Words and the craziness of the English language are a part of our everyday lives and even more so for those of us who write for a living. I’ve always been fascinated with the way some words actually sound like their meaning and others don’t.
Recently I’ve been noticing unusual and rarely used words coming into my life. Several books I’ve read have had long and what I consider ostentatious ones. Oh yes, that’s a big word meaning boasting or speaking with excessive self-satisfaction and pride. But we hear it fairly often. Many know what that means.
And apparently I’ve become more highbrow in my television watching because unusual words have appeared there too. That’s odd for large rarely used words to be heard on television. I once read that television was geared for a sixth grade education, but that must have moved up a notch or two. When you see the words I’m talking about, you might agree.
First we have obfuscated. I had trouble spelling it so I looked it up. It is the obscuring of an intended meaning whether intentional or unintentional. It can make the message confusing, willfully ambiguous or hard to understand. Well I had all that just dealing with the word. I heard it on TV and thought, what are they talking about?
Then there›s untoward, which means difficult to guide or handle, manage or work with. It can be someone marked by trouble or unhappiness or can mean unfavorable. Toward means in the direction of or in the position facing. So now shouldn›t untoward mean going or facing the other way?
Next we have penurious. It means extremely poor, poverty-stricken or destitute. Wow, I never would have figured that out from the sound of the word. That word actually sounds the opposite of the true meaning of a word for someone who is down on his or her luck. It can also mean stingy and unwilling to spend. Well, I guess if you don›t have any money, you can›t spend it.
How about florid, which means elaborate or excessively ornamented or also red or reddish or flushed in complexion often associated with outdoors life. When the word first entered the English language, it was used with the literal meaning, covered with flowers. It comes from the Latin word “floridus,” which means blooming or flowery. That use is now obsolete. These days, florid can also refer to an overblown style in speech, writing, or decoration.
Purlieu means neighborhood, frequent haunt, confines or in the area of. The area directly around or outside of a place is called its purlieu. A city›s suburbs can also be thought of as its purlieus. Originally, a purlieu was a term used in Britain›s now-obsolete forest law for land adjacent to a forest. I think I can see working this into a conversation.
So, now I may have improved your vocabulary a bit. Maybe you›ll have use for one of these words this week. If you use them, everyone around you will look at you and say, “What did you mean by that?” Try it.
While these are all real words, I now offer up some “sniglets” or made-up words. They are a type of new word popularized by the comedian, Rich Hall, in the 1980s. It›s usually a combination of two words that bring a smile to my face every time. This guy really knew how to have fun with our language. Maybe you›ll have a reason to use these words this week, too. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Cashtration – The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
Intaxicaton – Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
Giraffiti – Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
Sarchasm – The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.
Osteopornosis – A degenerate disease.
Karmageddon – It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.
Decafalon – The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
Profanitype – Symbols used by cartoonists to replace swearwords.
Glibido – All talk and no action.
And finally, maybe my favorite, Essoasso – One who cuts through a gas station to avoid a traffic light!
If you are smiling now, I have done my job!
(Melanie Behrens – firstname.lastname@example.org)
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