This is a Good Word

I was reading about libraries that keep bats on site to eat the insects that would otherwise eat the books, and I came across a new word (well, new to me) for bats: flittermice. I purely love that word.

And it reminded me of when I was in Australia and somebody described somebody who was extremely happy about something that had happened as “chuffed as fluffy balls.” I purely loved that, too.

And then there’s “gobsmacked.” I have no idea where I picked that one up, but it’s a perfect way to describe somebody who’s absolutely stunned by what’s just happened.

Sometimes the Good Word comes from an associate who surprises you with it and then you wonder how you ever lived without it. “Clusterfuck” comes to mind for that one (and thank you, Bob Mayer).

And then it occurred to me that Argh People, being extremely word-oriented, probably had some great Good Words, too. So share the wealth, people. Put your Very Good Words in the comments (with definitions) so we can all feel chuffed as flittermice about them, especially the ones that leave us gobsmacked (that would be “tittynopes” or the last few crumbs or grains of rice left on a plate, and I still don’t believe that’s a real word, that has to be a joke).

201 thoughts on “This is a Good Word

  1. Tubby-dahs – this is what my family calls loose little pieces of paper that have notes written on them; it’s something my then-four-year-old sister would say when she went around to each of us, solemnly presenting us with a small piece of paper that she’d scribbled on.

  2. ungapatchka — it’s Yiddish, actually, so might not technically fit this challenge, but it means overly decorated, busy, fancy in a negative sort of way. I like to mutter it when I’m in a place that’s visually overstimulating to me, just because I like the sounds. Also because somehow it reminds me that the problem is not that I am oversensitive (most people would say that I am oversensitive), but that the human-made world is just too damn ungapatchka.

    1. In my family this is pronounced oof-ga-potch-keyed. My grandmother (born in Ukraine) was particularly fond of this word.

      1. How quickly words change when they are transmitted orally! I’m fairly sure you are both referring to ‘aufgeputzt’. It’s used in German too (Yiddish is of course a Germanic language) and means something like ‘dressed up’. The basic meaning of the verb ‘putzen’ is is to polish or to clean.
        We have the same word in my native language (Dutch) as ‘opgepoetst’ and it basically means ‘polished up’, though it can be used in the sense of making something look a bit better.

        1. I have a family word “potch” which means “to fiddle with” or “to mess about with” as in sentences like “Stop potching with that and pay attention” and I wonder if it comes from the same root.

  3. Yepsen = an archaic word for the amount that can be cupped in two hands

    O’Dark Thirty = How my family describes a time that is really, really early in the morning, before the sun comes out

    dropped a book = My family’s euphemism for a loud fart, originating from that time someone farted loudly and my little sister genuinely asked if someone dropped a book

    The Mountain’s Out = not a word obviously, but it’s an expression Portlanders use to describe a day so clear you can see one of the nearby mountains, i.e. “the sun’s out today” but with a mountain

    Escalefters = in D.C., a person who stands on the left of a public escalator, instead of standing on the right so people can pass on the left. (There are some very long escalators in the metro system that affect people’s daily commutes)

    cant = to lean/slant toward one side. As in, he canted toward her. I like this one in romance novels because you always need more words to describing moving toward and away from each other, and this one gets the job done with so little fuss

    1. Circling the drain = hospital lingo for someone who’s in the final stages of dying.

    2. I believe “Oh Dark Thirty” to be military in origin. It’s that Universal Time thing the military uses, you see. Midnight is either “Twenty-four hundred” if you’re on the side approaching it, or “00:00/ zero hundred hours” if you’re on the other side. one thirty AM is “Oh One Thirty” or “Zero One Thirty” hours. Any unspecified time before dawn but after midnight can be Oh Dark Thirty. I used it for all twenty years of my naval career, plus years before because I was a Navy Brat, and years after out of habit.

      1. That’s so cool to know! My parents picked it up from a coworker. I wonder if he had a military background.

  4. Serendipity is my favourite English word.

    You need about 5 words to translate it into French, my native language. I’d use something like « le fruit du heureux hasard » if anybody is interested.

    I don’t think I have ever had any occasion to use it but I really like words that don’t exist in other languages.

    As for gobsmacked, I quite like flabbergasted too. The English language has such splendid adjectives.

    1. So interesting – because how you talk about “serendipity” reminds me of how I think of the French term “déjà vu.” In English you have to say a long phrase like: “I feel like this is an experience I’ve already had” in a way that still doesn’t quite capture the essence of that feeling – to the extent that we’ve essentially had to incorporate “deja vu” into the English lexicon.

      It’s just so mind opening to learn another language. There are literally concepts our native languages don’t give us the vocabulary to express that are nonetheless universal experiences, and having language to talk or think about them – even in if only in our internal dialogue – helps contextualize those concepts/experiences.

      That’s why I also enjoyed how suddenly the Dutch word “hygge” was everywhere a few years ago -providing a new way for us to talk about coziness. I don’t speak a lick of Dutch…but I understand wanting to revel in cozy comfort and pleasures.

      There’s so many experiences we can all recognize, and it’s so satisfying to find the words that help us share them.

  5. Helicopter mom – a mother who ‘hovers’ or is overly involved in her child life in a way the speaker considers excessive.

    Frequent flyer – someone who does something more often than normal. I first heard this applied to my daughter’s visits to the nurse’s office at school. The librarians at my local library might consider me a frequent flyer, since I’ve called them so often for curbside service that some of them recognize my voice on the phone.

