Real words that sound like nonsense words
December 22, 2015 6:52 AM   Subscribe

Hooligan, shenanigans, hullabaloo... we need more words that sound silly but are real. This is surprisingly hard to google.
posted by acorncup to Grab Bag (150 answers total) 87 users marked this as a favorite
 
Brouhaha
posted by miaou at 6:57 AM on December 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


hootenanny
mulligan
hoity-toity
posted by jaguar at 6:57 AM on December 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Hoi polloi
Smorgasbord
posted by netsirk at 6:58 AM on December 22, 2015


Grandiloquent Word of the Day might be helpful.
posted by sparklemotion at 6:58 AM on December 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Hootenanny
Bugaboo
Crony
Kerfuffle
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:58 AM on December 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Hurly-burly
posted by cranberrymonger at 6:58 AM on December 22, 2015


I've been disbelieved about susurruses being a real word on this very site. Its the sound of whispering, like you get in a theatre before the show starts.
posted by biffa at 6:59 AM on December 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Kow-tow
posted by hydra77 at 6:59 AM on December 22, 2015


flibbertigibbet
posted by mochapickle at 7:01 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Cockamamie
posted by miaou at 7:01 AM on December 22, 2015


Axolotl (a salamander)
posted by eisforcool at 7:03 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mulligatawny, gallimaufry, stumblebum, flummery, flimflam.
posted by misteraitch at 7:04 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


conniptions
snafu
lollapalooza (a word before it was an event)
bazooka
posted by beagle at 7:04 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Malarkey
Ufda
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:04 AM on December 22, 2015


Cattywampus (often spelled catawampus, apparently).

Druthers.

Perseverate.
posted by Frowner at 7:05 AM on December 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Skew-wiffy
posted by biggreenplant at 7:06 AM on December 22, 2015


hornswoggle
murmuration
poo-bah
zoot
gargle
posted by Cold Lurkey at 7:07 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thingummyjig, or its German equivalent Dingsbums.
Higgledy Piggledy
Willy Nilly
posted by emilyw at 7:08 AM on December 22, 2015


many of these are english words of indian origin (from, i guess, the empire).

things like blighty, chutney, cummerbund, mulligatawny, cheroot...
posted by andrewcooke at 7:10 AM on December 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Pettifoggery
posted by pianissimo at 7:12 AM on December 22, 2015


Discombobulate
posted by firstdrop at 7:13 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


highfalutin
posted by shallowcenter at 7:13 AM on December 22, 2015


onomatopoeia
posted by cosmicbandito at 7:14 AM on December 22, 2015


borborygmus

It is an onomatopoeia (itself, another word that might fall into this category).
posted by Halo in reverse at 7:14 AM on December 22, 2015


spifflicate, meaning to treat roughly or severely (although its definition has slid around a bit, as the article shows).
posted by theatro at 7:15 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Foofaraw
posted by hawthorne at 7:16 AM on December 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


gandydancer


tintinnabulation
posted by blob at 7:17 AM on December 22, 2015


bungalow
bloviate
quoz
cwm
pullulate
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:18 AM on December 22, 2015


schadenfreude
posted by Dashy at 7:19 AM on December 22, 2015


slumgullion
posted by belladonna at 7:19 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


kitty-corner (also spelled catty-corner)
jiggery-pokery
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:20 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Bamboozle!
posted by kidbritish at 7:21 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


mishmash
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:23 AM on December 22, 2015


The International House of Logorrhea, "a free online dictionary of weird words and unusual words", has a wonderful selection of such words, from aardwolf to zyzzyva.
posted by jedicus at 7:24 AM on December 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


many of these are english words of indian origin (from, i guess, the empire).
To add on to many of those already mentioned:
doolally
dekko
juggernaut
posted by peacheater at 7:24 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


hogmanay
posted by oh pollo! at 7:28 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


champerty
posted by Sunshower at 7:28 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


donnybrook
posted by holborne at 7:31 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


boondoggle!
posted by mochapickle at 7:32 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bulbous bouffant!
posted by Wretch729 at 7:39 AM on December 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


Gaggle

Dingleberry.

