Sunday, December 2, 2012


pre-prop-er-ous* (priprɑpərəs)

1. over-hasty.
Never trust a preproperous toad in a pink airplane.

Synonyms: abrupt, boisterous, booming, breakneck, breathless, brief, brusque, cursory, festinate, feverish, furious, fussy, headlong, hot, impelled, impelling, impetuous, impulsive, in a hurry, in all haste, hasty, in hot haste, partito in quarta, perfunctory, precipitate, precipitous, preproperous, pressed for time, pushing, rudderish, rushing, saccadic, scrambling, short, slapdash, speedy, spoffish, subitaneous, umbeer, urgent.

*This word originates in classical Latin, in which properus means speedy.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


horn-swog-gle (ˈhɔːnswɒɡ(ə)l)

1. to get the better of; to cheat or swindle; to hoodwink, humbug, bamboozle.*
Nolan Daniels hornswoggled more than 450 thousand Facebook users with a poorly photoshopped photo and the hope of the hopeless.

Synonyms: ambush, artifice, bamboozle, blind, bluff, casuistry, cheat, chicanery, circumvention, con, concealment, conspiracy, conundrum, cover, deception, decoy, delusion, device, disguise, distortion, dodge, double-dealing, duplicity, equivocation, evasion, fabrication, fake, falsehood, feint, forgery, fraud, game, gimmick, hoax, illusion, imposition, imposture, intrigue, invention, jape, machination, maneuver, perjury, plot, ploy, pretense, ruse, snare, stratagem, subterfuge, swindle, trap, treachery, wile.

*Hornswoggle is an American colloquial term that originated in the Wild West. A cow herder, who has allowed a cow to escape by wiggling free of his or her lasso, is said to have been hornswoggled. This was probably a mixed reference to a bull's horns and said wiggling. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


 vag (væɡ)*
1. dried turf or peat used as fuel; a piece of this.
When we run out out of firewood, we can always throw some vag in the wood stove.

Synonyms: peat, sod.

2. colloquial abbreviation of vagrant; phrased "on the vag."
Vladimir and Estragon are on the vag, waiting endlessly in vain for someone named Godot.

Synonyms: beggar, bum, drifter, floater, hobo, homeless person, itinerant, rolling stone, street kid, street person, tramp, transient, vagabond, vagrant, wanderer.

1. to charge with vagrancy.
If you have no visible means of support you can be vagged.

Synonyms: charged with vagrancy.**

*Note the hard G pronunciation in this word, as opposed to the soft G from the slang term, which is an abbreviation for vagina. This actually makes the two words heteronyms because they are spelled the same, but sound different and have different meanings; very different meanings!
**Sorry. I got stumped there.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


a-gog (əˈɡɒɡ)

adverb and adjective
1. in excited readiness, expectation, or desire; in or into a state of great eagerness, enthusiasm, excitement, suspense, or (in later use) astonishment.
Learn the difference between a man who flatters you and a man who compliments you. A man who spends money on you and a man who invests in you. A man who views you as property and a man who views you properly. A man agog and a man who loves you.

Synonym: anxious, avid, breathless, eager, enthusiastic, excited, expectant, impatient, in suspense, on tenter hooks. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012


quack-salv-er* (kwækˈsælvər)

1. a derogatory term for a person who dishonestly claims knowledge of or skill in medicine; a pedlar of false cures.
The medical impostors on the information superhighway are no more scrupulous than earlier quacksalvers who traveled along the streets of towns and villages. One notorious historical quacksalver managed to establish brand-name recognition that lasts to this day. Clark Stanley billed himself as the "Rattlesnake King," gathering crowds by killing rattlesnakes while delivering his pitch. For 50 cents a bottle, you could cure your toothaches, neuralgia, ankle sprains and pretty much everything else. Stanley claimed his snake-oil medicine came straight from an Indian medicine man and that his blend of snake oils worked miracles. When the Feds seized a shipment in 1917 and tested it, it was discovered that his snake oil was about 99 percent mineral oil and 1 percent beef fat, with traces of red pepper and turpentine thrown in the mix to give it a more medicinal smell. His business was shut down, but "snake oil" lives on in our lexicon to this day.**

Synonyms: charlatan, quack.

*This term actually comes from the Dutch: kwakzalver, meaning the same thing.
**My source for this example is a clever Discovery Health article.

