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Words To Get Peoples’ Attention

January 10, 2011

A while back, I did a post on words that shouldn’t be allowed to fall into disuse, or should I say, desuetudeToday I offer another set of words worthy of preservation.  Why do you want to know these words?  Aside from the intrinsic value of increasing your vocabulary and improving the exactitude of your communications, they also have something in common.  They sound like they mean something very different than their actual meanings and that can make them fun to use in daily conversation.  People may not know what you are talking about, but you will get their attention. 

Afflatusn.  No, it doesn’t mean gas.  An afflatus is a divine imparting of knowledge or inspiration.  You might say, “Have you heard Lady Gaga’s latest song?  It sounds like she had an afflatus.

Aprosexian.  Abnormal inability to concentrate.  I’m not sure how alarmed you may be if your teenager’s teacher sends home a note saying, “Joshua’s grades are falling off.  I think he’s got a bad case of aprosexia.”

Crapulousn.  Not what you might think!  This word describes someone who eats or drinks too much, or the way one feels after eating or drinking too much.  Before sitting down to a fancy dinner you might say to the hostess, “I bet I’m going to feel crapulous after this dinner!”

Cunctationn. Hesitation or delay.  People who advocate that young people abstain from sex might suggest that they practice cunctation.

Deflagratev. To burn.  If you accidentally ruin the morning toast you could explain “It looks like we’ve had a problem with deflagration in the kitchen today.”

Formicatev. Everyone’s heard this one.  It means to swarm, and refers especially to ants.  Apparently, ants have formic acid in their bodies and an ant colony is called a ‘formicary.’  Technically you could get away with putting on Facebook something like:  “I had a great time formicating in the mosh pit at the Lady Gaga concert.”  But I wouldn’t advise it.

Fugaciousadj. Lasting a short time, evanescent, disappearing before the usual time.  This word comes from the same source as ‘fugue’ meaning fleeting or flying.  You might challenge your co-workers by asking “Is your pay check as fugacious as mine?”

Futtockn. One of the curved timbers joined together to form the lower part of the compound rib of a ship.  What, you thought it was a combination of ‘fat’ and ‘buttock??’ 

Labileadj. Readily open to change; readily or continually undergoing chemical, physical, or biological change or breakdown, unstable.  I know what you were thinking.  The next time you see a pyramid of cheerleaders, you might say, “Uh-oh, labile.”

Lucubrationn. Laborious study or meditation; studied or pretentious expression in speech or writing.  As in, “I hope this post isn’t too lucubracious.”

Maceratev. To cause to waste away by or as if by excessive fasting; to soften or wear away esp. as a result of being wetted or steeped.  So when your chronically dieting friend shows up you can say, “Still macerating I see.”

Titularadj. Existing in title only; having the title and honors belonging to an office without the duties, responsibilities or functions.  A while ago a children’s clothing manufacturer started selling bras for 6 year olds.  I suppose you could describe them as titular bras.

Turdiformadj. Of or like a thrush.  The Latin name for the thrush family is ‘Turdidae.’  So you could tell your wife, “I can’t cut the grass, there are some turdiforms on the lawn.”

I can’t guarantee how your social standing will be affected if you sprinkle your conversation with these words, but you might be amused when your less erudite interlocutors think you have committed a faux pas! 

And at least you’ll get their attention.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2011 5:17 pm

    Were I still teaching high school students, this list would be a perfect way to begin the school year! Wonder if any of these would be on the SAT?


  2. January 11, 2011 1:53 am

    Another fun post, Tom…must try these out on the kids…they already think I’m weird!


  3. January 11, 2011 6:56 am

    My favorite on that list is cunctation.

    Reason: One of the main characters in my books is Quintus Fabius Maximus, known to the Romans by his nickname, Cunctator, the delayer.

    (He “delayed” Hannibal, thus allowing Rome to survive.)

  4. January 11, 2011 11:47 am

    Remind me not to play Scrabble with you. You’d clobber me. I’ll bet you know all the “Q” words that don’t need “U,” too.

  5. January 11, 2011 8:58 pm

    Great post Thomas, more than a few are heading into ‘the vault.’ I just reread Catch 22, as I’m rereading the top 100 of all time. I never fail to be astounded by how much more expansive everyday vocabulary was in those days.

  6. January 12, 2011 12:59 am

    I’m in, but we’re going to have to start a massive education campaign to keep from being mauled by people who create their own definitions for these!

  7. January 16, 2011 6:29 am

    Interesting how the majority of these words risking to fall into desuetude are actually Latin. Their meaning is simple to the average Italian. It’s like you people were eager to get rid of such foreign stuff 🙂

    Formication, I have doubts about. Funny in any case.

  8. January 16, 2011 9:56 am

    The formicivorous librocubicularist molassitudinously macerated, physically as well as mentally, on his jejune diet of diminutive insects and vapid medieval enchiridia.

  9. January 16, 2011 2:37 pm

    I lucubrated with my lexicon in a librocubicular fashion as a result of your comment! Thanks!

    • January 17, 2011 6:25 am

      Your welcome. One correction, though: I meant incunabula not enchiridia. (I always confuse the two.)

      • January 17, 2011 2:32 pm

        An understandable confusion. I myself had the same problem until I lucubrated an enchiridia appertaining to incunabulae and now I wouldn’t cunctate to opine fulgently on the matter.

  10. January 17, 2011 10:02 am

    Cyberquill, you are both very weird and interesting. A Viennese intellectual, no doubt.

  11. January 17, 2011 1:16 pm

    Ironically, I have no words to describe this post. Other than titular and formicate I only knew some of these words (before reading the definition) by going by their roots. Great post.

  12. March 24, 2011 10:48 am

    Add “exacerbate” to the list—simple enough word, quite useful, can’t say it without getting dirty looks or idiotic giggles.

    And “quincunx” which I had to illustrate for the dictionary!

    I love the word lucubration, here’s a great quote by Henry James to H.G. Wells: I live for your agglomerated lucubrations.

    • March 24, 2011 12:53 pm

      Excellent additions–thanks. And I love the HG Wells quote–can’t wait to try it out on some unsuspecting pompous person!

  13. May 26, 2011 1:02 am

    I was going through your archives and came across this little gem. Great stuff. I could sure get in a lot of trouble with some of those words. Good thing I can’t remember them all; must be a bad case of aprosexia. But I stopped doing that when I started dating 🙂

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