There’s a vocabulary test going around on line that in four minutes purports to tell you how well you speak English. I’ve taken the test a couple of times, once scoring 96%, which is excellent, and another time 73%, which is…well, not so hot.
The test, however, has one big flaw. It asks you to indicate whether or not you recognize several words, some of which are non-words created just to fool you. If you say you know those non-words, it counts against your score. The trouble is, some of the so-called non-words turn out to be real words. I said I recognized some of them and lost points for it. For example, I found balker and cuffer in Webster’s dictionaries, even though the online test claims they were made-up words.
Here are some words you may or may not find in a dictionary. They’re all purported to be real words—but most of them are obsolete or so uncommon that most dictionaries won’t fool with them. As with many weird words, a lot of them are Scottish in origin.
Snoutfair: A person with a handsome face
Lunt: Walk while smoking a pipe
Groak: Silently watch someone while they are eating, hoping to be invited to join them
Jirble: Pour out (a liquid) with an unsteady hand
Curglaff: The shock felt when one first plunges into cold water
Spermologer: Gossip monger
Tyromancy: Divining by interpreting the coagulation of cheese
Resistentialism: Seemingly spiteful behavior exhibited by inanimate objects
The Bard of Buffalo Bayou is a prime example of resistentialism, in that he is almost invariably both spiteful and inanimate. He also jirbles quite a lot.
They say that using lots of words
Will make you seem sophisticated,
But that advice came straight from nerds
Who phoned talk shows and bloviated.
A case in point: a famous poet,
Uses lots of words in rhymes,
But even though he might not know it,
He repeats some several times.
Don’t give me more vocabulary,
Or think that I’m a cognoscente—
I’ll summon the constabulary;
The words I know right now are plenty.