Friday, November 23, 2012


Ya-hoo ()

1. a boorish crass or stupid person.
Believe it or not there's only one yahoo in the picture to the right because one of those men respects women, loves his mom, and gives back to his community.*

Synonyms: addlebrain, ass, blockhead, blunderer, bonehead, cretin, dimwit, dork, dumbbell, dunce, fool, idiot, ignoramus, imbecile, jerk, kook,  misologist, moron, muttonhead, nincompoop, ninny, nitwit, out to lunch, pinhead, simpleton, stupid, tomfool, twit.**

2. a probably mythical creature resembling a big hairy man, said to haunt eastern Australia.
Said one mate to another: "Is that a sasquatch?" And his mate replied: "No! It's a yahoo!"

Synonyms: large monster, sasquatch, yeti.

*Hint: it's NOT the younger one.
**Many expletives could be included here, but I assume most of my readers know those words.
***We know exactly how old "yahoo" is because its debut in print also marked its entrance into the English language as a whole. "Yahoo" began life as a made-up word invented by Jonathan Swift in his book Gulliver's Travels, which was published in 1726. The Yahoos were a race of brutes, with the form and vices of humans, encountered by Gulliver in his fourth and final voyage. They represented Swift's view of mankind at its lowest. It is not surprising, then, that "yahoo" came to be applied to any actual human who was particularly unpleasant or unintelligent. Yahoos were controlled by the intelligent and virtuous Houyhnhnms, a word which apparently did not catch people's fancy as "yahoo" did.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


jape (dʒeɪp)
1. a device to trick, deceive or cheat.
So you think you can get rich at Blackjack through some card counting jape?*

Synonyms: ambush, artifice, blind, bluff, casuistry, cheat, chicanery, circumvention, con, concealment, conspiracy, conundrum, cover, deception, decoy, delusion, device, disguise, distortion, dodge, double-dealing, duplicity, equivocation, evasion, fabrication, fake, falsehood, feint, forgery, fraud, game, gimmick, hoax, illusion, imposition, imposture, intrigue, invention, machination, maneuver, perjury, plot, ploy, pretense, ruse, snare, stratagem, subterfuge, swindle, trap, treachery, wile.

1. to trick, deceive or cheat.
C'mon, Bro!?! Does this look like the face of someone who would jape at cards?

Synonyms: baffle, bamboozle, befuddle, bilk, con, confound, confuse, deceive, defraud, delude, dupe, flimflam, hoax, hoodwink, hornswoggle, mystify, perplex, puzzle, stump, swindle, trick.

*The answer is no. I do not think that. Card counting, though interesting, is a waste of time because most casinos do not use only a single deck, but a “shoe” with up to six decks active at any time. While card counting does increase a player’s chance for success, statistics indicate that most players working against a “shoe” or multiple decks only increases their rate of success by less than a single percentage point.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


rap-scall-i-on (ræpˈskæliən)

1. a humourous mischief maker, or rogue.
A practical joke (also known as a prank, gag, jape or shenanigan) is a mischievous trick or joke played on someone by a rapscallion, typically causing the victim to experience embarrassment, indignity, or discomfort. Practical jokes differ from confidence tricks or hoaxes in that the victim finds out, or is let in on the joke, rather than being fooled into handing over money or other valuables. Practical jokes or pranks are typically lighthearted, reversible or non-permanent, and aim to make the victim feel foolish or victimized to a certain degree; however practical jokes may also involve cruelty. Hence, we call the joker a rapscallion, rather than a kidder or down-right asshole.

Synonyms: bully, cad, caitiff, charlatan, cockamamie, culprit, delinquent, fink, hoodlum, hooligan, mischief-maker, miscreant,  ne'er-do-well, prankster, profligate, rascal, scallawag, scamp, skunk, tramp, trickster, tyrant, vagabond, varmint. 

Monday, November 19, 2012


yis-sing (yɪsɪŋ)

1. a covetous state of being.
Yissing is how one feels when kissing.

Synonyms: aphrodisia, appetite, appetition, avarice, avidity, close-fistedness, concupiscence, covetousness, craving, cupidity, eroticism, frugality, grabbiness, greediness, hankering, hunger, impulse, longing, lust, lustfulness, motive, passion, parsimony, penuriousness, prurience, rapacity, resltessness, urge, yearning, yen.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


zir-a-leet (ˈzɪrəliːt)

1. a cry of joy.*
He fantasized about it, carefully planned it out, executed it with precision, and could not hear his girlfriend's ziraleet through the overwhelming satisfaction of his perfect vegan cupcake.

