1. T0 start, there’s syzygy, always a surprise that something so crazy can be a real word, and the similarly astronomical -gee words like apogee and perigee. I only found out a couple of years ago that the moon seems so huge sometimes because it periodically gets closer to the Earth in its orbit. It wobbles in a freakish way, too, if you can believe NASA.
2. Qat is very useful in Scrabble. Which reminds me: I used to play an on-line Scrabble-esque word game with my mother until she beat me so frequently I conveniently managed not to have enough time to play her any more. When she reads this, I’m toast.
The summer camp category: Widjiwagan. Tapawingo. Tamahay. Mary WeHaKee returns every summer as a ghost to her eponymous camp near Hayward, Wisconsin. One night it was my CIT privilege to huddle in the bow of a canoe while another CIT sterned, and I attracted mosquitoes by shining a flashlight on a blanket-swathed, cursing, 90-pound kitchen staffer who, as Mary’s ghost, balanced upright in the middle of the canoe. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, our noble efforts served to stage a romantic and mysterious, (dare I say supernatural) scene for campers agog on shore.
4. Spatula makes this list because it’s miraculous how that soft rubber blade can go around inside a bowl and actually slick out all the batter.
5. Nose-hair clippers. I don’t own any and the very idea makes me sneeze, but what a gadget. In fact, let’s open up the entire medicine cabinet category of tweezers and pink earplugs. Thermometers—remember when they had mercury in them, and they broke with a cheery clink, and you could role a little drop of mirror around on the palm of your hand an inch from your nose? Speaking of poisons, how about:
6. Lead dust. I once watched my son sit on the stairs during a renovation phase of our home and lick a nice, thick coating of pale white paint dust off his hands. While we’re off topic (unless you want to argue that lead dust is fun to say; I don’t think so), let me save you some time and embarrassment by informing you that the past tense of to lead is spelled led not lead, which I didn’t learn until I was twenty-six.
7. Brillig suffices as my token Lewis Carrollism. I might remember this wrong, but I think I won a declamation contest in 7th grade by reciting “You Are Old, Father William” at an excruciatingly slow and pompous pace. When my mother (see #2 above) reads this, she’ll verify.
8. Miscellaneous: Spud. IRL. Hullabaloo. Commando. Anemone. Ogygia. Luscious. Che schifo! Avuncular. Take a shot at mispronouncing my own wretched name (Caragh) if you want to amuse yourself. Incidentally, a student asked me the other day if I knew all the words in my novel, and I was delighted by the implication that I might toss in a few words I didn’t know just for the heck of it. For the record, I do actually know all the words in my book, but I’ll admit I use a thesaurus to remind me of what’s beyond the tip of my tongue. Like desultory. On we go.
9. Words which should be animals: quark, hypotenuse, squalid, toad. Oh, wait.
10. Non sequitur. “I’ve Been Through the Desert on a Horse with No Name.” It’s just purely fun to sing. Here’s hoping you get it stuck in your head.
Caragh O’Brien’s futuristic, dystopian story, Birthmarked, is due out from Roaring Brook Press in April, 2010. It is her first young adult novel.