Wacky Words

For most of us, the process of learning English happened at a time of life when we weren’t as inclined to question the rationale behind unreasonable (and sometimes ridiculous) spellings.

But, consider the task of trying your tongue at English as an outsider, whether tourist or immigrant.

Here’s a simple sentence to put it in perspective:

“I would like to buy a certain fruit for my recipe.”

Easy for you to read, right?

Now, read through it as someone who may know the basic RULES of English, but doesn’t yet grasp the commonly accepted American notion of tossing all of those rules out the window …

“I wooled like to bu-yee a kertane froo-it for my re-sipe.”

Something like that, anyway.

photo by Evan-Amos via Wikimedia Commons

While it’s tough not to chuckle, you can see how utterly frustrating it must be to decipher the everyday dialog we take for granted.

“While there are clear trends in words non-native speakers mispronounce (due to irregularities in English spelling), words that are in principle hard to pronounce depend much more heavily on each individual speaker’s linguistic background,” explains Czech linguist and mathematician Jakub Marian, author of Most Common Mistakes in English. “Words containing an ‘h’ (as in ‘hello’) are difficult to pronounce for native speakers of romance languages and Russian, since there is no ‘h’-sound in their mother tongues. Words containing a ‘th’-sound (either as in ‘think’ or as in that’) are hard for almost everybody apart from Spaniards and Greeks, whose languages are two of the few that contain those sounds.”

Now that your word wheels are spinning with this new perspective, try a few more words that Marian and many others deem difficult for non-native speakers:

  • Anemone
  • Colonel
  • Comfortable
  • Drawer
  • Fruit
  • Height
  • Isthmus
  • Lettuce
  • Recipe
  • Rural
  • Sixth
  • Squirrel

P.S. Allow me to punctuate this post with a poem called “The Chaos” by Gerard Nolst Trenité in 1922. It brilliantly boasts hundreds of peculiar English pronunciations.

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Cafune

Samson might inspire this in you, ladies … or Fabio. Possibly Jennifer Aniston … or Carrot Top. Marge Simpson, definitely. Crystal Gale? For sure.

book cover by Katalin Szegedi via Wikimedia Commons

Cafune

What is it? By now, you’ve figured out it’s something to do with the follicles atop one’s head. Specifically,

(n.) running your fingers through the hair of someone you love.
Pronunciation: ka-FOO-nay

So, it begs the question, do balding men inspire the same kind of odd behavior in those of us smitten with them? If we can’t run our fingers through the hairs of our beloveds, will a nice rub or caress do the trick?

Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.

Someone get Mrs. Bruce Willis on the phone. Tell her it’s an emergency of the cafune type.

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sockdologer

sockdologer

One who dabbles in … er, sock collecting?

One who loves socks a bit too much?

Photo by Shuminweb via Wikimedia Commons.

noun, Older Slang.

  1. something unusually large, heavy, etc.
  2. a decisive reply, argument, etc.
  3. a heavy, finishing blow:

Example: His right jab is a real sockdolager.

In other words, it’s a real doozy of a closing argument, getting the last word, or in today’s slang, a mic drop.

Lest we find ourselves giggling too much at our funny-sounding new word, let me bring you some sorrowful solemnity: sockdologising likely was nearly the last word President Abraham Lincoln ever heard. During the performance of Tom Taylor’s “Our American Cousin,” assassin John Wilkes Booth (who knew the play well) waited for the laughline,

Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, you sockdologising old mantrap!” 

Amid the noise as the audience responded in laughter and applause, Booth fired the fatal shot.

Sniffle. Well, now it’s my heart that feels unusually heavy … almost sockdolager-esque you could say.

Lincoln in ‘thinking pose’, 1862, via Wikimedia Commons

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A Women’s Prerogative

What is?

You know, to change her mind.

Or to put it another way, her metanoia.

I know, it sounds like a vitamin supplement, doesn’t it?

“Say, honey, could you pass me 500 mg of Metanoia, please?”

If only it were that easy. Change in a bottle, if you don’t mind. Take two and call me in the morning?

noun meta•noia \[met-uhnoiuh]

Origin and Etymology:
Greek, from metanoiein: to change one’s mind, repent, from meta- + noein to think, from nous mind
First Known Use: 1577

So, perhaps it’s less about switching the style of your coiffure from beehive to French twist, or your indecision over a jelly donut vs. a cheese omelet, and more of a spiritual change, a lifestyle change, almost a conversion.

