Word of the day for Thursday, June 15th

My somethingth high school reunion is coming up next week, and while I’ve decided not to go, the occasion has obviously dredged up a lot of memories. Mostly bad ones. The terrible job I did as yearbook co-editor (yes, there were line drawings in the yearbook that year). Slighting people that considered me a friend. Being left in a dangerous position with a bad outcome by people I considered friends. Transferring into a class just so I could be lab partners with a boy I had a crush on, and doing really badly in that class as a result. Lying to a trusted teacher. And of course, getting in some serious trouble with the law as a result of following somebody I thought was a real cool genius who I only much later figured out was an

ultracrepidarian, when he stated with authority that the moon was about 5,000 miles away from the Earth. Ultracrepidarian: one who is presumptuous and offers advice or opinions beyond one’s sphere of knowledge.

I actually have a good excuse regarding scheduling for why I’m not going to this reunion, but the fact is that I’m too scared to re-enter that environment and potentially discover that I haven’t really grown up that much from the dumb kid I was so long ago. Oh well. At least I know that the moon isn’t 5,000 miles away.

I now pronounce you

The other day I was listening to a podcast where two guys were talking about how they just realized they had been pronouncing the word “diphtheria” wrong their entire lives, and the first one that realized it only happened upon it when spellcheck corrected their “diptheria” attempt. “It’s pronounced diff-theria, not dip-theria, people. The first h isn’t silent.” And then they laughed that somebody would think that the first h could actually be silent. They were assuming that everybody else was misspelling the word too.

I immediately went, “Wait. What?” because I did think that first h was silent, and I did know that it was there in the word. I was a little skeptical, so I looked it up. And yeah. It’s diff-theria. “But what about those other ‘diph’ words? Like diphthong? You know – dip-thong.” And what do you know? It’s diff-thongHuh.

But you know what? I’m going to continue to continue pronouncing these as dip-theria and dip-thong, because 1) the “dip” form is noted in the dictionary as a secondary pronunciation, and 2) saying “diff” sounds kind of jerky and smug to me right now. Some words are like that. I know how to pronounce them correctly, but there’s something really snooty-seeming about doing so.

Here are some other words I know how to pronounce correctly but will continue to pronounce incorrectly until something big happens to change my mind:

  • karaoke
  • ukulele
  • Chan Marshall
  • Van Gogh
  • masseuse
  • New Orleans
  • lingerie
  • bona fides
  • forte
  • fracas
  • gimcrack
  • tinnitus

How about you? Please don’t say “sherbert.” I beg you.

Published in: on May 24, 2017 at 6:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Word of the day for Wednesday, April 5th

As I’m typing this post, I’m running my tongue over a chip on the edge of one of my top incisors and trying not to think about that tooth scraping against one of my bottom incisors. As you may have experienced, it is extremely hard to not think about something specific, and right now I’m thinking about this chipped tooth scraping another tooth and I’m experiencing a bit of

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grima. Grima is a Spanish word describing the feeling you get when you hear fingernails scratch a blackboard, or when you merely see fingernails scratching a blackboard, or even when you just think about fingernails scratching a blackboard. It can also be induced by an eating utensil scraping a porcelain dish or, in the case of my friend Shelly and a grima researcher in Madrid, the very idea of foam rubber (particularly old foam rubber). A feeling worse than disgust, grima stimulates the brain’s fear processor and markedly affects one’s heart rate.

I don’t have a very nice closing bit for this post, but I’m going have to stop typing now. I need to go find some pudding to meditate upon before I go nuts thinking about my chipped tooth scraping against another tooth. Have a good, grima-free day, friends.

Published in: on April 5, 2017 at 8:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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Word of the day for Thursday, March 9th

It’s not a verb referring to what you are doing to your body on a Funyuns-rich diet. It’s not a Don Martin onomatopoeia for Rapunzel Letting Loose Her Hair For Prince #2.

Flabellate. It’s an adjective meaning “fan-shaped.” Merriam-Webster and LACMA are playing a “match the word with the picture” game this week on Twitter, and it’s a much pleasanter distraction from certain daily horrors than the other daily distractions we’ve been getting from said horror-makers on Twitter. Other highlights from the game: kinker and natiform. What will tomorrow bring?

