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Great words... that you actually use
April 22, 2008 1:24 PM   Subscribe

What are some interesting, uncommon "vocabulary" words that you use regularly or semi-regularly?

I have a serviceable but unremarkable vocabulary. I look up unfamiliar words when I come across them and I subscribe to a word-of-the-day email, but I've found that I tend to forget new words if I don't use them in writing or conversation. And as fun as it is to learn new words for trivia's sake, I'd rather learn words that will help me communicate, not just make me look like a smartypants. (Floccinaucinihilipilification is practically worthless, and I see no reason to use defenestrate when "throw out the window" works fine.)

In expanding my own working vocabulary, I've started to wonder what lesser-known words other people find useful, figuring they'd probably be good words for me to know, too. So I'm looking for words that not many people might know, but that you have found worth knowing – words that have successfully made their way from the word-of-the-day lists to your own speech or writing, words that you're glad you've learned.

Thanks in advance!
posted by Metroid Baby to Writing & Language (91 answers total) 149 users marked this as a favorite
 
Reader's Digest actually has a pretty good monthly feature "It Pays to Enrich Your Word Power" (Increase instead of Enrich maybe?). While Reader's Digest is pretty mediocre in general that column is a great vocabulary expander.
posted by GuyZero at 1:30 PM on April 22, 2008


I use "ostensibly" with embarrassing frequency. Sometimes I even use it correctly.

I'm also fond of 'alacrity' and 'obstreperous'. A good book for improving your vocabulary is Word Power Made Easy.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:34 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I made this list for precisely this purpose. They're words that I might have known in the first place, but wanted to keep track of -- either because I have trouble remembering the definition, or because I don't often think to use them. I went out of my way to exclude any novelty words like "defenestrate" and just stick to words I might actually want to use.
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:35 PM on April 22, 2008 [14 favorites]


roman a clef
bildungsroman
portmanteau
chatfilter
posted by box at 1:38 PM on April 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


I like "insipid". But really, it's more about how you use them, not the words themselves. I talk a lot about representations and models, when I mean "how I think about something". I.e., "my internal representation of that turned out to be all wrong". Some people seem to find it amusing.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 1:39 PM on April 22, 2008


Persnickety about your perspicacity overtaking you perspicuity, are you?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:42 PM on April 22, 2008 [6 favorites]


"Churlish" is one of my favorites for describing a particular bad mood, which I didn't think was all that unusual until apologizing to someone recently...who said they had to look it up! I find that happens to me more often than I'd like, which I blame on my teenage fondness for 19th-century literature. ;)

@Jaltcoh: OMG that is an awesome site. I could lose myself in something like that.
posted by epersonae at 1:42 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


My friend made me learn 'enervate' because it's so misleading - it sounds like it means "increase energy" but really its definition is closer to "sap" or "deplete energy."

Aside from that, I learned interlocutrix in high school. It's a female participant in a conversation... although strangely Webster's telling me it's not a word, and yet interlocutor, the masculine form, is included. That seems a bit wrong to me!
posted by reebear at 1:44 PM on April 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


@Jaltcoh: OMG that is an awesome site. I could lose myself in something like that.

I often have... :)
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:45 PM on April 22, 2008


"Schadenfreude.

What's that, some kind of Nazi word?

Yup, it's German for happiness at the misfortune of others.

Happiness at the misfortune of others? That *is* German!"

Seriously, though, I use schadenfreude (and feel it) far more often than I should.
posted by katemonster at 1:46 PM on April 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


Esoteric: understood by or meant for only the select few who have special knowledge or interest.
posted by scrumtralescent at 1:58 PM on April 22, 2008


dictionary.com has a word of the day section which introduces uncommon words in various contexts. Lambaste, chimera and lionize (the three most recent) are all words I could see myself using if a suitable opportunity were to arise...
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:06 PM on April 22, 2008


Using dispositive correctly makes you sound smart.

I always have to look it up.
posted by mccxxiii at 2:08 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I like capricious. (subject to, led by, or indicative of caprice or whim; erratic)
Plus it's fun to say.