Like when you switched to organic food. Or joined the Farmgirl Sisterhood. 😉

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What’s That Sillage?

What’s that smell? No, not the stuff in the silo (silage)—that distinct odor of fermenting corn or hay—but that lovely, faint, lingering scent …

sillage

Pronunciation:
[sil-ij]

(n.) the scent that lingers in air, the trail left in water, the impression made in space after something or someone has been and gone; the trace of someone’s perfume.

Origin:
French, literally, wake/trail

A poetical word, to be sure, when romancing over a love long-gone.

But perhaps you find sillage in other places and spaces …

… like when you pull up in your car to pick up your children from school and they sense the lingering aroma of the cheeseburger you wolfed down a moment earlier. Suspicion arises.

That kind of sillage … not so poetical.

Or when you move into a new house and smell the persistent bouquet of a woman’s perfume. But only at midnight. On Halloween.

Thanks to that type of sillage, you now know to pack up and move once again.

How about the sillage of your grandmother’s hand lotion, your dad’s motor oil, or the scent of a new baby’s scalp?

Only the nose knows.

Photo by Angela Andriot via Wikimedia Commons

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clinomania

clinomania

(n.) an excessive desire to stay in bed

Pronunciation: klin-oh-MAYN-nee-uh

hut-bed575W3541

If you aren’t one now, you probably were one, back in your teenage days. A clinomaniac, I mean. I’d wager there’s one in every house … if you don’t know who it is, crack open those peepers and move the covers off your face; it’s probably you.

Is clinomania a thing due to the actual sleeping part of being in bed, or is it the comfort of a nice mattress, the softness of your favorite quilt, the easy access to your nightstand TBR pile of novels, or because it’s where you get some high quality snuggling?

Who knows?

Best sleep on it.

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What’s Your [Percontation] Point?

13a

What is it?

No, I’m not suffering from a bout of sudden-onset backwardsness.

But, it is a backwards question mark. A percontation point, if you will.

When would you use such a thing? Oh, far more often than you might think …

For instance: when feeling a bit snappy, a might peckish, a tad sarcastic, or a wee bit snarky.

It’s something called irony punctuation, and it’s a form of notation used to denote sarcasm.

Um, yes, please.

No need to insert an eye-rolling emoji, a #sarcasm, or an explanation for your text in the form of parentheses any longer.

You may think that this is a newfangled, modern-day addition to our English language and punctuation, but you’d be wrong. The percontation point was invented by English printer Henry Denham in the 1580s. And we thought we were the most sarcastic of the generations … all hail, Grandad Snark!

You can use the percontation point (sometimes called the irony mark) as you see fit. In a way, it’s used to sneakily admit there is more to your writing than meets the eye. A sarcastic layer of meaning might have been missed the first time through.

Essentially, it’s a grammar tool used to make the not-so-perky reader feel even less perky. Now, if I could only find it on my keyboard. #percontation point!

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kummerspeck

kummerspeck …

Well, okay, it’s not English, but that’s not our fault. Turns out, there is no equivalent English word for this German beauty.

What does it mean?

Well, what if I told you, in a dramatic and emotional voice, full of woe and misery, that my muffin-top was the result of kummerspeck? Or that my love-handles only arrived after a tragic misunderstanding of mashed potato proportions?

That’s right: kummerspeck translates quite literally into …

… grief bacon … ??

It’s when you overeat emotionally. Not just cuz you were jonesin’ for some extra fries or another slice of pizza (that, my friend, is regular overeating), but because you were so emotionally fraught with worry and/or anxiety, that that apple pie ala mode pretty much jumped right into your mouth.

Kummerspeck.

Grief bacon.

It’s not just for breakfast anymore.

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Merry, Merrythought!

If I had said to you at Christmas dinner, “I just had a merry thought … why don’t we have a go at the merrythought,” you’d probably think I was losing my grip.

But actually, my grip would have been gearing up to grasp at something …

on the holiday turkey.

And challenging you to a little contest with a lucky outcome …

merrythought
[mer-ee-thawt]

noun, Chiefly British.

1. the wishbone or furcula of a fowl.
1600-10; so called from the custom of pulling the bone apart until it breaks, the person holding the longer piece supposedly being granted a wish … or marrying first!
Or would that be marrythought?

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photo-of-the-day

farm-romance_2490

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