Word Up!

Like many of you (and I know I’ve even blogged about it here before), I delight in finding words new to me. Without being boastful, lemme just say I have a large vocabulary. Which is why it’s so much fun to find new words. And now another generation has joined the fray: My son.

Yesterday, we did some back-to-school shopping. At the counter, I picked up a pocket dictionary for the boy because lately he’s been asking me what words mean, and I want him to be able to find them on his own. Mommy doesn’t always know for sure what the words mean, and I don’t want to lead him astray.

On the way back to the car, I showed it to him, he made a sound of glee, and immediately dove into it. His first word to look up? Despondent. Apparently a supervillain has that as his last name, and he wanted to know for sure what it meant. And then, little nihilist that he is, he looked up ‘death.’

Me, I had to text a friend to define “ichor,” which is the blood of Greek gods, rumored to be in ambrosia. I couldn’t wait for a regular dictionary, and it wasn’t in the son’s, and it was driving me crazy. And then I looked up “coruscate,” which was there, which means sparkling. Both those words were in the book I was reading.

I like interesting phrases, too; we are at the Jersey Shore (“down the Shore,” for those in the vernacular know), and we always go to a candy store that has “own make” candies.

My husband and I talk a lot in shorthand, citing phrases and lyrics that have come to mean something particular to us. It’s fun being married to someone as word-geeky as I am, although it’s REALLY ANNOYING when one of us uses a word incorrectly, and the other one corrects her.

What are your shorthand phrases? Or favorite idiosyncracies? What word did you look up most recently?

(And apologies for not coming back to comment last week and this, I am on dial-up down the Shore, it’s hard to get online).


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Diane Gaston
14 years ago

I’ve been playing Scrabble against the computer (Talk about a time sucker!)and even though it is “beginning” level, the computer knows way more words than I do. You’d probably do a whole lot better, Megan.

When I play FreeRice.com lots of the words I know are because I read Regency Romance. I do pretty well on that site which uses recognition rather than retrieval, like in Scrabble.

14 years ago

I’ll always remember the definition of coruscate because when I was in college a young man posted an ad in the classified section of the school newspaper seeking “a young woman able to coruscate in miniskirt and bikini”. Had to look up the word at the time, but I’ve never forgot it.

Then there are those words I have to look up every time as they gather no traction in my brain: heuristic, for example. Luckily it doesn’t come up in conversation, but I do find it occasionally in my reading. Although, come to think of it, I’ve never seen it in a romance. Perhaps one of the Riskies could be the first — I might remember it after that.

Janet Mullany
14 years ago

Shorthand phrases, used with my nearest and dearest:

Not as such [absolutely not, under any circumstances]
My proud beauty [a term of endearment]

Cara King
14 years ago

Between dh and I:

In referring to tea: “minimus” means decaf, and “maximus” means caffeinated. (It started as a joke about the movie Gladiator, in which the hero frequently lists off all his many names, ending in “Maximus” — so then it became “Earlus Greyus Maximus” for a time…)

“Supermodel-bad” — means as bad as one can get at something. Comes from a discussion about certain professional actors who some people say can’t act (e.g. Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst)…and then at some point in the conversation, one always has to define what one means by “can’t act” — e.g. “Okay, just to clarify — Costner may be bad in that he doesn’t have the range that some actors have, but he isn’t supermodel bad. I mean, just go watch a supermodel in a movie, and you’ll realize just how talented Costner is, how many things he can do that you don’t even realize he’s doing until you see Christine Crawford *not* doing them…” 🙂

“Jennifer Ehle cleavage” — well, if you don’t know what that means, just rewatch her in Pride and Prejudice. 🙂

“liner notes” — I use this term also for footnotes, endnotes, appendices, etc. Just a nice catch-all term.

“yuppie food” — a general term encompassing everything from sun-dried tomatoes to goat’s-milk cheese.

“good heavens Gwendolen” — means good heavens. From Wilde.

“shadow ship” — means spider. From Babylon 5, in which there were alien ships called shadow ships which looked kind of like spiders…


14 years ago

A few others:

“Too silly!” From the colonel in Monty Python who would stop sketches because they were getting too silly.

“I’m OK. I’m fluffy!” One of the things said by a talking toy we own, “Aloha Stitch,” from the Disney movie Lilo and Stitch.

“That’s why they put the ‘I’ in ‘FBI.’ ” From The X-Files.

“Deep Space Five.” A canonical Sci Fi show, from when Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Babylon-5 were both on TV.


14 years ago

I took Ancient Greek for a total of four years and can still read it fairly well, although I need a lexicon at my side for the vocabulary I’ve forgotten. My mother majored in Ancient Greek at Wellesley and later studied Renaissance Comparative Literature.

My parents use fairly complex vocabulary, and when I’m talking to them, so do I. I’m constantly confusing my children with my word choices. (It’s not to brag — I’m not doing it to show off. I’m just more apt to use “soporific” because I like the way it bounces along through the middle of a sentence.)

My favorite unusual words are antepenultimate (being the third from the last) and bosky (because I screwed up a vocabulary test in high school on that one word and it has stayed with me ever since. Georgette Heyer used it to mean drunk, but the dictionary says it means “wooded”. “Bosky sailors” takes on a whole new mental image).

The last word I looked up was “envisage”. I was trying to work out the difference between “envision” and “envisage”. I know that one meant “can imagine it in the future in an idealized form” and the other meant “can bring an exact image to mind of what that would like like in the future”, but I couldn’t remember which was which. Then the word before that was, I think, “afflatus”. I was looking for a synonym to “enthusiasm”.

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