I’m an English major, which is another way of saying I’ve developed an unhealthy fascination with words. I mean, I’ve always had a large vocabulary, but when I actually started studying the language itself, it became almost an obsession.
Most people only read at a third grade level. I never, ever get to use a whole bunch of the fun words I know. Though I can use them freely enough on here (this being an independent endeavor), they still don’t find their way into every day sentences. So I’ve just decided to make a list of 10 my favorites:
1. Xenophobia – Fear of strangers. Sometimes this is fear of the unknown, but only because there doesn’t seem to be a term for that. This is the best word ever when you need one that starts with “x” and have had enough of “xylophone” and “x-ray.”
2. Synecdoche – It means “part of something to signify the whole” or “the whole of something to signify the part.” This means using the term “souls” to mean “people” or “wheels” to mean “vehicles.” I like it because it’s an awesome word to say.
3. Theriomorph – A shapeshifter, such as a werewolf. It comes from the Greek word “theriomorphous” which means “having the form of beasts,” usually in reference to deities. I like it because it it sounds a whole lot better than “were-rat” or even “were-tiger.”
4. Maudlin – Sappy, tearful, or otherwise excessively sentimental. Nobody ever uses this word anymore. It took me forever to figure out what it means.
5. Superfluous – Silly or excessive. This is one of those words that describes itself.
6. Alliteration – The repetition of certain sounds, such as beginning letters or stressed and unstressed syllables. I like this word because a) alliteration is fun to do and it annoys serious people and b) this is the first word that I knew the definition of that my father did not. For a man who could not manage to write below a 12th grade reading level, this is a big deal. Curiously, “alliteration” is alliterative.
7. Ennui – This is physical lethargy caused by boredom. You can’t really grasp the meaning until you’ve done something so often just the thought of doing it wears you out. It’s how I feel about my current job.
8. Lethologica – The proper term for the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon. There’s always a certain amount of irony in trying to remember this one.
9. Omphaloskepses – To contemplate one’s navel. I swear this is a real word.
10. Backpfeifengesicht – A German word that means, “a face badly in need of a fist in it” or, alternative, “a face that badly needs to be slapped.” For some reason, the literal translation is: “back whistling face.” I have to wonder about this just a bit.
Obviously, this is not all of my favorites. In that case the list is clearly longer than 10. This is just the ten that occur to me on a regular basis.