Monday, June 9, 2014

Weird Words

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.

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