Friday, December 6, 2013

The Words



Have you ever been in the middle of a debate -- or say, a friendly verbal exchange -- and suddenly a word pops out of your mouth; a word you've never used in your whole life?

"Verisimilitude," for example. And then the rest of the conversation is lost on you, because you're so intrigued with how this word got purchase in your brain, why it took this particular moment to make its appearance. "Verisimilitude," you think, "Verisimilitude? What the hell is that?"

But if, in the background, the chatter continues, you think, "Yes, score! I got it right."

It takes you back to when you first learned a language, something beyond nouns and verbs. The first time language touched concepts -- and you knew words could embrace something greater than an's or is's or even a does.

I used "confluence" for the first time, recently. Oh, my friends have been conflueing this and that for ages, but I couldn't. So I sort of pledged, sub-consciously, that sometime this year, I would find the perfect moment (it's like waiting for the double-dutch jump ropes to invite you in), to enter "confluence" somewhere during a conversation.

Nailed it.

What can I say? For me, language is both a religious experience and a competitive sport.

Next on the list: Diaspora and marginalia. Both very popular among my set. And even though ephemera seems to be huge this year, I'll pass and stick with stuff.

55 comments:

  1. In English class in high school, there was a stretch where we talked about "verisimilitude" a lot. The other day in a meeting, a young woman mispronounced "diaspora" and said "disaspora." I wrote it down. It struck me as a good word, joining two concepts that often belong together. So here's what we should do: secretly come up with a word, and vow to use it at the next party or gathering.

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  2. And when other words fail, "fucked up" usually covers most of it.

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  3. Ephemeroptera: the order of insects so named because of their short lives, from a few minutes to a few days. Everything you didn't really need to know. In the end, Mr. Earl nailed it

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  4. This is so funny! Next time we meet, I'll listen out for unexpected gems dropping into the conversation. My new word of the week is luxating, as in patella. My puppy has two of them.

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  5. An onomatopoeic word, KBF.

    I could be wrong about this, Earl, but I think disaspora as a metaphor is a relatively new invention. But I've seen it used everywhere lately. And yes, let's get a word.

    Have you ever used it, Doris? Ephemeroptera, I mean; I know fucked up is one of your personal faves.

    Bellis, the little one? Oh no, that's worrying, disturbing, disquieting, painfully traumatic, agonizing, and harrowing

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  6. Your word posts are always pure delight! The other day at work I told a co-worker, "I'm going to lunch shortly, if that comports with your schedule." I don't remember using comports with before, and my co-worker looked at me like I was speaking gibberish. We use "comports with" a lot now, with a smile.

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  7. Interesting the way the intellect can sort through the files of memory and come up with something we haven't thought about in years.

    Recently, Harry Potter movies -- the writing, the delivery -- have been my English lessons.

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  8. Just now, Karin, while I was reading your amazing post, a word pops out of my mind like a toast jumping from a toaster. It's the word 'serendipity'. Love the idea of a 'happy accident', to finding a good thing even I did not was searching for it.

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  9. Karin, it is you on the photo jumping a rope? If so, would be great to see the photo on large format...

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  10. Language as a competitive sport? Hmmmmm
    Antithetical.

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  11. Putative. No one's nailed me yet, the few times I've used it--because they're noble and generous? Or they don't know it either?

    On a lighter note, one I've never heard outside southern Ohio: slickery . . . when you can't make up your mind between slippery and slick.

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  12. Heteronormative. Guilty of it, but haven't been able to slip into casual conversation--yet. People fling that word about where I work.

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  13. Don't have a problem knowing obscure words. Can't pronounce them correctly but at least I know what they mean.

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  14. Just recently read a book with dictionary at hand!!! Loved it!!!
    I love knowing that you also wonder if you've used an obscure word correctly...sometimes I wonder about relatively normal words!!!

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  15. Such a quaint happenstance. Displayed, and used, 'onomatopoeia' while in discussion of a renku composition just the other day. Well, I'll be bumfuzzled!

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  16. To william sorlien: Sir, if you are bumfuzzled, that is too bad, but I think that is just TMI.

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  17. I think our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to wrap all these words in one tidy paragraph.

    (And Willy, Doris is right. Unless you were just bragging.)

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  18. I love this! I too am a lover of language and would get way too much fun out of surprising my students with words and phrases they'd never heard before - by then my own children were used to me throwing words around like they were to be used, understood, and celebrated. I used "foray" yesterday and smiled...my teacher brain is coming back to life.

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  19. Here's a word: lagniappe. It's in the vernacular in Louisiana where my husband is from but it is still, IMHO, elegant and highly apropos of nearly everything.

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  20. The other day at work "conflate" nearly spewed out but at the last second I went with the old standby "combine."