Published in: on March 9, 2017 at 9:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Word of the day for Tuesday, February 28th

I don’t know what I was doing yesterday, but I found myself in the midst of a lot of Australian words that I had never heard as a kid in those Australian tourism ads starring Paul Hogan: larrikinism, bunyip, yakka. My favorite, however, is:

shivoo

shivoo. Shivooooooooo! It means a boisterous party or celebration. “Origin uncertain” according to dictionary.com. My humble opinion is that you know you’re really at a boisterous party when the noise of the party reaches a cacophony of nonsense words “Shivoooo!” and such like. Shivoo just sounds better as a word for a party than Blarghablah or Yakyak. Also, I haven’t looked them up yet but it’s possible that those are Australian words for something else.

Published in: on February 28, 2017 at 7:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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But can she bake a cherry pie?

There’s a pretty good gag in this cartoon involving the raspberry jam making a “raspberry.” I started wondering why the derisive noise also known as a “Bronx cheer” came to be known as a raspberry, and I learned that it comes from Cockney rhyming slang. “Raspberry tart” = “fart.” Well, there you have it. Enjoy those tarts, everybody.

Word of the day for Thursday, January 19th

You may have noticed a cluster of insults experiencing an uptick in usage lately, but if you haven’t, most likely you will after tomorrow. Some are new, and some have been around a while. Snowflake. Mangina. Feminazi. Gamma. Beta. Beta cuck. Cuckservative. Cuck anything.

The last three examples are of course variants of “cuckold,” which is the word for a man whose wife has cheated on him, and that is apparently the worst thing in the world to be if you are either Shakespeare or a member of the alt-right community. If you are a man and you find yourself arguing with either Shakespeare or a member of the alt-right community, you will probably be called a cuck and at that point be inclined to argue with a name-caller about who is a cuck, who has cucked whom, and so on. Don’t. It is pointless to engage. Just smile and move along, and think of the lovely word

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aporaphanidosis, which supposedly was the accepted punishment in ancient Greece for adultery. That is, the cuckold was well within his rights to stick a radish up the butt of the guy who had sex with his wife. And it seems to me that it’s far better to be a cuck than someone who is in danger of being violated by a salad bar. But that’s just my special little snowflake point of view.

Word of the day for Tuesday, January 10th

I am really quite astounded at how little I can accomplish some days, particularly if it’s cold and wet outside. Now, I’m inside and I don’t know why what’s going on outside should have any effect on me, but my activity tracker says I’ve taken zero steps today so obviously something’s up.

I want to say I’m developing a

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hibernacle, but a hibernacle is not a barnacle you get when you’re hibernating. The emphasis is not on the second syllable, but the third. A hibernacle is your tabernacle when you’re hibernating. I guess I am developing a hibernacle after all. It’s the couch. Praise be, and pass the fuzzblanket.

Thanks to Merriam-Webster’s Winter Words quiz for the inspiration today
Published in: on January 10, 2017 at 3:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Word of the day for Wednesday, July 6th

Is there a foreign word for tragedy fatigue? Is there a foreign word for hoping that tonight you won’t have nightmares about rampant mayhem and your imminent torture? I either need the world to get better or I need some new foreign words that describe things succinctly. Oh, here is one. It doesn’t describe any of those things I was just talking about, but maybe we should stop thinking about those things for a while:

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The word and its meaning (“emptiness after visitors depart”) aren’t that mindblowing, but what the Baining people in Papua New Guinea do to alleviate it is. According to Tiffany Watt Smith, a research fellow at the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary University of London, in order to get rid of that lousy awumbuk feeling “the Baining fill a bowl with water and leave it overnight to absorb the festering air. The next day, the family rises very early and ceremonially flings the water into the trees, whereupon ordinary life resumes.”

Thank you, Tiffany. I have a feeling that your new book The Book Of Human Emotions is going to make the world a little better. Just knowing that there is a Centre for the History of the Emotions is making my world a little better. Now, is there a foreign word for “gratitude for finding a whole new list of great foreign words“?

Word of the day for Monday, May 23rd

Oh gosh – I found this word today, and thought, “Oh, I don’t need to write it down, I’ll remember it,” but then I didn’t remember it, and nearly put myself into a swivet trying to remember this word. Which is funny, because the word I was trying to remember was

swivet

swivet. Swivet! It means “a state of nervous or irritated concern,” or “panic or extreme discomposure.” Rhymes with divot and trivet and pivot. Its synonyms are pother and dither and tizzy. Thank goodness I remembered.

Published in: on May 23, 2016 at 7:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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