And how you can remember it is that going to Capri would be a very capricious thing to do!
posted by NoraCharles at 2:09 PM on April 22, 2008


The best way to learn new words that you'll actually use is to just read (or converse or go to lectures) a lot, come across words, learn them through context, and start using them without really noticing. I think it's better to just let your vocabulary grow at a slower pace but more organically than to try to infuse it with little nuggets...

although strangely Webster's telling me it's not a word, and yet interlocutor, the masculine form, is included. That seems a bit wrong to me!

a lot of feminine forms of nouns have been dropped (authoress, aviatrix, poetess) while others are on the borderline (comedienne), as it seems unnecessary to determine the sex of the occupation. Also, as women become involved in more occupations, do we make new ones - presidentress? etc. But it is an odd line at this stage, since we still use some quite regularly (actress & waitress are still pretty common)
posted by mdn at 2:13 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Laggard is a fantastic synonym for slow that (at least to me) implies sluggishness due to size or incompetency. I find it describes most bureaucracy quite well, e.g. "My application is still making its way through the laggard machinery of customs and immigration."
posted by Nelsormensch at 2:18 PM on April 22, 2008


I quite like bloviate and bibulous (and they go so well together - the more bibulous the evening, the more likely folks will be given to bloviation don't ya know) ... I also occasionally like emetic when I don't want to outright SAY that something "makes me want to hurl" ... all three of those, though, I'd mostly use in a quasi-silly manner - not to try being "impressively wordy" or anything so much as enjoying a bit of amusing effect. Still, quite useful words when the occasion arises.

I also find myself using 'vexing' ALL the time - I don't really consider it a "big word" but it might still count given that it doesn't seem to be used with particular frequency by everyone (and surprisingly enough I HAVE had people ask me what the heck it means before, heh), it just suits so well for me, though - I don't get "pissed off" all that often but I do become vexed!
posted by zeph at 2:23 PM on April 22, 2008


I'm guessing you're also sort of aiming for words less often used rather than less known, as words that you wouldn't expect your listener to understand are normally avoided. Even so, it's hard to guess where that line is for a person posting on the internet, so forgive me if I aim too low - you'll probably already know these :)

I find that euphemistically is very useful as a (often slightly humorous) qualifier.

ubiquitous

fungible
(Which often reminds me of the completely unrelated word fecundity, but I don't recall needing that one much so nevermind).

esoteric is useful word, but presumably already part of your standard vocab. However it's fitting, given the question, so I threw it in :-)
(Also fitting is circumlocution)

Also: Anything that Monty Burns says.
Well, apparently not everything - these quotes seem completely devoid of his vocabular awesomeness.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:23 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Penultimate and antepenultimate.
My 6 yr old daughter uses them as well.
posted by Echidna882003 at 2:29 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm going to suggest something slightly different: Learn a Latin-based language.

You'll find that many words in English which you are looking for have their counterparts in Latin. Since learning Latin itself may not be tempting, it might be better to go out and learn a language such as French or Spanish and take note of how we might say the same things in English.

For example, going with what NoraCharles said above, almost every Spanish-speaking child is scolded by their mother with "No seas tan caprichoso!" which translates as "Don't be so capricious!" Thats what I mean. The word "caprichoso" is common in Spanish. Everybody knows it. But its counterpart in English is a less-common word but knowing it enhances the range of your vocabulary. And certainly it works both ways.
posted by vacapinta at 2:29 PM on April 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also learn more words, and fill the world's rice bowl here.
posted by typewriter at 2:31 PM on April 22, 2008


wordie.org is amazing. Thanks for the link :)
I can spend hours here!
posted by lungtaworld at 2:33 PM on April 22, 2008


Caveat, jejune
Extricate, delineate
Gravitas, censure
posted by hjo3 at 2:41 PM on April 22, 2008


My two favorite words:

redolent
ennui
posted by wafaa at 2:42 PM on April 22, 2008


salient
ignoble
ostensibly
cohesive
posted by Mercaptan at 2:48 PM on April 22, 2008


I often use obfuscatory, although not with any intention to obfuscate.

Having said that, it's no skin off my neck if others don't know what I mean when I say cutaneous.

While I wouldn't call it a fancy word, I get a cozy feeling when using haimish.