  6. Charlize Theron once said on an SA Radio show that her favourite Afrikaans word was “pampoentjie”. Pampeon is pumpkin and this is the suffix to show a diminutive. I agree.

    I like “woedend”, it’s Afrikaans for furious. Used in context and pronounced correctly, (not like the Google translate sound) it’s emotive of the feeling of fury.

    I like flabbergasted the way you like gobsmacked.

    I love using the word ablutions. It covers the whole rigmarole. I like rigmarole.

    And all those German words that are perfect for all the things we think but can’t say in English! 😀

    1. Oh, unusual terms of affection! My former agent’s British husband called me “Petal” once and I swooned.

      1. See, that’s interesting. Culture (do I mean culture?) or background/context is, I suppose naturally, going to have a *huge* impact on this.

        Because if someone referred to me as ‘petal’ I’d be tempted to punch them in the face. (I’m British) In my personal experience, when used it’s often been condescending rather than affectionate – rather in the same way I understand ‘Bless her heart’ can be interpreted in the US South.

        I obviously don’t know the context for yours – and yours could well have been a genuine affection version, so don’t let me spoil it for you – but if I read about someone calling someone ‘petal’ in a book I’d be expecting the word ‘smirk’ to be lurking in the immediate vicinity.

        But then I’m also someone who is revolted by men kissing someone’s hand as a ‘romantic’ gesture, so maybe I’m the odd one out? *shrug* /digression

        1. Oh, he’s a sweetheart.
          But you’re right, terms of affection can be really off-putting, although I think that might depend a lot on who’s speaking.
          Weirdly enough, “darling” has always kind of felt like that to me, and I know it’s a completely innocuous word.

          1. Claudia Schmidt (midwestern singer-songwriter) wrote a terrific song called You Can Call Me Baby that sums it up perfectly.
            ” Its not just anybody who can call me something sweet
            From most a cozy nickname’s rude and indiscreet
            So when some hulking stranger throws diminutives my way
            My jaw gets kind of rigid, I’ve got nasty things to say
            I just don’t go for all that goo, it might as well be slime
            But you can call me baby anytime.”

          2. I really like the Welsh word for ‘darling’ (or love): cariad. Pronounced carry-add.

            Though the wrong person using it would still be squicky.

        2. Really? That’s very interesting. I’m also British, and I never use it like that. Are you thinking of something like the Cameroneseque, “calm down, dear”?

          For me, “flower” is often a filler word at the end of the sentence, hence why in my comment below I said that most of them work after “alright” as a greeting.

          But then I don’t really do passive aggressive in that way. If silence/changing the subject doesn’t work to indicate disapproval, then in my experience, it’s much better just to be direct and confrontational, since most people find that more difficult to deal with, so you put them on the back foot. Or you go very polite, and freeze them out, e.g. “quite” (said in a very clipped way, then you pause and change the subject). Snide gets you nothing.

          But on the “bless your heart” point, I have an American client (from the NY/NJ region) who says that, “look at you!”, said with a warm, rising inflection and a smile, works just as well. Works well at weddings, and formal family occasions, apparently.

      2. British terms of affection: “me duck” (East Midlands, e.g. “‘ey up, me duck”); “flower”, “petal” (I use both of these – they work for both sexes); “my lover” (Bristol, also works for both sexes and and is non-sexual, but you’ve got to say it in a Bristolian accent to get the full force of it, “alright, my lover?”); “bab” (Brum/West Midlands); “hen” (Glasgow); “pet” (NE England, particularly Newcastle and South Shields); “babes” (SE England, particularly Essex, but now spreading across the UK); and then all the usual, “dear”, “dearie”, “dahling” (although they’re mostly for women). You can test out whether they work for men by sticking, “alright” in front and using it as a question, then every combination just means, “hello” (in the Douglas Adams’ sense: I am alive and so are you).

  7. I love the word schadenfreude (feeling pleasure at someone else’s misfortune) until I heard the word, I hadn’t known it was a thing. but it fits so beautifully.

    Oxymoron is another word I love (contradictory words used together, an example would be “seriously funny”).

    Oozler – this is a word my family uses instead of saying food processor, because it turns food into ooze.

  8. Trammel: the sort of stuff that accumulates on top of the wardrobe or in the backs of cupboards.

  9. ‘Smite to gobbit’ – meaning to cut up very finely (from a medieval recipe book). My parents discovered that one and used it, and it is surprising how often it is relevant…

    ‘Pealy-waly’ – meaning pale/sickly looking. Glaswegian/Scottish slang. I’ve never seen this written down, so have gone with an attempt at phonetic-style.

    When I was at High School I used to mutter-swear in Danish – useful, but had to be careful not to do it around the Deputy Head, who spoke Swedish…

    1. When I was an exchange student in Dk, one of my host brothers tried to convince me “ostmal” was a Danish swear word. I knew what it meant, but he had the high school he did his exchange at in the US saying ” cheese bread” as a danish swear word.

  10. lollygagging – dawdling

    I have only ever read in American books, then when I was on a visit to Memphis overheard someone rebuked his son using it

    1. Not loitering far behind lallygagging: dillydallying. (Because “dallying” by itself was too efficient?)

      Also dithering. But this has a secondary meaning that I just found that confounds in its precision: “an intentionally applied form of noise used to randomize quantization error, preventing large-scale patterns such as color banding in images.”

      Jeez I love words, but it’s got to drive non-English speakers crazy–excepting ln of course.

