Roy and Doghouse, two blogospheric wordsmiths who turn me green with envy on a regular basis, do a little riffing on “The 100 Most Beautiful Words in English.” I love these sorts of lists. I just love words, period. I love reading dictionaries. I love sounding a new word out, rolling it around my tongue, thinking of a sentence to use it in. I love having to look up a word when reading someone else’s writing. I love going here to hear how to pronounce a word I’ve never heard spoken before. In fact, one of my pet peeves is how often it’s used as a putdown to accuse someone of using ten-dollar words, or some such thing. Granted, some people use vocabulary like a cuttlefish uses ink, to hide in obscurity, but still, it’s such a cheap shot, to act as if your familiarity with any particular word is the standard to judge by. Well, I’ve never heard of it before, so fuck you, Professor Tweedcoat Elbowpatches! Yew think yer better’n me?
How You Say…?
Where exactly is the cutoff date after which we’re no longer allowed to learn anything new, anyway?
But I digress. Here, then, is a brief collection of some of my own favorite words and phrases, chosen more or less at random from memory. (Believe me, I could go on all day like this.) Some are very useful, some are unjustly obscure, and some are just beautifully poetic and fun to say out loud no matter what they mean. Dictionaries used and recommended here include: The Oxford Essential Dictionary of Difficult Words, Depraved and Insulting English, Le Mot Juste, and The Highly Selective Dictionary for the Extraordinarily Literate.
Anomie: condition of despair brought on by a breakdown in the rules of conduct and loss of sense of purpose
Argumentum ad individium: argument which appeals to men’s prejudices
Contra mundum: against the world; used primarily of one who takes an unpopular position and opposes majority feeling
Gaudium certaminis: the joy of the struggle
Pons asinorum: the ass’s bridge; problem inaccessible to people of limited wit
Tedium vitae: weariness with life
Au courant: up to date, well-informed
Au fait: well-versed, expert
C’est tout dire: (you have said) all there is to say
Faux dévot: one who feigns piety
Kulturschande: insult to good taste, crime against civilization
Penseroso: thinker, usually with a melancholic disposition
Chiromaniac: a compulsive masturbator
Coprophiliac: a sexual deviant with an abnormal interest in feces
Cumberworld: a thoroughly useless person or thing
Driveler: one who talks in an idiotic fashion
Dunderwhelp: a detestable numbskull
Entheomaniac: one who is literally insane about religion
Gongoozler: a dimwit who stares at unusual things
Infandous: too odious to be spoken of
Misologist: one with a hatred of mental activity
Mysophiliac: a person who is sexually excited by filth and excretions
Peotillomania: the abnormal habit of constantly pulling at the penis
Sophomania: the delusion that one is wise
Tartuffe: religious hypocrite
Ventose: verbally flatulent; full of pomp, conceit and bombast
Aperçu: comment or brief reference that makes an illuminating or entertaining point
Ataraxy: a state of serene calmness
Benighted: state of contemptible ignorance
Cogitate: think deeply about something
Dysphoria: state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life
Ersatz: inferior substitute
Fanfaronade: arrogant or boastful talk
Farouche: sullen or shy in company
Farrago: a confused mixture
Ineffable: too great or extreme to be described in words
Insouciance: casual lack of concern; indifference
Ipse dixit: unproven or dogmatic statement
Laodicean: lukewarm or halfhearted especially with respect to religion or politics
Meretricious: apparently attractive, but in reality having no value
Perspicuous: clearly expressed and easily understood; lucid
Sequacious: lacking independence or originality of thought
Supercilious: behaving or thinking as if one is superior to others
Coruscate: 1. To give off or reflect bright beams or flashes of light; to sparkle. 2. To exhibit brilliant, sparkling technique or style.
Nepenthe: 1. A drug or drink, or the plant yielding it, mentioned by ancient writers as having the power to bring forgetfulness of sorrow or trouble. 2. Anything inducing a pleasurable sensation of forgetfulness, esp. of sorrow or trouble.
Lucifugous: Avoiding light
Kenspeckle: Conspicuous; easily seen or recognized.
Anacoluthia: Lack of grammatical sequence or coherence, esp. in a sentence