Bim-bim-bap.

Digeridoo.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 7:41 AM on December 22, 2015


Kerfuffle has already been mentioned, but I have to admit that I was a full adult (and gobsmacked!) when I found out my parents hadn't made up that word.
Also: gallumptious
Obsterperous
posted by ldthomps at 7:45 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Riprap
posted by Jesse the K at 7:47 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oooh: gobsmacked. Also: flabbergasted

Scuttlebutt, lollygag, whirlygig
posted by mochapickle at 7:53 AM on December 22, 2015


The song/skit "Bulbous Bouffant" (by a comedy group called the Vestibules, airing on Dr. Demento) contains a lot of these.
posted by Alterscape at 7:54 AM on December 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Folderol
Gobbledygook
Blatherskite
Spelunker
Lollop
posted by cecic at 7:55 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bugaboo
Akimbo
Fru fru
Homunculus
posted by Gilbert at 7:58 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


balderdash
bumfluff
flip-lipped
bumbledom
twitterpated
posted by sively at 8:01 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


salmagundi
posted by archimago at 8:03 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Chanticleer
Stumblebum

Don't know if names count, but two real individuals implicated in the Watergate scandal were Bob Abplanalp and Bebe Rebozo.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:09 AM on December 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Banjaxed.
posted by jessamyn at 8:11 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Swashbuckler
Persnickety
posted by cecic at 8:14 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Filibuster
posted by Coffeetyme at 8:16 AM on December 22, 2015


fiddle-faddle
poppycock
posted by mochapickle at 8:18 AM on December 22, 2015


Tycoon
Shampoo
posted by Short Attention Sp at 8:18 AM on December 22, 2015


Of debateable "realness":

cromulent
embiggen
kwyjibo

posted by Rock Steady at 8:19 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


ballyhoo
gardyloo

Some good ones began as nonsense words in Jabberwocky: galumph, chortle
posted by mochapickle at 8:22 AM on December 22, 2015


My mom used the word echolalia regularly when we were kids, and for years I thought it she'd made it up.

I also like abecedarian (pronounced, yes, "ABC-darian") and forb.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:24 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


fandango
posted by Doofus Magoo at 8:25 AM on December 22, 2015


Thixotropic
posted by Rob Rockets at 8:25 AM on December 22, 2015


skedaddle
vamoose
posted by bassomatic at 8:27 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


phlegm
posted by achrise at 8:28 AM on December 22, 2015


fetlock
gaskin
posted by esoterrica at 8:34 AM on December 22, 2015


farrago
imbroglio
posted by Aznable at 8:35 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


gubbins
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:36 AM on December 22, 2015


syzygy
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:36 AM on December 22, 2015


mugwump
posted by colfax at 8:47 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


"flibbertigibbet"

I think you mean MetaFilter's own flibbertigibbet.

Also, my contribution here is the word ululate.
posted by komara at 8:48 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Foucauldian, meaning after the intellectual stylings of Michel Foucault.
posted by Frowner at 8:49 AM on December 22, 2015


"fetlock"

Immortalized in this wonderful exchange from the movie Miller's Crossing:

Adolph: Hey, horses got knees?
Tom Reagan: I don't know ... fetlocks.
Adolph: Well if I was a horse, I'd be down on my fetlocks praying you don't bet on me.
posted by komara at 8:50 AM on December 22, 2015


Huggermugger
Mangelwurzel
posted by corey flood at 8:55 AM on December 22, 2015


tchotchke
posted by tackypink at 9:01 AM on December 22, 2015


Razzmatazz


And related to andrewcooke's mention of words with Indian origins, I would suggest you look into words with non-English origins and slang words in general. They would have a higher chance of sounding "silly" since they'll be more likely to have novel sound combinations, or structures otherwise less common in English words.
posted by bjrn at 9:08 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Shillelagh
Gorgonzola
Beelzebub
Mushroom
Shoopiltie
posted by Spathe Cadet at 9:27 AM on December 22, 2015