While unneeded for my vocabulary, I enjoy vestigial. (But people would think me unbalanced if I confused that term with vestibular.)
posted by j-dawg at 2:54 PM on April 22, 2008


i am a fan of the term callipygian. that is all.
posted by gnutron at 3:04 PM on April 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


By the way, this is great. I'm looking up all the words y'all have contributed, and I'm making notes on the ones that I'm not sure how to use.
posted by wafaa at 3:05 PM on April 22, 2008


I guess "purport". Oh, and "subsequently", as in "we will revisit this matter subsequently". Yes I got it from Deadwood.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:07 PM on April 22, 2008


Illustrative sounds so crisp and utilitarian. It's one of my favorites.
posted by cr_joe at 3:09 PM on April 22, 2008


I second mdn's recommendation of wide reading and vacapinta's of learning a Latin-based language. Also, you will do the world a favor if you learn to use penultimate correctly (it does not mean "really, really ultimate"!).

Aside from that, I learned interlocutrix in high school. It's a female participant in a conversation... although strangely Webster's telling me it's not a word, and yet interlocutor, the masculine form, is included.


That's because it's rare, but it does exist. OED citations:
1860 MRS. W. P. BYRNE Undercurrents I. 27 The man moved from the wall towards his interlocutrix.
1868 Pall Mall G. 28 Mar. 11 His interlocutrix will not have Mrs. Guinevere for the brand-mark of the sex.

The "real" feminine form (the one they give as an entry word), according to the OED, is interlocutress:
1858 HOGG Shelley II. 328, I.. asked.. the fair interlocutresses for some samples of the nightly dialogue.
1880 H. JAMES Mme. de Mauves 105 Longmore felt a revival of interest in his interlocutress.

There's also interlocutrice, but the less said about that, the better.
posted by languagehat at 3:10 PM on April 22, 2008


Already mentioned: ostensibly, fecund, ubiquitous, schadenfreude, gravitas, salient. I only use "lionize" in MeTa, it would seem (which I'm sure makes some kind of psychological statement about me as a person or MeFite).

Others that I seem to find handy: cocurricular, peccadillo, frisson, soupçon, venerable, askance, curmudgeon, asymptotic, porte-cochere, assuage, denouement, vacillate. Umbrage and its friend, chagrin. Castigate (chasten is good too, but again -- not all that much less showy). Ennui's pal malaise. Salient's pal germane.

These are the words where I often find myself looking for a less-wordy substitute -- only, I can't ever find one that is not pretentious yet has exactly the same nuance. Feel free to make suggestions!

Abattoir and ungulate, we use a lot at home (inside jokes). I'd not likely use them out in public, though.
posted by pineapple at 3:13 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here's my list on wordie. I remember putting "eponysterical" on there, and I also discovered the appropriately autological "sesquipedalian" on that site.
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 3:30 PM on April 22, 2008


albeit
posted by 517 at 3:41 PM on April 22, 2008


corpulence
abscond
canard
indefatigable
concupiscent (this truly is one of my favorite words, ever)
solipsism
mellifluous
glossolalia
aperture
quixotic
and the twins, lugubrious and salubrious.

I second the above enthusiasm about enervate; I love that word.

I wish more would come to mind; I used to be a spelling bee nerd and onomatopoeia was my favorite for a long, long time.

The words above to me sound like mouthfuls of exotic food and have meanings that elevate them beyond the banal; I love the way they feel swirling around my mouth.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:51 PM on April 22, 2008


My wordie list, although they are not actually words I tend to use. Some of them are not even real words. If you can slip "hypokeimenon" casually into a conversation about pokemon, you are full of win.

My favorite word that might actually be commonly used is abrade or abraded (but not abrasion).
posted by juv3nal at 4:00 PM on April 22, 2008


There's also interlocutrice, but the less said about that, the better.

Yes, well, when you have a large rooster with a lizard-like tail participating in your conversations things can get ugly. They tend to turn you to stone and all.

NOT COCKATRICE-IST
posted by GuyZero at 4:14 PM on April 22, 2008


Exacerbate has to be one of my favorites. I have to say, though, that threads like this exacerbate my tendency to use large words.
posted by lleachie at 4:28 PM on April 22, 2008


I find that I often start off sentences that are going to contain the word "exacerbate", then I realize that I don't really want to use that word. While correct, it's uncommon enough that everyone will stop paying attention to what I'm saying and go "ooh, exACERbate! good word!". Unfortunately I usually can't think of a better word in the split second before I have to say something lame, like "uh.. makes X even worse."

