Monday, March 10, 2014


My mom is a word person. She always had a Merriam-Webster dictionary in the kitchen to correct spelling and uses of words. She devours books and audio books. 

John is also a word person. He developed his advanced vocabulary from reading fantasy novels and because his brain retains almost everything he comes across except accurate lyrics to songs, which drives me crazy when we're both trying to sing in the car. He beat my mom in Scrabble once with the word oeuvre, after which she made an immediate lunge at that old kitchen dictionary to see if she could correct him. She couldn't. 

I'm trying to be better about continually learning new words. Most of my college days were spent learning scientific and medical terms. I remember the word bifurcated being abused quite a bit during a certain semester. These years, plus the time spent in the Philippines learning Tagalog, makes me feel like I lost out on the literary vocabulary that the history, English, art history, and poli-sci people gained. I've been writing new words I come across in books and articles in various small notebooks I have stashed around the house, in my purse, and in my teaching bag. 

Some words that I've seen that I like lately:
  • rubicund - rosiness, ruddy
  • caliginous - dark, misty, gloomy
  • eclat - brillance, flash
  • kerfuffle - a commotion or fuss
Perhaps you know all these words already.  Like I said, I feel behind in my vocabulary. There are also some words and phrases that I don't like so much.

Words and phrases that I am *not fond of:
  • Be still my heart - I don't hate hate this. It's just overused as the caption for photos and titles for blog posts. "Look at this picture of my dream house! Be still my heart!" "Channing Tatum's bare torso! Be still my heart!" "This is a picture of my dog-child! Be still my heart!" 
  • Yummy - to describe things other than food. Also, there is supposedly a scientific reason why moms call their kids yummy and "want to eat them". 
  • Sluff - Utah vernacular for ditching school. It reminds me of the monthly sloughing off of the uterine wall which we had to learn about in detail in anatomy.
  • Hubby, Hubs - part of a car
  • Preggers, Preggo - a spaghetti sauce
  • Ginorous  - sounds like female anatomy. I am also slightly disturbed by the name of the drink Orangina for the same reason, although I don't think it's pronounced in a similar fashion. People on my high school Europe trip just got it stuck in my head and now I am scandalized every time I walk into Pirate O's and am accosted by a wall of this drink. 
But who knows? Maybe I should just embrace these words. They might become the cool phrases that mark our generation, like Rat Fink in the 30's or  Daddy-O in the 50's. But I secretly hope not.

On another note, have you read the alterations they're planning on making to the SAT? One of the things they're taking out is obscure vocabulary words.  On the one hand I understand how these words aren't the best measurements of intelligence.  Success in the workplace is a lot more focused on problem solving, analysis, and the ability to create, but at the same time the artful use of words can be beautiful, humorous, and striking. 

*If you have used these words or currently use these words this doesn't mean that I do not like you. I probably don't remember a specific person who used them. I've just seen and heard them a lot during the last 7 years and they resonate with me like finger nails on chalk boards. 


Emily said...

Haha about sluff, preggers, and hubs!

GASagers said...

I'm totally with you on prego and hubby. Drives me crazy. :)

Miriam L. said...

It is absolutely delicious (in a giddy way, not sinister, I feel I should clarify) to me that I get to write this: it's actually a Merriam-Webster dictionary and not a Miriam-Webster, although I am very flattered at the thought of a dictionary having my namesake! Some words that I've been loving recently: bereft, fortuitous, and lithe. I'm right with you there with kerfuffle; it's definitely in my top ten favorite words.

Melinda said...

You're so right! It's now fixed! This just proves how bad I am with words. I think your name must permeate my subconscious! In all seriousness though, we miss you guys! John and I were just talking about how we miss our Sunday meals together. Also, I love fortuitous too!

holtkamp said...

If I ever heard someone say 'be still my heart' I'd die laughing...