Let Inga Tell You: Lexophilia
• LET INGA TELL YOU:
Recently I was diagnosed with lexophilia. Fortunately, it doesn’t require blood transfusions and it’s not terminal, although that depends on whom you ask.
While I didn’t know the term before, it turns out I’ve always been a lexophile, a lover of words. This is good because I really can’t do Sudoku puzzles to save my life.
Lots of people collect things. I collect words. I keep a file on my computer desktop so that whenever I see a new word, or one that is just fun to say, I can easily add it.
Hey, c’mon. Some people collect teapots. Collecting words is probably the least expensive hobby in America. And unlike most collections, the kids won’t be stuck trying to sell it on eBay after I’m dead. (Actually, I wouldn’t mind being buried with it. Death seems like it could have a lot of down time.)
I frequently consult this list, broken down into general-ish categories, when I’m writing. People might roll their eyes and say, “Um, that’s what the Internet is for.” But you’d be wrong. My list includes plenty of words that don’t come up in synonym lists or online dictionaries. The New York Times puzzle is a particularly good source of great words never actually used in the English language except in crosswords.
Like most people with collections, I like to take mine out from time to time and play with it. Right before Christmas, I printed out my list, which came to 62 pages. Then I savored it over several hours. I find that word savoring goes even better with a glass of Chardonnay.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Paraprosdokian: refers to a figure of speech that contains a surprising or unexpected ending i.e. the famous Groucho Marx phrase, “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening but this wasn’t it.”
Cruciverbalist: crossword puzzle enthusiast. They are often lexophiles, as well.
Unctuous: excessively or ingratiatingly flattering; oily.
Infrangible: unbreakable; inviolable.
Puissance: strength, power. It’s just so much fun to say (pwee-sance). I wish I had the puissance to not eat a whole box of chocolate mint Girl Scout cookies in one sitting.
Crepuscular: used to describe animals that are primarily active during twilight (i.e. dawn and dusk). Not easy to work this one into cocktail party conversation although I’ve certainly tried.
Hinky: (of a person) dishonest or suspect. “He knew the guy was hinky.”
Gallimaufry: a confused jumble or medley of things.
Ululate: howl or wail as an expression of strong emotion, typically grief. (Not to be confused with ovulate, a totally different but often equally emotional event.)
Pettifog: 1) quibble about petty points, 2) to argue trickily.
Senectitude: old age; elderliness. When your Medicare card arrives in the mail, you are officially part of the senectitude set.
Ultracrepidate: to go beyond one’s scope or province, especially to criticize beyond one’s sphere of knowledge. Ultracrepidaters are out in force on the comment sections of internet sites.
Hebdomadally: by the week; in periods of seven days. (This must be the meaning behind Charlie Hebdo.)
Nostrum: ineffective remedy; a remedy for a social, political, or economic problem, especially an idea or plan that is often suggested but never proved to be successful.
Homunculus: no, not a pretty spring flower. A very small human or humanoid creature.
Absquatulate: flee, run away, decamp.
Phlogiston: (chemistry/alchemy origins) Literally: A mythical substance thought to be given off by fire during burning. Usage: It is that mysterious, invisible substance that no one has ever seen and never will. It is something widely and wholeheartedly believed to exist, but doesn’t. Commonly seen during presidential elections.
Ineluctable: unable to be resisted or avoided; inescapable. The ineluctable lure of mint chocolate chip ice cream on top of sour cream fudge cake.
Cupidity: nope, nothing to do with little guys shooting arrows on Valentine’s day. Greed for money or possessions.
Bloviate: talk at length, especially in an inflated or empty way. Rant pompously.
Susurration: whispering (as in susurration of the wind and rain in the trees). Bonus: A great example of onomatopoeia (i.e. it sounds like what it means).
Infra dig: (two words, short for infra dignitatem) beneath one’s dignity or unbecoming to one’s position. You hear this one much more on the East Coast where Latin is still allegedly studied.
Stertorous: (of breathing) noisy and labored. Natural state of bulldog pulmonology.
Sesquipedalian: (of a word) polysyllabic. Characterized by long words; long-winded.
Sometimes it’s fun to see how many you can get into a sentence (or two) as in: The ultimate ultracrepidater, Donald Trump bloviates sesquipedaliannostrums reminiscent of the phlogiston ignoring the ineluctable facts of history. Every unctuous word sounds like pettifog and gallimaufry. If he is elected, I plan to absquatulate.
See? Now was that fun or what?
— Inga’s lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in the La Jolla Light. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org