I also like captious.
posted by ctmf at 4:44 PM on April 22, 2008


I also second mdn's advice to learn words organically and vacapinta's suggestion of reinforcement through a second (related) language.

I would caution against learning words in an isolated context such as in this thread. It's very easy to come across as ‘a wanker’ (Aussie slang) when you're obviously just using words for the sake of using them. You will also probably put your audience off the word rather than turning them on to it if your use comes across as artificial.

I've just read The Bell by Iris Murdoch and she makes fun throughout the novel by having one of her characters overuse a word he has just learnt — that word being rebarbative.

posted by Sitegeist at 4:51 PM on April 22, 2008


lubricious
posted by gcat at 5:05 PM on April 22, 2008


extraneous variables!
posted by winks007 at 5:41 PM on April 22, 2008


I like the word amalgam. It's technically the word for a compound containing mercury but it and its verb form, amalgamate, are a nice synonym for mixture.

As a note, I cross referenced my GRE vocabulary lists with words that I learned from White Wolf role playing games (Vampire: the Masquerade, Werewolf: the Apocalypse, etc) and there were quite a few. (There's a group of vampires with healing powers called the Salubri, legerdemain and chicanery are fairy powers, etc...) So, to increase your word power, revisit your angsty goth years.
posted by Tesseractive at 5:41 PM on April 22, 2008


Recent fan of "exacerbate" here as well.

But never use a large word where a diminutive one will suffice ;-)
posted by ontic at 5:50 PM on April 22, 2008


elucidate!

But English is my third language, so I do not do so well on the big words :)
posted by lundman at 5:58 PM on April 22, 2008


demur. I love that word. It sounds elegant, and it's a little ancient, but beautiful - like a well upkept antique. I demur to many things, on professional grounds - and sometimes just because I want to.

Another word I like is chthonic but I don't get too many opportunities to use it at work.
posted by seawallrunner at 6:17 PM on April 22, 2008


I have been thinking about this all day but couldn't come up with any unusual words I actually use but I finally remembered one: ossify. Like my ossified brain.
posted by GuyZero at 6:27 PM on April 22, 2008


I make use of "requisite" and "proverbial" on a fairly regular basis. And I've always had a soft spot for "verbose" as it is what it is.

And nthing the idea to learn a romantic language. My sister said that french was often just long english words with a french accent.
posted by kjs4 at 6:28 PM on April 22, 2008


suppurating

i have an ingrown toenail :(
posted by mindsound at 6:42 PM on April 22, 2008


I like the words lugubrious, phlegmatic, unctious, apropos and ingenue.
posted by h00py at 6:49 PM on April 22, 2008


Possibly not what you're thinking, but using "retard" in the original sense (especially as relates to engineering, rate of change, etc) is something that few people do because the word can be so offensive when used other ways, but when used like this doesn't raise the hackles like you'd think it would, so it just sounds concise.

(Or would saying something like "cooling this juncture should sufficiently retard the temperature increase that it solves the problem" completely flip your flags, and I'm quite mistaken on this?)
posted by -harlequin- at 7:19 PM on April 22, 2008


this thread has gotten a lot of responses but still seems inchoate to me
posted by kickback at 7:42 PM on April 22, 2008


maven
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:09 PM on April 22, 2008


Craptastic. as in The new Windows Vista feature is craptastic.
Craptacular as in the new Windows Vista Feature is craptacular

My father liked perambulate.
My favorite is anachronistic
posted by Gungho at 8:17 PM on April 22, 2008


Its counterpart in English is a less-common word but knowing it enhances the range of your vocabulary. And certainly it works both ways.
posted by vacapinta

Same here. Many the 'uncommon' word in this thread have a latin origin, and as such sound perfectly ordinary to a Spanish/English speaker.
posted by signal at 8:18 PM on April 22, 2008


Craptastic and craptacular are ok, but they got nothing on my all-time favorite word: crapulous. (Which has the added benefit of being a real word...)

crap·u·lous
Etymology: Late Latin crapulosus, from Latin crapula intoxication, from Greek kraipalē
Date: 1536
1 : marked by intemperance especially in eating or drinking
2 : sick from excessive indulgence in liquor


It means just what it sounds like!
posted by meta_eli at 8:39 PM on April 22, 2008


Ignominious - public and humiliating: "his defeat was ignominious".
posted by blue_beetle at 9:02 PM on April 22, 2008


Asinine! It's fun to say, it makes people giggle, and it's all too often perfectly appropriate. Foolish, or resembling an ass.
posted by Brian James at 9:08 PM on April 22, 2008


Mmmmm... obstreperous (from Pastabagel, way back up at the top).