Dongle. Greebles. Crepuscular.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:35 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


piffle
posted by just_ducky at 9:35 AM on December 22, 2015


woozy
dilly-dally
shilly-shally
ruckus
Vichyssoise
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:37 AM on December 22, 2015


No one's said hokum yet?
posted by foxjacket at 9:37 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


caterwaul
kafkaesque
vexillilogy
gamboling
posted by just_ducky at 9:40 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Carabiner. Not to read, but to say. carrabeeeener. It's one of my favourite words to say.
posted by greenish at 9:46 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Poopy
Vuvuzela
Hobbledehoy


Ireland has some good ones:

Pickasheen
Gobdaw
Gombeen
posted by jgirl at 9:54 AM on December 22, 2015


hocus pocus
hummock
posted by a humble nudibranch at 9:57 AM on December 22, 2015


Orogeny
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 10:02 AM on December 22, 2015


Humdinger
Fiddlesticks
Farfel
Ratatouille
Kudzu
Some of these words ending in oo
posted by daisyace at 10:03 AM on December 22, 2015


Chintyz
Skidoo
Scupper
posted by Krazor at 10:12 AM on December 22, 2015


blunderbuss
knickerbockers
thingamabob
posted by peacheater at 10:20 AM on December 22, 2015


hobgoblin
posted by peep at 10:26 AM on December 22, 2015


peccadillo
whatchamacallit
widdershins
jackanapes
lollygagging
doohickey
ragamuffin
ballyhoo
flummoxed
hodgepodge
posted by erst at 10:27 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


harrumph!
posted by erst at 10:28 AM on December 22, 2015


Codswallop
posted by cecic at 10:31 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Whompyjawed
posted by random thoughts at 10:36 AM on December 22, 2015


persnickety
pollywog
agog
hijinks
doodad
clodhopper
scuttlebutt
knickknack
humdinger
mollycoddle
posted by erst at 10:37 AM on December 22, 2015


Hoppitamoppita!
posted by zarq at 10:37 AM on December 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


This list of "fun, cool and interesting" words contains many words that fit this and some that don't. A few that haven't been mentioned:
Bafflegab
Bumfuzzle
Canoodle
Collywobbles
Frippery
posted by O9scar at 10:53 AM on December 22, 2015


Two books I can point you towards... ZOUNDS!: A Browser's Dictionary of Interjections and Horrible Histories. Wicked Words

Both are full of these kinds of words. I know of other books like this (the history of English is a hobby of mine), but I can't think of them off the top of my head.
posted by patheral at 11:10 AM on December 22, 2015


gallivant
grimoire
haberdasher
posted by matthewfells at 11:12 AM on December 22, 2015


knibbling pin — imaginary mechanical component
(as in "the johnson rod fell from the gazach because the knibbing pin fell out")
posted by beagle at 11:16 AM on December 22, 2015


Bailiwick
posted by The World Famous at 11:24 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue from 1811 where 'vulgar' means 'common' not NSFW. Found free at Project Gutenberg. For some reason it won't let me link to it.

Onomatopoeia is a word I've had a few people tell me they don't think is real
posted by patheral at 11:25 AM on December 22, 2015


legerdemain
posted by Aznable at 11:27 AM on December 22, 2015


legerdemain

Makes me think of demesne.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:30 AM on December 22, 2015


Didgeridoo
posted by pumpkinlatte at 12:06 PM on December 22, 2015


nincompoop
Kalamazoo (is a place, but whatever)
jalopy
gumption
tchotchke
meshuggeneh
posted by speicus at 12:10 PM on December 22, 2015


Oooh, I just love clishmaclaver! It's a Scottish term for gossip.
http://dictionary.reference.com/wordoftheday/2015/12/15

[on phone; can't insert functioning URL; sorry]
posted by younggreenanne at 12:21 PM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Argy-bargy
posted by fawaffle at 12:27 PM on December 22, 2015


mollywop
posted by rubster at 12:36 PM on December 22, 2015


The word "shrubbery" is a common real word but I think it sounds fake.
posted by dchrssyr at 12:40 PM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Gerrymander.
posted by CheeseLouise at 1:12 PM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Scrimshaw!
posted by Existential Dread at 1:26 PM on December 22, 2015