      1. What about shilly-shallying? Or what about the stuff you do whilst you’re dawdling, e.g.”gawping” and being “gormless”? (e.g. “What are you standing there, looking so gormless for?”)

          1. Well s0n of a gun. These are real words:

            gorm: attentive or alert
            gruntled: in good humor
            gainly: graceful and generally pleasing

            but not shoveled.

          2. This is what I get for forgetting to insist on “sheveled” for “shoveled” to spell check before running off.

            So how did s0n escape becoming son?


    2. Lollygagging was the pangram for the New York Times spelling bee puzzle a couple of weeks ago. I’d heard the word but it never occurred to me that day. I spent the whole day messing around with the letters and never did get it until the answers were announced the next day.

      1. Same here. As a non-native speaker, finding the pangram is my daily challenge (and I’m not a Games subscriber, so they only allow me a few attempts). I’m always proud when I recognize it, but in this case I was like, wtf?!?

    3. What about “gallivanting”, which my father used to complain about his teenage children wanting to go outside for some non-specified, inessential purpose (like seeing a friend), “what you doing, going out, gallivanting on street corners?”, usually accompanied by an expression of absolute disgust and a head-shake and then he’d ask if you wanted a cup of tea.

      1. In high school, senior year, I was privileged to have been taught by Lt. Col. Robert P “Colonel Bob” Morrow in a class called, “Communism and Problems of American Democracy (CPAD).” For anyone familiar with the Heinlein book, Starship Trooper, this was my “History and Moral Philosophy” class.

        Colonel Bob was known to say things like “You kids have nothing better to do than gallivant around in your zoommobiles, swappin’ spit and tradin’ slobber with your honeys…” He was a ready source of archaic slang.

  11. I recently had cause to look up Scottish and Irish insults. It was well worth the effort.

    1. I love Yiddish insults, but I think my favorite is actually Chinese.
      May you grow like an onion, with your head in the ground.

  12. Gazintas a word used in place of Matryoshka for the wooden dolls that go inside each other is size.

    And a word I totally dislike Whadicall for ‘what do you call it’. I thought it died when my MIL did, nope, it’s been adopted by family members.

    1. I must have meant in size in place of is size.

      Anywho, this morning I finished The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews and a two word phrase kept running throughout the book – Push Present. It couldn’t mean what I thought it meant, never heard of it before, so I Googled it. And it does! It is a gift for a woman for giving birth. Isn’t that what a baby shower is for? If that is the case then I was gypped three times over.

      1. I think it’s a present a father gives to the mother for doing all the work. The first place I heard it, several years ago, was in a celeb blurb, that soccer great gave something extremely expensive to the ex-Spice-Girl (names escape me at the moment–wait, the Beckhams).

        1. Yes, that’s it. Not a shower gift. I think jewelry is the heavily suggested choice. I once came across a book where the heroine’s bitchy in-law suggested that she didn’t deserve a push present because the delivery was an emergency caesarian.

  13. Ugsome. It means disgusting, repellent, loathsome.

    I love it because it is so on point with how many people say “ugh” when encountering something gross. I think it’s an archaic word, but I use it.

    1. I object. My baby name was Ug (my father maintained that’s what I said first, so he took it to be my name).

  14. And, as humorously noted in “Buffy,” two words for a party: shindig and hootenanny.

  15. I like lickety-split. Also, easy-peasy lemon squeezy, which I heard first from a very dignified English scientist in the middle of a very serious discussion.

    1. I had a chef in cooking school who, at the end of a set of instructions often said, “and, boom! she flies” and “is good food, guys!” My family never met him, but have adopted his sayings for years.

  16. I wonder if the term ‘flittermice’ came from someone of German ancestry, because it’s almost literally derived from the German word for bat.

    1. Let’s not forget that English is a Germanic language and it is safe to guess that “flittermouse” is surely related to “Fledermaus” (it’s acknowledged to be an old name for “bat”). Just in case you have always wondered about the vowel change in the English plural “mice”, it reflects the Germanic roots of the word — the German plural of mouse (“Maus”) is “Mäuser” (for non-German speakers pronounced roughly “moy-zer”).

      1. Actually, it’s ‘Mäuse’. Like ‘Laus’ and ‘Läuse’. While the Plural of ‘Haus’ is ‘Häuser’. Not very logical. But coming to think of it, so it is in English – it’s mouse/mice and louse/lice but house/houses.

        Or do any of you own several hice? ;o)

        1. Colognegrll, now you’ve made my head feel itchy…
          Which alwys, alwaxs happens when I hear the L…se word…

        2. Yeah, i realized the typo too late and couldn’t correct it… 😡

      2. You’ve reminded me pleasantly of Die Fledermaus from The Tick which is a really funny animated tv show! Highly recommend!

  17. Another one I remembered — litost, also technically not English, but a Czech word for ‘torment over one’s own misery combined with the desire for revenge.’ English needs a word for that state of mind, it really does. But borrowing the Czech works for me.

    1. The words don’t have to be English for this post; there are several German words that have no English equivalents that just nail a mood or feeling. Like Schadenfreude. Or Backpfeifengesicht. Which is what happens when somebody smirks. (Get over it, Jenny.)

      1. You wanna know something funny — until it started appearing in the English press, I had never heard the term “Backpfeifengesicht”, in spite of speaking the language for over 45 years, having two German husbands and have lived a few decades in Germany… It was very strange.

