Thu
Jan 28 2010 1:24pm

Gadgets and/or Words That Are Fun to Say

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.

3. 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.

26 comments
james loyd
1. gaijin
Spatulas are metal or hard plastic and used for turning items over. The soft rubber blade thingy is a scraper.

I learned that at as an intern at Spatula City.
Karen Bovenmyer
3. maxmelig
"I was delighted by the implication that I might toss in a few words I didn’t know just for the heck of it."

I just love that! I use "cromulent" in the classroom daily.

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/cromulent
Chris Battey
5. DarthParadox
I've long been fond of "archipelago" (and shifting the stress to the second-to-last syllable gives it a delightfully exotic feel), "pericytherion" (one option for the Moon's equivalent to "perigee"), and the French word for "birds", "oiseaux" (which looks fascinating enough on paper, but is only made more so by being pronounced "wah-ZOH").

"Phlogiston" is up there too. (And speaking of "phl" words, I love how the G suddenly becomes audible when changing "phlegm" to "phlegmatic".)
Alfvaen
6. Alfvaen
gaijin@1: It's a dialect thing. I agree with Ms. O'Brien's definition of "spatula"; the things used for turning items over were called "lifters" in my family and "flippers" in my wife's.

Also: see "Bulbous Bouffant" by The Vestibules.
Rob Munnelly
7. RobMRobM
I'm fond of zeugma - a figure of speech describing the joining of two or more parts of a sentence with a single common verb or noun ("she stole my heart and my cat").
Ian Tregillis
8. ITregillis
I'm fond of "nycthemeron": a period of 24 hours, or more specifically a night followed by a day.
Alfvaen
9. WonderGirl
Pleased to see that someone beat me to the mention of "Bulbous Bouffant." Due to the cartoon version on YouTube, I am unable to say "gazebo" with a straight face.

"Sprezzatura" (roughly meaning graceful nonchalance) is a fun word.
Rob Munnelly
10. RobMRobM
Ah, Sprezzatura. Obviously, you have read "The Courtier" by Castiglioni.
Alfvaen
11. WonderGirl
RobMRobM@10: Don't tell anyone, but I really learned that word from a high school English teacher's discussion of the Cavalier poets. She also said that she liked to collect polysyllabic words beginning with P, but "palimpsest" is the only one I can remember at the moment. . . .
Alfvaen
12. Sunny Jim
Onomatopoetic: "lull" and "murmur".
"lulled by the coil of her crystalline streams. . ." Shelley.
"My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream/ Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dreams." Burns.
Fancy names for common occupations: "amanuensis" and "ecdysiast".
Words from nature: "seedy" -- (the connection between a seedy hotel and the brown, dried out weeds around the edges of autumn fields only came to me one day in my 40's!) -- and "rhubarb" (because that is supposedly what extras in crowd scenes murmured in old movies when they wanted to seem ominous; and because whenever there was an altercation in a Red Sox game, my grandmother would call out to my grandfather: "Rhubarb, Bill! Rhubarb!").
Rob Munnelly
13. RobMRobM
Do a Wiki on Castiglione's The Courtier and you find that sprezzatura is the characteristic of the perfect courtier - able to fight, speak languages, dash off a sonnet iwth effortless grace. Very cool and useful concept, if you have enough time and resources to become expert in everything....
Alfvaen
14. hapax
I once wrote a twenty page page paper on the development of Rules governing early medieval female anchorites for the sole purpose of sneaking in the word "cladistic."

Cladistic. Clades. Cladistics. Mmmmm. Such *chewy* words...
Ron Garrison
15. Man-0-Manetheran
and squeegee in Dutch is even funnier: rubberzwabber
Alfvaen
17. Erl137
Callipygous has always been a favorite of mine, mating base concept with elevated tongue.

And Hapax? THE hapax? is that really you?

. . . awesome
Mike Conley
18. NomadUK
The moon does not seem huge sometimes because it periodically gets closer to Earth in its orbit. The moon's orbit is, for most human purposes, as close to a circle as you're likely to get, with an eccentricity of 0.054 (Earth's is about 0.0167). Certainly any difference in the angular diameter of the moon due to its varying distance from Earth is invisible to the human eye.

The reason the moon looks big sometimes is an optical illusion caused by the presence or absence of nearby objects (typically along the horizon) which provide a reference frame against which to compare its size. In fact, its size never changes (at least, not perceptibly), which you can verify easily by measuring its apparent diameter (using, say, a coin and a metre stick) when it's high overhead and then measuring it again when it's closer to the horizon.
Alfvaen
19. Jordo
@ NomadUK -- ahh.. brings me back to my Astronomy 101 class.. We actually did a lab experiment on that very subject and came to that conclusion.

And speaking of cool space words:

Bok globules -- Small dark clouds of gas and dust named after American astronomer Bart J. Bok. They can be seen especially well in photos of HII regions or against a dense field of background stars. These clouds are star formation regions for lower-mass stars.

http://astronomyspace.suite101.com/article.cfm/weird_and_wonderful_space_words#ixzz0e12e4ASE
Daniel Brown
20. I_Slap_Raptors
Crepuscular has always been a big favourite of mine. Funnily enough, gloaming - another word related to twilight - is a good one as well. I always smile when I get a chance to use either word.
Alfvaen
21. Kaylams
We musn't forget kumquat. It just sounds wrong, both in the "how is this a word way" and the "that must be kinky" way.
Alfvaen
22. a-j
'legerdemain', now that might, or might not, be a fine word
graham roche
23. scrochum
Tiffany Aching in Terry Pratchett's The wee free men was fascinated by the word susurrus, as am I
Alfvaen
25. Petral
finial

That which attaches the shade to the harp in a lamp.

(It has a fuller use in Architecture, but the fact that there is a technical (and quaint) word for this element of a lamp is what I like.)
Caragh O'Brien
26. CMOBrien
I'm just dropping back in to say how much I've enjoyed these comments and to admit, of course, that I'm utterly eclipsed.
All best,
Caragh
-- --
27. ddgfgfgfgfgf
Gazebo is one of my favorite words. So funny to say. That and serendipity.

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