Slubberdegullion is one of my favourites, as it could easily be the name of a mythical Carrol-esque beast.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 1:39 PM on December 22, 2015


Humbug
Buggery
Plop
Bourgeois
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:10 PM on December 22, 2015


oojamaflip
pootling
posted by Lanark at 2:11 PM on December 22, 2015


Epizootic
Clafouti
Prognathous
Splanchnic

You should also consult lists of useful Scrabble words, which are a good place to find phonologically odd or oddly-spelled words. The vowel dump list has gems like "moue" and "zoeae," the Q-but-no-U list has "mbaqanga" and "qiviut," etc.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:12 PM on December 22, 2015


Nimrod

Dingus
posted by jgirl at 2:13 PM on December 22, 2015


Humongous (the funniest way to say 'BIG'; popularized in the 70s on L.A. radio by commercials for a furniture store in a "humongous blue building")

Malaprop (the funniest way to say 'you've used the wrong word there')

Hasenpfeffer (the funniest way to say 'you're making a rabbit stew?!?')

it's been mentioned before but Discombobulate (the funniest way to say 'confuse'... especially when you mispronounce it the way I did as a little kid: "discomBOOBalate")
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:28 PM on December 22, 2015


sphygmomanometer
posted by Existential Dread at 2:35 PM on December 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


And regarding multi-word phrases, "one fell swoop" ("he got it all done in one fell swoop") was weird enough before I jumbled it into "one swell foop".
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:37 PM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think the world would be a better place with more off-label usage of "flotilla."

Suddenly, a flotilla of cats appeared at her door.

Is it just a general word for "a large group?" Or is she in Venice and these cats stormed the canal and are now at her house, ready for justice?

More importantly, isn't it better not knowing for sure?
posted by Munching Langolier at 2:57 PM on December 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


The page titles for Tracy Butler's webcomic Lackadaisy are often these. From Volume 1:

rumrunner
dithyramb
bedlamite
sockdolager
brouhaha
surreption
lambaste
muckamuck
vaudevillian
imbroglio
kibitz
malarkey
skedaddle
doolally
rowdydow
quacksalver
wherewithal
echolalia
whizbang
palaver
lassitude

And there's more where that came from in Volume 2!
posted by a car full of lions at 4:56 PM on December 22, 2015


Hurdy gurdy!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:29 PM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Phlebotomist
Quisling
Ribald
Strumpet
Trollop
Uvula
Vetiver
Warbler
Xenon (but only if you pronounce it ZEE-non)
Ytterbium
Zeugma
posted by mabelstreet at 6:01 PM on December 22, 2015


unguligrate
puggle
cnidarian
polyp
zooid
bodkin
jodphurs
cantankerous
obsequious

You'll notice that many of these are words to do with animals and biology. That's because biologists have a weird way of naming things and you'll get a lot of bizarre words out of things like this, especially things that are vaguely unfamiliar like sea life or fungus names, or marsupials.

Marsupial is a pretty good word too, come to that...
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 6:06 PM on December 22, 2015


Zarf.
posted by bookish at 6:09 PM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Are place names sought? Peekskill, Oconomowoc and Mukwanago.
posted by cleroy at 6:15 PM on December 22, 2015


pullulanase
posted by maryr at 6:16 PM on December 22, 2015


Pontificate. Swindle. Pierce. Freemasonry. Guzzle. Ooze. Sproink (iffy).
posted by cleroy at 6:24 PM on December 22, 2015


kibbosh
posted by Tandem Affinity at 6:59 PM on December 22, 2015


(I prepare for overwhelming backlash, but I have always thought of the following as a 'funny' word rather than an 'ugly' word)
MOIST.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:19 PM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


sesquipedelian
posted by namewithoutwords at 8:03 PM on December 22, 2015


The one I never thought was a real word was bombastic.
posted by Youremyworld at 8:04 PM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


tutti frutti
posted by Toddles at 8:15 PM on December 22, 2015


hibernaculum (and the plural, hibernacula, is even better)
posted by just_ducky at 8:55 PM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Didgeridoo
posted by hydra77 at 10:19 PM on December 22, 2015