        On the other hand, in the States you always see pickle Christmas ornaments advertised in catalogs and at Christmas shops as being a “German tradition” and I have yet to 1) see a German Christmas tree with a pickle ornament hanging on it and 2) find a German friend, relative or colleague who has ever heard of this “tradition”… It is a complete mystery to me where it came from and how Americans got suckered into believing this.

        To that last I add two additional comments:

        Here in the city that I live in, there is always a Käthe Wohlfahrt stand on the annual Christmas market and I noticed a couple of years ago that they sell them there, but personally I have always assumed that it was because there is a lot of Christmas market tourism and tourists have asked about the “Christmas pickle ornaments” enough for them to say, yeah, hey, let’s put some out for the tourists.

        And about 3-4 years ago, there was a fad where they were making Christmas ornaments that were foods: hamburgers, hot dogs, cupcakes, donuts, french fries, and so on — and there I, for the very first time, saw a pickle ornament in a German store. But it was only for that year, as the fad was fleeting…

        (Thinking about it, I suppose the pickle is something like the Japanese “celebrating” Christmas by ordering from KFC…because they had seen turkeys and Christmas and Thanksgiving in films. I understand you have to order weeks or months in advance to get your KFC on the day… People are odd, aren’t they??)

        1. Yep, I can attest that I’ve never seen pickle as xmas ornsment in my life as a German.
          And the younger generation would probably not even know the expression Backpfeife. It’s quite antiquated. My kids would at least understand the Bavarian dialect expression “Watschn” (slap in the face) though they’ve never got one.

          1. I suspect that it may also be regional as well as antiquated…

          2. My German husband knows Backpfeifengesicht. Or anyway, I gather he knows it from the grin on his face when I asked him.

          3. Reb, my husband seemed to know what it meant (more or less), but what is interesting is that with hubbies from different parts of Germany, as well as having lived in several different locations in Germany over the decades, I had never heard anyone use the term. Which led me to believe it was either regional or dated (e.g., I still know what an icebox is because my grandmother said it, but I never use it and I have some doubt that my nieces and nephews would recognize — and most definitely their children would be puzzled by the term…)

            My first husband had a huge list of extremely colorful epithets that he regularly used (he was a Berliner, and they can be rather, um, pithy). My second husband is from the Ruhr area and has his favorites (an almost entirely different list).

      2. Then you might like the word ‘Grüßonkel’ (greeting uncle) for a person who has a representative function but no real influence. In larger corporations, this could also be a ‘Frühstücksdirektor’ (breakfast CEO).

        And I remember my American dad loving the word ‘Schnitzelbank’ but while he thought it had to do with the Schnitzel you can eat, it is actually related to the carving instruments in a carpenter’s workshop.

        1. My first hubby (Berliner) used to refer to one of his incompetent bosses as a “Frühstücksdirektor” 😁.

      3. I mentioned I’m reading your big collection? Finished WtT in time for the Thursday post, finished TML and have CFY in progress. Imagine my surprise when K-K-K-Katie SMIRKED at Bill! In a Crusie book!

        1. 1. I use it, but in it’s correct meaning, not as “cute grin.”
          2. I had a dog smirk? I could see that in Dogs and Goddesses, but Katie? Huh. I have no memory of this (but I believe you).

          AH HA. The dog smirks twice, but it’s in Bill’s PoV and he hates the dog so he’s projecting evil on it. That’s on Bill, not the dog. I stand by it.

          Edited to add: I went back and read more and got to a scene with Nick and remembered: Every character in that book projected on that poor dog. I remember later on, Quinn’s mother said, “That dog has a secret.” I had fun with that.

          1. Ah, projection. I see that, especially with Bill. You had fun so we could have fun. It’s still a fun read.

  18. I have a fondness for brouhaha, meaning a general hubub or furor, usually over something of little importance: The ladies guild meeting dissolved into a brouhaha over the choice of tea sets.

    1. That one always seems to me to mean “a quiet riot.” Lots of people in conflict over something small, no violence. Tempest in a teacup?

    2. We never have a brouhaha without also referencing the kerfuffle, the contretemps and perhaps a good old Australian sh*tfight. It usually involves poultry, somewhere just out of sight.

  19. Oooooo, so very many fun words out there! Thingmajig? Whirligig? Discombobulated? Hey, did you know the opposite of discombobulated is combobulated?

    1. I don’t know about English, but in German dialect, there’s such a richness of phrases and expressions for moods/descriptions etc that are simply not there in “High German”/ the written language.

      1. Our English slang is a lot more fun that proper, formal English. The good thing about English is that we steal from everybody and then stretch the words we’ve got to be different things. I wouldn’t want to learn it as a non-native speaker, but it’s fun if you’re fluent.

    2. I remember learning Ferblungent from a folk singer in 1970, while I was hitching around the country. It was in a song. It seems appropriate, here.

      1. I always assumed, from they way my Mother used it that it was a Yiddish word, but was never curious enough to look it up.

        1. In the song, after the word she sang, “…which means most con-fu-sed.” I wish I remembered the whole song, rather than just one line.

    3. Discombobulated is also one of my favorite words. I used it once and accused of making it up.

  20. Boggle, I first found it as a teenager and have loved it ever since. To me it means dithering. I have never googled it, as I like my version.

  21. I love family words! My mom referred to shoulder blades as “angel bones” and my dad called farts “poo-tinkies.” As a kid, I used both those words in mixed company. The return stares made me realize I needed to have a chat with my parents…

  22. Well, I’m fond of bouleversé for bowled over. Stunned, flummoxed, whathaveyou (or there’s another one…Whathaveyou.

    And Gemütlichkeit. Cosiness, comfort, warmth. What you want are with a book and a quilt and a cat, inside on a winter’s day. You know…Hygge.