Synonyms: cheer, cry of joy, expletive, hail, hurrah, hurray, oh my God... YES!!!, whoop, yay, yippee.

*Though I found this word in the Oxford English Dictionary, it originated in the Arabic for an expression of joy by a group of women in Aleppo, consisting of the words "Lillé, lillé, lillé" repeated as often as possible in one breath.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


cock-a-mam-ie (ˈkɒkəˌmeɪmɪ)

1. inexplicable or ridiculous, not well thought out.
Sheldon: Wait! You have to drive me.
Penny: What?!
Sheldon: You know I don't drive.
Penny: Well, go ask Leonard!
Sheldon: I did; he said, and I quote: "Ask Penny, it was her cockamamie idea."
Penny: Leonard said "cockamamie"?
Sheldon: Actually, I'm paraphrasing. Having been raised in a Christian household, I'm uncomfortable with the language he used. And to be honest, I'm not entirely comfortable with "cockamamie."

Synonyms: aberrant, absurd, batty, brainless, clueless, cockamamie, crazy, cuckoo, delirious, demented, disconnected, disjointed, distraught, dumb, fallacious, flaky, foolish, freaky, idiotic, ill-conceived, incoherent, injudicious, insane, invalid, kooky, loony, mad, mindless, nonsensical, nutty, off-the-wall, preposterous, raving, reasonless, ridiculous, silly, sophistic, specious, stupid, unreasonable, unreasoning, unsound, unstable, unthinking, unwise, wacky, wild, wrong.

*American English slang word attested by 1946, popularized c.1960, but said to be New York City children's slang from mid-1920s; perhaps an alteration of decalcomania.
**The Word Detective says: "Cockamamie ... is a grand word in danger of extinction through neglect," and suggests, like Clint Eastwood does, we should use it every once and a while, just to keep it alive. It just makes me think of Foghorn Leghorn.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


o-ti-ose (/ˈoʊdiˌoʊs)*
1. having no practical result or outcome.
Most of our most wonderful desires are otiose at their root; their function being simply giving us something to wish for; and, ultimately, leaving us empty when our wish has been fulfilled. 

Synonyms: empty, futile, hollow, idle, inactive, indolent, ineffective, laggard, lazy, slothful, sterile, superfluous, surplus, vain.

*Though in pronunciation and meaning, this word is very close to the word odious; so close, in fact that I had to triple check to be sure that this was not just a variation in spelling. It's not. A thing that is odious is useless, but also despised. Our feelings about an otiose thing, however, can be neutral or even positive. Indeed, Oscar Wilde might have said that all art is otiose.

Monday, November 12, 2012


mi-cro-mort (ˈmaɪkroʊˌmɔ(ə)rt)

1. a unit of risk measuring a one-in-a-million probability of death.
Some unusual factors are said to increase your chance of death by one micromort, such as: eating a thousand bananas; walking seventeen miles; eating 40 tablespoons of peanut butter; or living two months in Denver.

Synonyms: a millionth.

*The term was invented in 1968 as a way of looking at the trade-offs involved in taking certain risks. It can also open your eyes to some unhealthy daily lifestyle choices.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


kak-ist-oc-rac-y (kækɪˈstɒkrəsɪ)

1. government by the worst people.
The American poet James Russell Lowell wrote in a letter in 1876: "Is ours a government of the people, by the people, for the people, or a kakistocracy rather, for the benefit of knaves at the cost of fools?"* (Source.)

Synonyms: democracy, government.

*Though this may seem like a veiled attempt to express my opinion on the outcome of the last presidential election, it is nothing of the sort. My view of this term is rather neutral, as the idea of who the worst people are is a subjective one. In 1876, the worst people were crazy, minorities, and women, later sexual "deviants" were included in the mix. Real change in a society usually doesn't happen by following the standard and tested models. Consequently, if you find yourself living in a society that needs a little change, it might be time for a kakistocracy.  

Friday, November 9, 2012


ses-quip-e-dal-i-an (sɛskwɪpɪˈdeɪlɪən)

1. a word with lots of syllables.
Sesquipedalian is really the opposite of monosyllabic, but far more appropriate!

