Monday, March 11, 2013


Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time has likely noticed that I love words. I especially love unusual, descriptive, fun-on-the-tongue words. I recently read an article by Amanda Green entitled, “11 More Enjoyable Names for Common Things” ( It inspired me to compile my own list of fancy or less-used names for relatively common or at least familiar items. (The first three are courtesy of the referenced article; the rest are mainly a result of my digging through the Merriam Webster Word of the Day archives.)

Griffonage: illegible handwriting. More fun than its simpler equivalent, “chicken-scratch.”

Singultus: hiccups. Just don’t let any of your hypochondriac friends discover this one.

Aphthongs: silent letters, such as the “p” in pneumonia and the “k” in knife. Ironically, the word “aphthongs” does not contain any aphthongs.

Taradiddle: a nonsensical or childish lie. Technically not onomatopoeia, but I’d offer it the honorary title.

Gambit: a remark intended to start a conversation. Wouldn’t you feel classier and more confident walking into a party with a “gambit” in mind instead of a “pick-up line”?

Agon: a dramatic conflict, especially in a literary work. This is a good word to bring up in a discussion of Shakespeare, even if you haven’t read the work under discussion. If it’s Shakespeare, there’s bound to be agon going on somewhere.

Bugbear: an object or source of dread. People discussing Shakespeare at parties is a bugbear that can be banished by using the word “agon.” (See what I did there?)

Tartar: a person of irritable or violent temper. Maggie Smith portrays the Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey as a charming and witty tartar.
Malison: a curse. I would love to hear the Dowager Countess pronounce a malison on one of her in-laws.
Oriflamme: a banner, symbol, or ideal inspiring devotion or courage. Since we’re on a PBS theme, the Tardis has become an oriflamme for Whovians everywhere.

Maquette: A small, preliminary model (as of a sculpture or building). It’s not just a mockup of a proposed theatrical set, it’s a maquette!

Welkin: heaven. All’s well under God’s welkin.           

Issles: sparks or embers. Man is born to trouble, as surely as the issles fly up to the welkin.

Borborygmus: rumbling of the intestines. Because we definitely need an elegant word for such an inelegant subject.

Lunette: something shaped like the crescent moon, as an opening for a window. Doesn’t it seem much more poetical when you think of an outhouse as being graced with a “lunette”?

Quiddity: an unusual personal habit or eccentricity. Weirdos who are poor have quirks; weirdos who are rich are eccentric; weirdos with really good vocabularies display quiddity.

Go try some of these out in conversation! Your friends are sure to be impressed by your quiddity.

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