    1. The best board game for word lovers is called Balderdash (but not the later version, Beyond Balderdash.)

  23. My New Zealand mom always called the grubby bits of crud (found when cleaning) “gubbins”. I still call it that (but I also like the Yiddish “schmutz”). And I like the word “cattywampus” for diagonal or askew.

    1. I just came back here to add “cattywampus”. It is such a delightfully satisfying word.

  24. I use schmutz to describe a person who is acting stupidly and pettily. S/he’s a schmutz. I love the German word geist: spirit/ghost/soul. That’s probably a reductionist definition, but I love that it’s all rolled into one, whereas spirit and soul are oddly separated in English.

      1. In German “Schmuck” means “jewelry” (or in certain cases, decoration). A long way from the usage in English!

      1. My neighbor always used it to describe the dirt and dust that built up in corners.

      2. Although one should note here it is dirt in the sense of “being dirty”, not the stuff you plant flowers in! 🙂

  25. I also really like old English names. Every year I have at least one student with a great name. My favourite of the last few years is Thistlethwayte. I especially like the extraneous « th ».
    Another fav: Scattergood. Thistlethwayte, Scattergood and Sond would make an excellent Dickensian Steampunk firm, I think they would be into shady imports from faraway lands.

    1. The second ‘th’ isn’t extraneous, surely? It’s pronounced: Thistle-Thwaite (I assume; I’ve never met one).

      1. You are absolutely right. I just looked at the etymology and apparently it’s from Middle English thistle + thwaite ‘meadow’, i.e. a meadow overgrown with thistles. There you go a good word: Thwaite.

        1. There are quite a lot of Thwaites (place-name elements) up in the Yorkshire Dales. Didn’t realize it meant ‘meadow’, but it makes sense.

  26. Long multisyllabic words are fun and humorous, but I’ve always been fondest of short, to-the-point words. They make me think of our origins as poor clueless humans trying to find food and water and a cave without sabretooth residents. One of my favorite short old words is “mud”. There it is. Mud. And other ancient words like it. Bowl. Cup. Hat. Dog. Cow. Eat. Dig. The kinds of words that don’t require a monocle or a farthingale to dress them up.

    1. Not bowl, please. Whenever my kids want to laugh at my non native pronounciation, they make me pronounce it.

    2. Anglo Saxon. Cow in the field, but French beef on the table. Good old sturdy Anglo Saxon words.

      1. I have always heard that English was a languge invented by Norman soldiers to permit chatting up Anglo-Saxon barmaids.

      2. English has an Anglo Saxon and a Norman word for many things and the Norman word is fancier , so when it comes to food the live animal name is typically anglosaxon and the food name is Norman. Sheep and mutton. Pig and pork.

  27. Onomatopoeia–sounds like something naughty but really a $5 word for words that sound like the sound they’re describing: bang, pop, crackle.

  28. My current new favorite is ‘Lost the plot’ : going off the rails or completely losing touch with reality. I heard that for the first time this year and then, of course, have heard it constantly since.

    I grew up reading the dictionary for fun and our family has loved wordplay for generations. I can remember my grandmother, repeating her grandfather, saying: “My sufficiency is serensified and more would be a superfluity of abundance” when declining that second helping of pie! I’ve never found “serensified” in any dictionary but know several people who also use it as “satisfied with pleasure.”

    Other favorites commonly used in my family include:

    Kerfuffle: a fuss, disorder
    Lashings: an abundance, “Berries with lashings of cream”
    Flummoxed: nonplussed, confounded
    Crapulence: the feeling that a hangover or extreme eating gives you.
    Persiflage: frivolous banter (often lightly teasing) “Airy persiflage and piffle”
    Panache: flair, dash, verve
    Aquiver: as in, “the cats were aquiver with curiosity.”
    Bombinating: making a loud buzzing or humming noise
    Ephemera: things that exist or are enjoyed for only a short time
    Incandescent: light produced by heat, passionate, especially as “incandescent with rage”
    Hoover: eating every crumb “My teenage son was intent on hoovering up all the food in the house”

    I could go on (and on and on and on…). I love this discussion!

    1. I looked up Callipygian once, when it was used as a clever way to say, “Nice butt.”

      1. Oops. reply to wrong post. In this post, I wanted to mention that persiflage was mentioned in connection with Ivan Vorpatril’s much-removed cousin, Byerly Vorrutyer. Bujold expands my vocabulary, routinely.

      2. Are you old enough to remember the Limeliters song, “Vickie Duggan”? She wore a dress cut so low in the back that it exposed an entirely new cleavage . . .