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  21. Lately it's been the opposite for me; when I want a particular word it doesn't come to my lips.

    And how many times have I had to look up the definition for "plangent"? It doesn't stick in my head. Yet it's the one I want to drop into conversation.

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  22. Petrea, I'm with you on "plangent." How about "mordant"?

    -K-, I think maybe teachers are fond of "conflate"--it doesn't sound quite as alien as some others.

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  23. I once one a very competitive and well-respected local poetry competition whilst using the word scrivener. I'm still chuffed about that.

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  24. I've been called a lotus-eater.

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  25. I worked in a PR dept, and another writer turned in a puff piece that included, "...at this week's plenary session..." And the boss struck "plenary." M said, "I'll bet that old witch doesn't even know what plenary means." "Yeah," I chortled. Later that night, I googled plenary.

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  26. Ryan is a master of using odd words in conversation. His English teachers love him. I try, but often find myself tongue-tied. If you want an excellent, albeit verbose, conversationalist, find my dearly beloved. As someone said in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, he could talk the ears off a stone pump. When he's not capturing and squishing the Ephemeroptera which make their ways into my house, causing me to squeal like a little girl.

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  27. Karin, you could've joined Larry Mantle on AirTalk the other day, "In praise and defense of grandiose, flowery, sesquipedalian words":
    http://www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk/2013/12/04/34950/in-praise-and-defense-of-grandiose-flowery-sesquip/

    Back to my lucubration, which sounds dirty but isn't.

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  28. In my defense -

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/top-ten-lists/top-10-funny-sounding-and-interesting-words/bumfuzzle.html

    - though I thought the same thing. I *did* know this list would come in handy *some* day!

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  29. Sorry. I need to borrow 'ethereal', but it's just for a day. We're in the last movement of a collaboration, and I want to make a point. I'll send copy, KB.

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  30. I love words, too! And, this happens to me often. I'm like, what the...? How did I pick that word out of the air, like that? Damn, I sound smart. *grin* Although, I have to admit, Mister Earl does have a point.

    I called my husband a Philistine the other day. It was an entirely apt description of his behaviour, at the time, and also served as comic relief.

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  31. We'll save that last line for our paragraph, Marjie.

    Susan, I checked it out; the comments here are better. Not to be competitive or anything.

    Banjo, that was my first foray into chortle. And likely my last. KBF sez you can borrow ethereal, so long as you return it in the shape you found it.

    PA, it's a good word, but I can never remember how to pronounce it.

    Whenever I see Philistine, I hear Maggie Smith in the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie: Mr. Lowther, I fear the Philistines are upon us.

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  32. When I hear "fecund," I think of manure-covered pastures. Is that wrong?

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  33. Scintillating post! And commentary!

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  34. Oh shit Banjo, now I have to go look up "mordant." And yes on "fecund."

    Marjie, my mate is also a lover of big words. His howitzer is loaded with them and he knows how to use them. I'm constantly asking, "what does that mean?"

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  35. I've just read about "smouting." It has current "urban" meanings that don't interest me, but in 1757 it meant "freelance work." I can use that.

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  36. You simply cannot talk about when the fecund hit the fan. It's an adjective which would totally bollix the mechanism.

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  37. Tonight at the city council meeting, Victor Gordo said "bifurcated" and I always think it's an exotic LGTBQ word but it's only a dumb legal term. He used it in a nonlegal context and that's what confused me.

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  38. Tonight at the city council meeting, Victor Gordo said "bifurcated" and I always think it's an exotic LGTBQ word but it's only a dumb legal term. He used it in a nonlegal context and that's what confused me.

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  39. I'm rather fond of ethereal and use it rather often in my comments on other's photo blogs!!!

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  40. Unless we're talking about two rivers I'd be inclined to be judicious in my use of confluence.:-)

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  41. Lady Di, yes, now that you mention it. To me, bifurcated has always sounded like a lower intestinal problem, or the act of farting and burping, simultaneously.

    I looked up the etymology, Chieftess. That words has been around since 1590.

    Particularly now that it's so chic, Wayne.

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  42. Excuse me....

    "fecund" is a synonym for fertile

    ya bunch a boobs

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  43. Which is exactly why it would bollix the mechanism. Obscure perhaps, but not obtuse.

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  44. I was pretty damned sure that DH Lawrence at some point had been all fecund-this, fecund-that. And, aye.

    "Suddenly, like a chestnut falling out of burr, he was shed naked and glistening onto a soft, fecund earth, leaving behind him the hard rind of worldly knowledge and experience."

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  45. Anthony Bourdain once said he would never use the word "sumptuous."

    Hey Ant'ne, sumptuous this!

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  46. I grew up very poor and we just couldn't afford words like these.

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  47. I know, Pat. I had to get a loan and the interest is killing me.

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