You might want to have a look at @haggardhawks on twitter.
posted by stuartmm at 1:15 AM on December 23, 2015


gibbous
spatchcock
wazzock
posted by crocomancer at 1:15 AM on December 23, 2015


Incunabula
Whoopsie daisy (& variations, i.e., whoops-a-daisy)
Lackadaisical
Regurgitate
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 7:18 AM on December 23, 2015


Here's a page with "The 100 Funniest Words in English," including "fartlek" (an athletic training regime), "firkin" (a quarter barrel or small cask), "hemidemisemiquaver" (a musical timing of 1/64), "oocephalus" (an egghead), "sialoquent" (spitting while speaking), "slangwhanger" (a loud abusive speaker or obnoxious writer), "smellfungus" (a perpetual pessimist), and "turdiform" (having the form of a lark).

Also many great jewels in Oxford Dictionaries' list of "weird and wonderful words" and RinkWorks' "glossary of Fun Words."
posted by taz at 8:37 AM on December 23, 2015


Tatterdemalion
Ruckus
Pettifogger
Skulduggery
Lackadaisical
Hornswoggle
Gallimaufry
Flummox
Cockamamie
Finagle
Skedaddle
posted by Rufus T. Firefly at 9:26 AM on December 23, 2015


Gudgeon
Grar.
posted by SLC Mom at 12:47 PM on December 23, 2015


Gubernaculum is also pretty funny (and as a bonus it relates to genitalia)
posted by Existential Dread at 2:17 PM on December 23, 2015


snollygoster
posted by fizzix at 5:16 PM on December 23, 2015


Tabernacle
posted by The World Famous at 5:54 PM on December 23, 2015


I am apoplectic that apoplectic has not been mentioned already.
posted by finding.perdita at 1:48 AM on December 24, 2015


Google unusual Australian place names. A small sample might include such classics as Wollongong, Geelong, Kurrajong, Mullumbimby, Mittagong, Molong, Grong Grong, Goondiwindi … , Coolangatta; Also the animal names get pretty cool too. Dugong, Bettong, Bilby etc.
posted by wwax at 7:56 AM on December 24, 2015


Boondocks
Mugwump
Higgleddy piggleddy
Scalawag
Rumpus
Tiddlywinks
Cattycorner
Buckeroo
Bandyleg
posted by islandeady at 5:50 AM on December 25, 2015


Fussbudget
posted by islandeady at 5:54 AM on December 25, 2015


Whiffenpoofs (my Granddaddy was one!)
Shibboleth
and all the words mentioned in this post
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 2:20 PM on December 25, 2015


So many wonderful words! Thanks to you all.

(No proper nouns allowed, so we can't use people or place names.)
posted by acorncup at 5:36 PM on December 25, 2015


Also, and I can't believe it wasn't mentioned, pish posh. And jiggity-jig is another.

Speaking of which, does it count if we've partly invented a silly term ourselves? When I was a kid, we drove over a speed bump/hump one day, and as we went over, I was pretty startled by the inadvertent jostling through my body caused by the bump. As way as explanation for my current feeling, I exclaimed 'oh, it's jiggitybumps!'

Of course I think I actually meant 'jiggly' since I had felt jiggled about, but, you know... I was just a wee lass.

But since then, my family still uses the term to describe the jiggling/jostling/wiggling feeling you involuntarily experience as a result of things like speed bumps, speed traps, or bad and bumpy roads, etc. Even being knocked into or over can cause you to feel jiggitybumps. I suppose it's any time you fight against the forces of inertia. Moreover, you can use the term in two ways... you can feel jiggitybumps as you are jostled, but can also describe bumpy bit of road as 'having many jiggitybumps'-- things that will cause you to be jostled.

I dunno. I was a really weird kid.
posted by Dimes at 10:06 AM on December 26, 2015


Two from my studying today:

cachexia (and its adjective form cachectic)
paroxysmal
posted by ocherdraco at 9:43 PM on December 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


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