Word World

Here you will find words that you probably don’t hear in common use, but that might possibly come in handy someday. Or not. These aare words that, for whatever reason, have grabbed my attention and that I find interesting. I’ll be updating this page frequently, and if you have any words you think I should include here, please don’t hesitate to send them along. (Leave a comment, I’ll take it from there.)

Cad: A dishonorable man. A gentleman who is no gentleman. A knave, a scoundrel, possibly even a cur.
Strumpet: A woman of easy or nonexistent virtue. A lady who is no lady. IT sounds a bit like a snack cake, doesn’t it? Like a crumpet, only more tart-ish.
Tawdry: Cheap, shabby, of low quality. Interesting origins here. St. Audrey was said to have been cured of a breast tumor by wearing a special necklace, or perhaps a scarf. Sources disagree on just what it was Audrey wore. Anyway, replicas of her necklace or scarf became very popular and were called St. Audrey’s laces, later slurred into Tawdry laces. Eventually the quality of the laces declined and tawdry came to describe their shoddy workmanship and design.
Rhinotillexomania: Obsessive nose-picking. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it, just how and why someone first got the idea to give a scientific name to it.
Glabella: The space between the eyebrows. If I didn’t know what it meant, I’d guess it was some kind of showy garden flower.
Slumgum: The debris found in a beehive. Consists mostly of bits of wax, food scraps, dead bees, etc.
Avuncular: Of or like an uncle. Example: My brother just recently said that the only person he could see as a good replacement for Bob Barker on “The Price Is Right” is Willard Scott. “Why not? He’s a jolly fat guy. Kind of avuncular, you know?”
Quotidian: Not at all an everyday way of saying “everyday.” Say to your friend “I am so frightfully bored by all these quotidian details!” On second thought, don’t say that to a friend. This is one of those words that works better in writing than in speech.
Xeriscaping: Gardening or landscaping with plants that don’t need much water. Xeri means dry. A xeriscaped yard would be a big water-saver.
Yegg: Old-fashioned word for a criminal, especially one who is an expert at cracking safes. Even if it didn’t mean that, it sounds very unflattering.
Artiodactyl: An even-toed ungulate, such as a camel, pig or reindeer.
Ungulate: Any of a wide variety of hoofed animals, including horses, sheep, pigs, deer, camels and giraffes. Reindeer too. This and the previous entry were inspired by Walt. Thanks, Walt!
Chatoyant: Shimmering like a cat’s eyes. From the French words for “cat” and eye.”
Vicennial: Twenty years, or anything lasting that long or happening every twenty years.
Dactylograph: Don’t leave one on the mirror! That’s a fingerprints.
Lavender Gem: A relative of the grapefruit. Its skin and flesh are actually light pink, not lavender. Maybe “pink gem” sounded a little too much like little girls’ cheapo plastic jewelry.
Numbers Station: A mysterious shortwave radio station that features a (probably artifical) voice reciting groups of five-, four-, or sometimes three-digit numbers. Widely believed to be tools of espionage, and in fact at least a few have been linked to Cuban intelligence groups. The voices are usually female, and the most common language is Spanish. However, English, German, Korean and Russian as well as a scattering of other languages have also been reported.
Vomitory: Not at all what it sounds like. It’s simply a doorway.
Vomitorium: This *is* what it sounds like. Found in ancient Roman banquet halls, it was a room people could use to throw up in when they got too full, so they could continue feasting. Those Romans really loved a party and wouldn’t let anything so trifling as being stuffed interrupt their fun.
Quagga: Now extinct, this was essentially a brown zebra, with faint striping on its legs. Supposedly it made a sound like “quagga.”
Bezoar: Originally this was a stone-like thing found in the stomach of an East Indian goat, believed to have magical properties. It was highly sought-after by magicians and healers. It also refers to swallowed hair that forms a mass in the stomach of a human. Seen frequently in patients with mental problems, and can be fatal.
Paraselene: A false moon or moons seen near the real moon, caused by reflection. It’s sometimes quite dramatic, with the false moons having halos tinted with the colors of the prism.
Omphaloskepsis: A popular pastime. It means “navel-gazing” or excessive self-analysis.
Sesquipedalian: IT literally means “fifty-footed” but usually refers to a very long word. Like “librocubicularist.”
Nacreous: Means pearly. Nacre is another word for mother-of-pearl. Incidentally, mother-of-pearl is the inside lining of a pearl-bearing shell.
Liripoop: The tassel on a graduation cap. Who’d’ve thought it even had a special name?
Defenestration: The act of throwing (usually a person) through a window.


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