For Christmas this year, my brother received a book titled The Meaning of Tingo: and Other Extraordinary Words from Around the World by Adam Jacot de Boinod. The book itself is filled with words that have incredibly specific and often bizarre meanings. What I was surprised and a little annoyed to find was that this book included no English words at all. We are part of the world, no? Last time I checked we were. And we have some great words.
So, to rectify (at least in part) some of The Meaning of Tingo‘s mistake, I have collected a list of ten strange words only found in the English language.
1) Cool – (interjection, slang) – an expression of acceptance, agreement, amazement or congratulations.
They say slang is the hardest part of English to master and they’re probably right. That being said, we’ve been using ‘cool’ for decades. It’s so ingrained in the language, we don’t even think about it, despite the fact that it has no bearing whatsoever on the actual meaning of cool, which deals with solely with temperature.
2) Patronizing – (adjective) – offensively condescending behavior/attitude.
Patronizing behavior is used by complete jerks and people who think they can handle children. Any teacher who does this deserves to be slapped. British in origin.
3) Synecdoche – (noun) – the use of part of something to suggest the whole
Such as using ‘wheels’ to mean ‘cars’ or ‘souls’ to mean ‘people.’ I’ve brought this word up in an earlier post about some of my favorite words.
4) Lackadaisical – (adjective) – lazy, listless, lacking life and/or fevor
Based off the phrase “lack-a-day” which apparently turned up in the 1690s – or so dictionary.com tells me. The behavior is indicative of someone who is bored out of their mind.
5) Belittle – (verb) – to make less of something or someone
The only time it’s acceptable to do this is when the person being belittled has done something resoundingly stupid. Any other time is just mean and small-minded. American in cousin of ‘patronizing.’
6) Antidisestablishmentarianism – (noun) – opposition to the withdrawal of state support or recognition from an established religious organization
Often toted as the longest word in the English language (it’s not, but that’s beside the point), as well as one of the hardest to spell, very few people actually know the definition of this word. Americans really ought to – the subject comes up on a regular basis.
7) Maudlin – (adjective) – tearful, weepy, generally overly emotional.
Again one of the words I’ve mentioned before, ‘maudlin’ stolen from Old French, squished with a similar word from Latin, then misspelled to give us a purely English word.
8) Deluge – (noun) – a great flood, sometimes the Biblical Great Flood.
Other stolen word with a different spelling and pronunciation in the original. Ha! Ours now.
9) Fiddlesticks – (interjection) – 1) nonsense, often used as substitute for a curse word.
But only by people who feel “Drat!” or “Rats!” aren’t appropriate. Also used by people belittling children’s ideas.
10) Defenestration – (verb) – the bizarrely specific act of throwing someone out a window.
Did…did we really need a word for this? I mean, at one point did we do this often enough that we needed a specific word for it? I mean, it’s a great word, but…really?
Okay – that’s ten. Special thanks to dictionary.com for guiding me to all of the strange, English based words that I needed this week.
If you, dear reader, can think of some I didn’t mention, make a comment on this post!