    2. “hoover” is one of those words which was/still is a brand name:

      Alka Seltzer Hi-lighter (Hi-Liter) Rollerblade
      AstroTurf Hoover Roller Derby
      Band Aid Hula-Hoop Scotch Tape
      Beer Nuts Jacuzzi Scrabble
      Benzedrine Jeep Sellotape
      Boogie Board Jello (Jell-O) Sheetrock
      Breathalyzer Jockey Shorts Skivvies
      Brillo Pad Kitty Litter Styrofoam
      BVDs Kleenex Super Glue
      Chapstick (Chap Stick) Laundromat Teflon
      Cheerios Levi’s Teleprompter (TelePrompTer)
      Claymation Life Savers Teletype
      Coke (Coca Cola) Mace Teva
      Cola (Coca Cola) Magic Marker Thermos
      Cool-Aid (Kool-Aid) Microchip TV Dinner
      Cuisinart Novocain Tylenol
      Demerol Oreo UNIX
      Ditto Machine Palm Pilot Valium
      Dixie Cups Parcheesi Vaseline
      Dumpster Ping Pong Velcro
      Erector Set Play-Doh Walkman
      Fiberglass (Fiberglas) Plexiglas Welcome Wagon
      Fig Newtons Polaroid White Out (Wite-Out)
      Freon Pop Tart Wiffle Ball
      Frisbee Popsicle Windbreaker
      Green Stamp Post-It Note X-Acto Knife
      Hacky Sack Q-Tip Xerox

      I do like the image of a teenage boy with two hollow legs, which ours always had, being likened to a vacuum cleaner.

      1. Well, woopsie. I had that list of proprietary eponyms in columns of three with tabs. Now I know what this program does to tabs!

    3. I learned it as “My sufficiency has been suffuncified.” My great-grandmother would say that after she’d eaten her fill of a meal that she enjoyed – but not after a meal that was sub-par.

  29. Codswallop. As in, a load of complete rubbish. It’s not as descriptive as bullshit, but better for polite (ish) company and children.

  30. My family used “fresserei” from the German, meaning an occasion at which much eating is done. I regret to say how often I’ve had an occasion to use it!

    1. In German there are two words for “to eat”: “essen” if you are a human but “fressen” if you are an animal. My cat and dog “fressen” whereas my husband and I “essen”.

      “Fresserei” means eating like an animal – much and messy!

  31. dagnabbit, a tweak of G-d dammit


    whipper-snapper, a young man with nothing better to do than to hang about idly snapping a whip.

    Callipygian, a word I first found in Geoffrey Trease’s THE SNARED NIGHTINGALE, where the Greek scholar as a high treat is shown over the stables, and after being presented with the front views of far too many new people finds the rear view of a good many horses “all eminently callipygous.”

    THE SNARED NIGHTINGALE is also my favorite source of the word “venery,” as the hero is informed that Yes, the castle has a library with some books in it, though the impression is given that they rank with other possessions not normally mentioned in polite company. The hero bets the Greek scholar that the work on venery is Ovid’s ARS AMATORIA, but had forgotten, if he ever knew, that an Englishman would understand “venery” in the other sense — it’s the LIVRE DE CHASSE by Gaston de Foix.

  32. I’ve always wondered why one could be inept, but never ept. I have used the word upon occasion and always thought I was breaking the rules, but when I Googled the word just now, they said that the OED cites usage back to the 1930s.

    1. You can be ept. It’s just not used much:

      ept (comparative more ept, superlative most ept)

      Skillful and knowledgeable; adept. quotations ▼

      I know this because I used it in Manhunting, and the editor tried to talk me out of it, but I insisted.

    2. I’d be hard pressed to quote the precise work in which it is found, but in one of the stories in the “Ring of Fire” series, they speak of putting on a bi-lingual play, English and German, rife with puns in two languages. One of them is when a young lady is speaking of the town of Ept – she says, “I am socially in Ept.” Based on the “Importance of Being Earnest.”

      1. It bothered me, it did, so I looked it up. Paula Goodlett and Gorg Huff, The Barbie Consortium, Chapter 11, “Romance:”

        The playwright team that had written this version of The Importance of Being Earnest had used that trick to play with the audience. The play worked if you spoke English, it worked if you spoke German, but it worked better if you spoke both because there were subtle and sometimes not so subtle differences in what was said in each language. The effect was a two-language pun of some sort about every third line. That wasn’t the only trick up the writer’s sleeves. The lines were arranged so that if you spoke only English it seemed that the guys were being reasonably sane and the girls were total ditzes. But if you spoke only German the girls seemed fairly reasonable and the guys off the wall. If you spoke both languages, it added to the feeling that they were talking past each other. At one point, one of the ladies described herself in German as preferring the quiet life in her country estate of Ept to the social whirl of the big city. The English version of the line was “I’m still socially in Ept.” It was all like that, a reasonable statement in one language followed by a groaner of a translation.

        I must observe that this book includes, with minor editing, the entire story – “The Sewing Circle” – that I mentioned last week in the first edition of the “Grantville Gazette,” and this part was one of many appearing in later editions. Goodlett and Huff are/were major contributors to the success of the emagazine.

  33. I use chuffed to describe being pleased with something I’ve accomplished. Spiffy to describe something that works really well and pleases me.

    In my family we refer to a series of not quite burps as rifting.

    My dad used suffonsified, as in sufficiently sated, a lot. Also caddywumpus to describe something crooked.

    Gobsmacked has been a favorite for as long as I can remember.

    1. “Chuffed” got me into more trouble than any word I’d used in decades. I was the president of the local chapter of a national ladies organization, and in the chapter newsletter I mentioned that we had three new members instead of the two I was expecting and that I was very chuffed about it.

      Next thing I knew, I had a call from the national president’s P.A. saying that one of the members had complained, directly to the national president, that I’d insulted her or them or someone in the newsletter. I explained that I’d acquired the word from a Canadian friend, who’d been chuffed when I encouraged her to submit her short story to a contest where she’d won first prize, which I consider to be an unalloyed positive. And my friend’s language is about as prim and proper as mine, so it never occurred to me that I shouldn’t use any word she does.

