Words/phrases we love, because, well, they feel so good rolling off the tongue

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Words/phrases we love, because, well, they feel so good rolling off the tongue

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feb 25, 2009, 11:32pm

Since my “Hesitant” post from October didn’t seem to diminish the association of my beloved field of linguistics with harsh, prescriptivist judging of others’ word usage, I’m trying again to make a love-post for language. I’d like to know what words or phrases you really love. The reason can be the way they sound, the way they feel when you physically articulate them, or an affective reason such as a memory they may evoke of a life event/relationship or of a piece of literature. Also, in rebuttal to those who are so hung up on what is officially a word, these can include words coined by authors in books you have read. My language is English, but feel free to discuss words you love from any language.

Let’s see now, to start off, mine, as they occur to me randomly…

From slang coined in my lifetime, “chillax.” (Example: People who actually get angry enough to post complaints about others’ word usage need to chillax.) From my childhood reading, I love the mystery of determining whether it was a “spotted or herbaceous backson” who posted the notice on Christopher Robin’s door in A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner. There’s something shivery about the “brooding gloom” in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. There are a couple memorable coined words in Watership Down, hrududu (motor vehicle) and tharn (frozen like a rabbit in headlights). Oh, I could go on and on, but I wish to hear from others.

feb 26, 2009, 8:10am

Just a quick one: I love the French for internet user: internaute. It's probably not as exciting if you're French, but I just love the connotation of being an explorer in that big ol' www..

Redigeret: mar 17, 2009, 2:39pm

I love your paean to lovely words and phrases, grammargoddess. It puts me in mind of J.R.R. Tolkien, who championed the inherent beauty of the phrase "cellar door."

I also like words for their beautiful sound, or for their mouthfeel (to steal a wine-tasting term). I keep a selection of favourites on my profile here on LT (in fairness, I also keep a list of words that give me the creeps).

A current favourite is 'plum'. It's such a plummy, purple word. In The English Patient, the patient refers to "a plum plum." I also love its homophone "plumb" - as in "to plumb the depths." To me, "plumb" seems gray, not purple, though. Just this minute, I realized: perhaps that comes from a connection with lead, whose chemical symbol is Pb (plumbum). Neat!

feb 26, 2009, 10:33am

butler's pantry
silent butler

From old houses I have visited and from houses I visited in books, like The Saturdays

feb 26, 2009, 12:59pm

Oooo, these are great, all. Mountebank: I see one of your favorite words is your handle!

(Aside: I could use a silent butler around the house.)

feb 26, 2009, 10:40pm

I like "discombobulate" and "foofaraw" because they sound as complicated and confusing as the concepts they represent.

I like "glom" as in "glom onto" because it's a strong word with a vivid image, and because it's a Scots-derived word that is now apparently more common in its adopted homeland. There are a lot of GL words to gloat over. Glib, glebe, glob.

I like children's coinages because they have their own remarkable logic: "elbone" for a (bony) elbow ("Ouch! I bumped my elbone!"), "confisticate" for confiscating and *not letting go of* something, "oakmeal" (because the child believed that porridge was made of acorns) morphing to "oakmilk" (because the next youngest in the family associated milk with porridge).

feb 27, 2009, 2:22am

I spell manoeuvre in this way rather than the maneuver, I also use it a lot more than other alternatives, it's one of those words that not quite rolls off the tongue fun to say.

I love 'girt', which I can only think of its usage in Advance Australia Fair (Australian anthem). Which goes "our home is girt by sea", learning the anthem in primary school and even knowing it now...okay surrounded doesn't have the same ring as 'girt'.
Though it's also one of those odd words that you can't work into natural conversation without it sounding a little odd.

feb 27, 2009, 3:55am

I like curmudgeon, not so much because of how it sounds when pronounced, but rather because of its etymology as given by Johnson and Brewer's Dictionary of Phrases & Fables...

feb 27, 2009, 4:06am

I love the expression "no rub" from the Black Magician Trilogy, meaning "no problem", "you're welcome", "don't mention it". Been wondering for a while, is it a real term, do people use it in everyday language or at least in slang?

feb 27, 2009, 4:08am

7> That reminds me - I love words (especially writing them!) that, strictly speaking, have ligatures in: haemodynamics, paediatrics, encyclopaedia, manoeuvre. It's one of the reasons I can't ever move to the US :-)

But then I think orthography's generally fascinating. How *did* Welsh end up so mystifying? One day I will read up on it.

feb 27, 2009, 5:03am

Ort is a small pleasure.

feb 27, 2009, 8:37am


feb 27, 2009, 1:29pm

My favorite word is "vaguely." There's just something lovely about it.