Synonyms: really long word, verbose.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


barb-i-cide (bär-bə-ˌsīd)

1. an incredibly deadly disinfectant for combs razors and scissors that is capable of killing germs, the AIDS virus, and various forms of hepatitis.*
Every barber shop has a big blue container labelled: barbicide.

Synonyms: germicide, incredibly-deadly blue stuff.

*If this sounds like the term one would use for the crime of killing barbers (or worse, Barbie dolls), that's because it kind of is. In 1947, the product was invented by Maurice King, a man who hated barbers and was aware of the solution's incredibly deadly properties. He called it "Barbicide" as a secret joke because "barbicide" literally meant "to kill a barber."

Sunday, November 4, 2012


In-ter-ro-bang (in-TAIR-uh-bang)

1. a punctuation mark designed for use at the end of an exclamatory rhetorical question.
Isn't this cute‽ I can even type it on my computer's keyboard. I put it italics too!

Synonyms: combined question mark and exclamation point.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


a-dum-brate (ˈædəmˌbreɪt)

transitive verb
1. to foreshadow or symbolize.
The metaphorical gun on the wall adumbrates violence later in the story.
2. to outline, sketch out, or simply describe.
Anton Chekhov adumbrated medicine as his lawful wife and literature as his mistress.
3. (rare) to conceal or disguise.
Hot chicks like dressing up as zombies to vainly demonstrate that their beauty cannot be entirely adumbrated by the look of rotting flesh and a desire to eat your brain.

Synonyms: augur, bode, cloud, darken foretell, indicate, intimate, mist, obfuscate, obscure, outline, portend, sketch, suggest.

Friday, November 2, 2012


ter-a-toid (ˈtɛrətɔɪd)

1. severely malformed.
Though often seen as corrupted, teratoid creatures, like the two-headed baby, are also interpreted as prophetic symbols. For instance, dreaming of having a two-headed baby means that you have created a problem and see two options for getting out of it; it also means you dreamt of having a two-headed baby.
2. having the character, quality, or appearance of a monster.
The teratoid shadows in our pathway alarmed and terrified us.

Synonyms: abnormal, egregious, malformed, monstrous.

*The image below is a National Geographic Contest Winner.

Monday, October 29, 2012


jack-a-lope ((jklōp)

1. a mythic North American animal (or "fearsome critter"), described as a rabbit with antlers, often recreated by taxidermists.
The supercilious jackalope caused a wild hullabaloo, by claiming to be related to the pygmy deer and infamous killer rabbits.* 

Synonyms: blutschink, dahu, dilldapp, ellwetritsch, hanghuhn, horned rabbit, rasselbock, wolpertinger.

*It feels wrong to reference killer rabbits without mentioning the Rabbit of Caerbannog and Monty Python.
**Douglas, Wyoming was named "the Home of the Jackalope" because the fearsome critters were first discovered there in 1829. To celebrate their jackalope heritage, the town has erected a jackalope statue and celebrates Jackalope Days in early June.
***Ronald Reagan had a jackalope head mounted in his home, and as a joke in the 1980s, claimed to have hunted and caught the creature himself. The senator of South Dakota, James Abdnor, also gave Reagan and taxidermy jackalope head as a gag gift.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


ne-ol-o-gist (niˈɑlədʒəst)


1. a person who coins new words or phrases.
Some clever neologist has been running around the internet trying to make librocubicularist a new word, with varying degrees of success. I did find it on Wordnik, a site that often seems full of neologisms.  

Synonyms: bombast, child, circumlocutionist, poet, teenager, undergrad.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


jen-tac-u-lar (jen-TAK-yuh-luhr)
1. of or pertaining to breakfast, consumed early in the morning or immediately after waking.
Would you like toast and jam with your tea? We also have yogurt, cereal, bacon, eggs, and numerous other jentacular offerings.

Synonyms: breakfast-ish, morning-menu-esque.*

*See how desperately we need this word!?!
**As appropriate as this word would be for describing the many spectacular qualities that originated with my sister, Jenny, that would not be an appropriate use of the term.

Friday, October 12, 2012


mon-o-graph (ˈmänəˌgraf)

1. A detailed written study of a very specific topic or single aspect of it.
What could be more of a monograph thanTammy Lee Morris's Zombie Mama's Guide to Undead Etiquette? I never would have imagined there was an art to walking around moaning, "Brrraaainnnsss..."

Synonyms: Ph.d Dissertation.