      But it did make me do an online search for definitions of the word, where I discovered that if you have a NEW British dictionary, “chuffed” means pleased or satisfied, but if you have an OLD British dictionary, “chuffed” means displeased or disgruntled. And then I discovered that it ALSO has a sexually vulgar meaning . . . .

      Happily, one of the other members who’d had more personal contact with the new member also read the newsletter, and thought it wasn’t very likely that I’d have said I wasn’t pleased about new members. She also had a recent dictionary! My mother gave me a lecture on using any word the audience wasn’t guaranteed to understand.

  34. My Mom used to call a runny nose a leaky beak and potatoes au gratin were old rotten potatoes.
    And why can you be uncouth, but never couth?

    1. You can:

      couth. /ko͞oTH/
      HUMOROUS adjective
      adjective: couth
      cultured, refined, and well mannered.
      “it is more couth to hold your shrimp by the tail”

  35. Brit word I saw used in design mags in the 70s and 80s, but seems now to have lost use: twee. From context, I understand it to mean overly cute by several hundred degrees.

    1. I’ve seen this used quite recently in British fiction – I think it was Mhairi McFarlane. And I think I’ve seen it in the US as well – wasn’t there an article in the Atlantic on the Twee Movement or something like that?

  36. One of my favorite Old English words means messenger, oar, honor, glory, mercy, favor, grace, wealth, and income. It’s spelled ār, pronounced arrrrgh.

  37. This is fun. Some words and phrases I haven’t seen mentioned above

    Titty-farting: wasting time.
    Dooflunkey: the thing you’ve forgotten the name for.
    Ow-breyes: what my sister called eyebrows.
    Elboats: elbows
    Up in Annie’s room, behind the gaslamp: I have no idea where it is.

  38. Someone taught me the German word Schnuckiputz the other day. Basically, sweetie pie but sounds cuter. Both u are like in “put”, sch is more-or-less sh, and the i is eee.

    1. The German word (from my German-American hiking friend) that stuck in my brain is “pinkelpause”, meaning pee break

        1. Plural is Pinkelpausen. Which sounds every bit as cute as just one of them. I like German. It’s a lovely logical language with great words.

  39. Funny timing! I read an interview with Ann Lamott yesterday. She used two words I wrote down because I liked them so much: twitterpated and grokked!

    Grokked: To understand profoundly through intuition or empathy.
    [Coined by Robert A. Heinlein in his Stranger in a Strange Land.]

    1. Just noticed “nob the moppet” in Alexis Hall’s new book. Meaning go to fetch the kid.

      1. It was nab the moppet, I think. My husband uses that sometimes: can you nab some milk when you go down to the shops. Not that there is more than one shop or that it is down a hill.

    2. Somewhere in my house is Mrs Byrne’s Dictionary of Unusual Obscure and Preposterous Words. I need to go find it.

      A friend used sussuration yesterday in reference to the sound of the Brood X cicadas.

      My kids made up ginormous but it turns out it’s a real word.

      My dad was a native German speaker who loved the quirks of the English language. He used to say it was cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey which I thought was mildly salacious until I learned that a brass monkey is a cannonball holder. I cannot imagine where he learned that.


      1. It’s military slang, of course. You’d have thought army artillery, but apparently the Napoleonic navy. Temeraire would have asked for an explanation!

  40. Ooh, there are some good words here! Two of my favourites:

    RAMBUNCTIOUS (adjective)
    1 difficult to control or handle; wildly boisterous
    2 turbulently active and noisy

    SKOOKUM (adjective Northwest U.S., Canada)
    1. large; powerful; impressive.
    2. excellent; first-rate.
    (Sometimes this is “skookumchuck” especially in regards to water. There are Skookumchuck Narrows in BC and Skookumchuck River in Washington State)

  41. One of my favourites is ‘mouldywarp’, the old English name for a mole (the animal, not the skin feature). I also recently discovered that the translation for the word ‘wren’ in Faroese is ‘mouse-brother’.

  42. Foible — sometimes used to mean weakness or shortcoming (in character), but I like it when used to mean a quirk. I have many foibles, all of which I’m sure my friends find adorable.

    Foment — to stir up or instigate (such as a riot)

    Folderol — nonsense (Mary Poppins said, “Folderol and fiddledeedee.”

    Flummoxed — Confused (I am confused about why so many of my favorite words start with F)

    My ex-husband used to say”Close enough for government work,” meaning it wasn’t really perfect, but you could get away with it.

    Both my parents spoke some words of Yiddish (my father’s parents in NYC spoke it fluently, and my mom’s parents in upstate NY knew quite a bit–all four grandparents either came over as babies or were born fairly soon after their own parents arrived). There were quite a few that were used as commonly as English around the house. Mind you, I can’t spell most of them with any certainty.

    Schmutz, as noted above, for dirt (you have some schmutz on your nose).
    Chutzpah (nerve) “Oy, she’s got chutzpah, that one” or “Wow, that took chutzpah.”

    Kvetch — to complain

    Kvell — tear up, usually being sentimental

    And my favorite, “feh” a Yiddish word that means “feh.”


  43. I am currently re-reading ‘They’re a weird mob’ by Nino Culotta (John O’Grady). I wanted something hilariously funny: it is about an Italian journalist with attitude who emigrates to Australia, thinking he speaks the language. The book is full of misunderstandings due to mispronunciations/more than one meaning, and not knowing the circumstances.
    It is so relatable as I moved from the Netherlands to Oz in the 80’s and tried to fit in with the Australian habit of shortening words: veges for vegetables, barbie for barbecue, so I had trouble understanding why I couldn’t call my new husband a hussy..

