfort to those who died. This is leading us to the word Noyade, which means killing by drowning.
Mundungus. There was a Harry Potter character called Mundungus Fletcher, but in this sense it means the stench of tobacco. You know, Uncle Arthur’s reeking old pipe.
Ever hit your thumb with a hammer? Then, the sounds you have emitted are called Lalochezia, which MediLexicon defines as “Emotional discharge gained by uttering indecent or filthy words.”
Kinnikinnick. Wouldn’t that be a killer word in Scrabble if you got it on a triple-word score square, except, of course, you’re two “Ks” short? Okay, what is it? Glad you asked. It’s a mixture of the dried leaves of sumac and willow and dogwood bark that is smoked by North American Indians. It is hoped that Uncle Arthur doesn’t get hold of some of this.
There’s nothing worse than skunky beer, except, possibly, no beer at all. There is, of course, a word that can be used to describe such vile swill – Jumentous means having the odour of the urine of a beast of burden.
Australians have a wonderful capacity for creating words and from them we get Illywhacker, a small-time con artist.
Some people can’t stand touching fuzzy surfaces such as velvet or peaches. It’s an affliction called Haptodysphoria and it’s a word that can be used to describe how you feel when some demented soul scratches their fingers down a chalkboard. Argh! Sort of feels like we’ve headed back to zinzulation.”
Googolplex is a number that is so huge that it can’t be written down. Sort of like the quarterly profits of a major bank.
German newlyweds head off for a flitterwochen. It can be roughly translated to “glittering weeks.” Honeymoon has a much more romantic ring to it. And, “glittering weeks” doesn’t have a very optimistic ring to it about the longevity of marital bliss.
In the 16th century Email meant “enamel.”
One last dip into languages foreign to English ears and we find Dínilo’s dikkaméngro; it’s the Romany word for television and might be translated literally to mean “fool’s looking box.”
This one is too delicious to pass over. Someone with a very prominent Adam’s apple is known as Cock-throppled.
Bellibone is said to be obsolete but it describes a fair maid who is both kind and beautiful. Surely, it should be resurrected and given another go round.
And, at the top end of the alphabet and the bottom of this list, we find Aprosexia, which is the inability to pay attention and to display near total apathy towards everything. So, if you've made it this far, congratulations, you do not suffer from aprosexia.
“So, we were, like, out for dinner when this guy, like, comes over to our table and, like, asks Melanie out.” Those horrible hesitations are called discourse particles and the justice system really does need to be mobilized to stamp this sort of thing out.
Fillers are things such as “um” or “err.” We all use them because we need to allow our brains to catch up to what we were saying. The American Sign Language University says “The typical ‘um’ equivalent is to use a loose hand and rotate it in the air (pivoting at the wrist) while using a facial expression that looks like you are trying to think of something.”
And, here’s one that didn’t make the cut; perhaps, next time. A Babelavante is someone who makes weak jokes. No further comment is required or necessary.
A plethora, cornucopia, profusion, and surfeit of dictionaries.
© 2018 Rupert Taylor
Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on February 12, 2018:
What a great list of lost words. I can see why you chose to list them backwards alphabetically. Aprosexia wouldn’t have been as meaningful otherwise.
Kari Poulsen from Ohio on January 26, 2018:
Great list of words. Thanks for the laugh! :)
Rupert Taylor (author) from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada on January 23, 2018:
Hi K.S. Lane
It is a lovely word and was introduced to me by P.D. James.
K S Lane from Melbourne, Australia on January 22, 2018:
Susurration might be my new favourite word. Thanks for introducing it to me!
Rupert Taylor (author) from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada on January 22, 2018:
"It is like it messes up my thinking only to recharge it and transform something else within me."
There's probably a word for that.
Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on January 22, 2018:
Oh there's certainly some strange words there that I've never heard of. Language is always changing.
threekeys on January 22, 2018:
I really enjoy learning about new words, especially those funny oddities. It is like it messes up my thinking only to recharge it and transform something else within me. What that exactly is, I do not know, but it gives me pleasure. Many thanks.