Digress, disingenuous, dilettante, dichotomy, and deucedly are five of my favorites from the fourth letter of the alphabet.

Honestly, the word I find the most use for these days is "fuckwit," a la Bridget Jones. And where I live, at least, it's not overused.
posted by bryon at 9:14 PM on April 22, 2008


I see no reason to use defenestrate when "throw out the window" works fine.

Than surely many, if not all, of the following words will be of no use to you then. The examples given essentially all replace a phrase, and are equivalent to using defenestrate instead of throw out the window.

However, my concerns about the utility of this thread to you if that is indeed your attitude aside, I should not resist this chance to also establish myself as a fellow lexophile.

I shall adopt the rôle of a castigatory school ma'am:

Whilst you may wish to adopt our inimitable love of words, if your entirely scrofulous attitude does not improve your vituperations shall simply be susurrant, and lack the force majeure you seek. As a result, you may perhaps expose yourself, and by extension those around you, to be mere sciolists. If that happens, will not this endeavor shall made fainéant! Triturate factiously on this while you ponder the other answers. I hope assuming an attitude of great propinquity does not cause you to ignore my words. Fin.

If you are serious about improving your vocab there are a few practices that you must adopt; one, never ignore an unfamiliar word. When you stumble upon a word that you do not know the precise definition of, than either directly go to a dictionary, or note it down for later research (it is in this spirit that I provide no defintions). Languagehat (hopefully he will recover from the grave injury to language I have just committed in the previous paragraph) has frequently demonstrated the application of this practice. Secondly, although perhaps primary in importance, read like the dickens. Read far beyond your traditional comfort zone, and expose yourself to not only legion new words, but different ways of using familiar words.

Good luck! And in terms of parting words "Never use a big word when a diminutive once shall suffice." ;)
posted by oxford blue at 9:36 PM on April 22, 2008


Never use a big word when a diminutive once shall suffice.

I always eschew obfuscation.
posted by GuyZero at 10:17 PM on April 22, 2008


nonplussed
avuncular
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:24 PM on April 22, 2008


Fruition
Juxtapose
Hyperbole
posted by rocco at 10:25 PM on April 22, 2008


Consilience: The joining together of formerly separate knowledge into a unified theory.
posted by eritain at 11:05 PM on April 22, 2008


Shibboleth. Juxtaposition. Vernacular. Loquacious. Colloquial.

I have many more, though not through any inherent desire to inflict an obfuscation of meaning upon my listeners. I just employ a pretentiously erudite sounding lexicon, and have since I was a child, as a result of congenital Aspergers combined with way too much reading.
posted by Phalene at 11:05 PM on April 22, 2008


I would propound that this thread could easily have become a boondoggle however I am pleased to behold that this has not been the end result. Verily, this virtual ventilation has been most congenial! How gratifying!
posted by Effigy2000 at 12:00 AM on April 23, 2008


Schadenfreude.

The best definition for this is ..... "when two BMWs collide"
posted by flutable at 1:24 AM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Two words that sound like what they mean and are fun to say, particularly if you roll the Rs:
thrawn; and
carnaptious.
posted by my face your at 2:36 AM on April 23, 2008


I use nifty, groovy, and smurfy on a fairly regular basis. They tend to get an amused look.

I'll also answer anyone who idly asks how I'm doing with "reasonably well" - it's a great way to get them to actually think about it.
posted by phredgreen at 4:03 AM on April 23, 2008


I always thought Shadenfreude had two meanings. One being distress at another's happiness, and the other being joy over someone else's troubles. Am I wrong?
posted by Gungho at 4:22 AM on April 23, 2008


Via dictionary.app:

schadenfreude |ˈ sh ädənˌfroidə| (also Schadenfreude)
noun
pleasure derived by someone from another person's misfortune.
ORIGIN German, from Schaden ‘harm’ + Freude ‘joy.’
posted by oxford blue at 6:14 AM on April 23, 2008


Ephemeral and ineffable. If you don't find occasion to use them you aren't living life correctly.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:04 AM on April 23, 2008


I must again pimp the word "velleity", which means something you want to do, but not quite enough to do it - I'm afraid I could use it all day long.
posted by nicwolff at 8:44 AM on April 23, 2008


hectoring
discursive

I particularly enjoy identifying someone as having a "hectoring discursive style." In mixed company you get some serious stares, let me tell you.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:20 AM on April 23, 2008


If you can slip "hypokeimenon" casually into a conversation about pokemon, you are full of win.

but it's just a greek word for underlying thing, sometimes translated "subject" though that's hugely oversimplifying. Also it's often spelled (and always pronounced more like) "hupokeimenon" (the greek y/u sound is kind of weird).