  44. Lots about terms of endearment in this thread, so I want to add my bit. In Russian, those terms are embedded in names, as suffixes. My name is Olga, or less formally Olya. But my mom calls me Olechka or Olen’ka. The suffixes echka, ochka, en’ka, ushka, and a couple more similar ones all mean small or dear or something in between, but usually positive. Tamara – Tamarochka. Nina – Ninochka. Masha – Mashen’ka.
    Not only names, nouns work too. The word ‘cat’ (particularly a female cat) translates into Russian as ‘koshka.’ But you could say ‘koshechka,’ which means a beautiful little female cat.

    1. My long-haired mostly black cat is named Koshka. I knew it was primarily the feminine form, but it was actually taken from the dragon-cat in my Baba Yaga novels, where it was a joke, because he was neither a cat (although he appeared to be one) nor a girl.

      My Koshka is part Maine Coon cat and looks like he could be a dragon in disguise. It’s too bad I can’t call him Koshechka.

    2. I still don’t know whether Emily is male or female, so maybe I should go with Emilushka. Although she’s not small; I’m pretty sure she’s at least part Maine coon.

  45. Harlen Ellison used the term ‘drives me bugfuck’ and it’s one of my favourites.
    Karen Marie Moning gave the phrase to one of her characters in her Fever series (Barrons) and it’s a perfect fit for him. I use it all the time now and it always makes me think of Barrons and the Fever world.

  46. Fartmuffin- for someone who is or does stupid things. I am listening to Ilona Andrews’ Hidden Legacy and this one popped up last week. I really enjoy it.

    Also Widdershins for counterclockwise. I just like saying it.

  47. Cattywampus – meaning askew. I have always loved this word.

    In my family, we use the word “foofies” for horses or ponies because that’s what my 2 year old self called them – because they were fluffy.

  48. My favorite word is oubliette. It’s just a hole in the ground where you put someone to forget about them–a prison, but it’s so much fun to say! I also like using the word fluffernutter as a substitute swear word because it fits perfectly: “Yippee ky yay fluffernutter”. And it’s not a “word” per se, but I think “jolotrulio” would also make an excellent swear or magic word. I’m not sure what he would think about it, though.

    And I love filler words! Thingy, whatchamcallit, doobob…

    1. My mother has a thing for the bl sound. Oubliette, oblong, strobe light.

      Agree on filler words, I mentioned dooflunky further up the page, it is a favourite. Another frequently used one is wigwam, shortened from ‘a wigwam for a gooses bridle’.

    2. I like to use “Scheibenkleister” instead of the German swearword for sh*t since it also starts with “Schei…” but you’ve got enough time to make it into far more innocent rather nonsens word. Useful with kids around.
      Yet you can “ejaculate” ( thsnks Georgette…) it wih the same force as “sh*t”.
      Scheibe = slice or window pane, Kleister = glue.

  49. Embiggens. From The Simpsons. It’s a perfectly cromulent word.

    1. This blog is changing my life.

      Naturally I looked up cromulent (“perfectly acceptable, fine”) and was led to what at first sounded like either a cure for or a symptom of a drinking problem. From

      Occhiolism (noun): The awareness of the smallness of your perspective, by which you couldn’t possibly draw any meaningful conclusions at all, about the world– because although your life is an epic and unrepeatable anecdote, it still only has a sample size of one, and may end up being the control for a much wilder experiment happening in the next room.

      Not depressing at all to me. In fact, I think this word is liberating! How I plan to use it in a sentence (when I say bizarre things like just now): My occhiolism made me do it!

  50. I’m amid Fast Women and the girls are unpacking China. The running ware is hell-bent for leather… I use that expression from time to time, but I searched for the etymology. It goes back to British cavalry in India. The more you know…

    What’s the word for cramming two words together? Is that portmanchu? Hell-bent has a meaning, “hell for leather” was a more common expression, then they got combined.

    1. 🙂


      noun: portmanteau; plural noun: portmanteaux; plural noun: portmanteaus; noun: portmanteau word; plural noun: portmanteau words
      1. a large trunk or suitcase, typically made of stiff leather and opening into two equal parts.
      2. a word blending the sounds and combining the meanings of two others, for example motel (from ‘motor’ and ‘hotel’) or brunch (from ‘breakfast’ and ‘lunch’). “podcast is a portmanteau, a made-up word coined from a combination of the words iPod and broadcast”

      1. Omphaloskepsis and antidisestablishmentarianism were two words I loved as a kid.

        1. Ha! When I was in the eighth grade, the class learned the then-longest word in English. It’s since been dethroned, repeatedly.

          consubultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis beaten, for example, by
          antidisestablishmentarianism wasn’t even in the running, but many people still offer it up as an answer to, “What’s the longest word in English?”

          1. If we are getting into longest words now, I have always thought that the longest word in French is a bit of a disappointment:


            I don’t think I need to translate that.

            Let’s wait for a Welsh person to comment now.

  51. In German there are two words for “to eat”: “essen” if you are a human but “fressen” if you are an animal. My cat and dog “fressen” whereas my husband and I “essen”.

    “Fresserei” means eating like an animal – much and messy!

    1. Not sure why this posted a second time down here at the bottom. Huh.

  52. Gobbly-gook – speaking nonsense, one of mom’s words; also many of the above.

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