I always thought Shadenfreude had two meanings. One being distress at another's happiness, and the other being joy over someone else's troubles. Am I wrong?

I've never come across it except to refer to happiness, specifically that joy felt at another's suffering. But I don't think of it as a neurotic word, as your first definition would imply, but as having a sense of satisfaction about it.
posted by mdn at 10:43 AM on April 23, 2008


A general word of advice: don't use 'big' words just for the hell of it, to replace other little words. Use big words to say things that you couldn't say at all with little words.
posted by signal at 11:22 AM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


[points to own moniker as a favorite example]
posted by desuetude at 11:31 AM on April 23, 2008


Thanks, everyone! I'd forgotten I knew some of these.

Wordie is fantastic and something I'll be returning to a lot in the near future.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:27 PM on April 23, 2008


I find words that define shapes/spatial relationships to be useful, like crenulated, circumjacent, and asymptotic.
posted by Falconetti at 5:47 PM on April 23, 2008


but it's just a greek word for underlying thing, sometimes translated "subject" though that's hugely oversimplifying. Also it's often spelled (and always pronounced more like) "hupokeimenon" (the greek y/u sound is kind of weird).

yes, but it looks kind of like it could be pronounced like pokemon but not quite and it's funny, see? Aw, nevermind.

my hypokeimenons, let me show you them.
posted by juv3nal at 6:01 PM on April 23, 2008


I also like tergiversate. Or not.
posted by Falconetti at 6:13 PM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Didn't see these favorites of mine listed above;
Ameliorate
Frenetic
Atavism (Atavistic)
posted by X4ster at 8:51 PM on April 23, 2008


Occupational fields and scientific specialties have their own specialized vocabularies. Among the geology terms I've used are vug and the ever popular orogenic activity.
posted by X4ster at 9:04 PM on April 23, 2008


I really like throwing around felicitous

exhibiting an agreeably appropriate manner or style; "a felicitous speaker"
marked by good fortune; "a felicitous life"; "a happy outcome"
posted by milestogo at 9:23 PM on April 23, 2008


Ephemeral
posted by jason's_planet at 7:10 AM on April 24, 2008


Palimpsest and discombobulate(d)

I try to use them at least weekly.
posted by LyzzyBee at 12:11 PM on April 24, 2008


Bailiwick--I used that word at work, and my 60+ year old coworker was delighted, as it had been ages since he heard that word used in conversation.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 4:25 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I particularly like the word rebarbative, but I don't use it enough. Imbricate is a word that I overuse. I have been told that only grad students use it, but I've seen it in a lot of books, and once you've gotten in the habit of using it, it's hard to replace. Paucity is a good one, too. I like but am a bit confused by the late Victorian/Edwardian slang word "rum." Does it mean bad, strange, or both or either of those? Also, I heard a professor use "bailiwick" today (see above)-- and shortly thereafter "canard." One last thing, I think it's great to use the word "precalculus" when I should say "ridiculous," as in "why, that's simply precalculus!" The trick is not to emphasize the first syllable at all and put all the stress on the second syllable. Say this in front of a classroom of bored students and see if they even notice.
posted by Septimus at 12:59 AM on April 25, 2008


Imbricate doesn't seem to be a word that lends itself towards overuse.

Reprobate and noisome however...
posted by oxford blue at 4:53 AM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Forgot the other day about "abrogate" as in to "abrogate one's duty" or an "Abrogation of duty".
posted by ontic at 7:06 PM on April 26, 2008


Psychoneuroimmunology. I use it not to sound smarty pants but because it is an interest of mine. When I use it peoples eyes roll. I suggest that they google it and tell them that google will correct their spelling if necessary.
posted by snowjoe at 6:16 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


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