Although my new favorite word is the Russian for "noun" - существительное - pronounced sush-est-VEET-sel-no-ye.

feb 27, 2009, 1:54pm

One of my favorite words is gloaming. It is a very satisfying word.

Redigeret: feb 27, 2009, 11:54pm

I've been appreciating "bloviate" -- when it's the right word for the job, no other word will do.

I always liked "coolth" from one of Edward Eager's books (the lake one, if I recall correctly).

Two that I like because they are fun, and to me they sound nothing like their meaning -- so I find them pleasantly surprising: callipygian and defenestrate.

A recent favorite is "soffit" for no particular reason. The sound of it is just appealing, and the visual imagery that comes with it fits, somehow, and to say it carries subtle echoes of "softly", "sophisticate", "sophia", "sofa", "fit". I'm pleased by words whose meaning clusters euphoniously with other words' meanings, not through obvious etymological links but through chance or quirks of history or the accidents of sounds. Harmony or complementarity of meaning as well as of sound just tickles me. As my grandmother would say.

Gloaming is very satisfying.

Redigeret: mar 1, 2009, 5:19am

I've always quite liked "coruscate"; to me it almost sounds like what it means - to give off light; to reflect in flashes; to sparkle; To exhibit brilliant technique or style (Wiktionary).
A Clockwork Orange contains marvelously memorable phrases such as "Bolshy great yarblockos!"

mar 1, 2009, 9:10am

How about Moon Unit and her Zappa siblings?

Redigeret: mar 1, 2009, 10:48pm

I like the "wine-dark sea" of Homer.

An outbreak of c. difficile would be terrible, but I sure do like to say that word in Italian: dee-fee-chee-lay. That and stazione ferroviaria, the ridiculously beautiful term for 'train station'.

mar 1, 2009, 6:29pm

Two favourites that spring to mind are
"ham", pronounced in RP, especially if special stress is put on the initial h (resulting in ridicule, perhaps, but it's worth it in an intimate setting). It sounds like a person moving their mouth and head to take a bite out of ham. I don't know if this explanation makes any sense, but try saying "ham" as 'eatily' as possible.

Another one is "ye". As in, the plural of the pronoun "you". I went to Ireland for a few months recently and found that people use "ye", even in academia. I thought it was overwhelmingly sweet and it's a favourite because it felt a bit like if everyone had just stepped out of a Shakespeare play. I had never heard anyone actually use the word (other than perhaps reading out loud). There is also another Irish English word I adored, but unfortunately I've forgotten what it is.

On a similar note, I do remember it took myself (a speaker of British English) and a handful of Americans I lived with a good while to understand that 'press' means 'cupboard'! That always gave me the mental image of a cupboard so full that you have to really push to get it to shut.

mar 2, 2009, 5:19am

I was delighted by a little cartoon I once saw of a couple ordering wine in a restaurant: the man is saying to his partner: "I really want Chardonnay, but I like saying 'Pinot Grigio'."

mar 2, 2009, 10:50pm

I recently discovered petrichor. Having only had 6mm of rain for the month of February--a summer month in this hemisphere--it is something I would like to experience more of.

I would also like to constult some more with my close friends.

mar 10, 2009, 2:08am

Jamie O'Neill's At Swim, Two Boys, is full of wonderful words and phrases. These are but a few:

Polished Suaviloquence ...urbane, sophisticated speech
The stelliferous sky ... having, or abounding with stars
Vermiculate letters ... sinuous, worm-like
A rataplan of snares ... the sound of drumming
A flocculent smell (like tufts of wool)
...gemmily shining ... like gemstons (of eyes)
A fusty don in a turret room ... musty, stale
He maundered through the kitchen ... (in an aimless, confused manner)

mar 16, 2009, 4:43am

"Evidently" is nice, so is "indubitably" - in the same conversation, even better.

I love whimsy, but also use "mimsy", which appears in Jabberwocky, and works very well when "whimsy" needs an added something or other. Is that the intented meaning of mimsy?

mar 16, 2009, 9:11am

I'm not sure there can can be said to be 'intended' meanings for most of the words in Jabberwocky. But if you're interested in finding out more, The Annotated Alice (which includes Through the Lookingglass) is a great source.

Speaking of which, lookingglass, with its two 'g's, is one of my favourite words. As is favourite, spelled with a u.

Redigeret: mar 16, 2009, 9:36am

exquisite (x and q followed by z sound makes the word sound exquisite)

serendipity (such a happy word)

evanescence (nothing heavy or solid there)

Gloria in excelsis Deo (esp. beautiful when pronunciation is church Latin rather than school Latin)

mar 16, 2009, 9:54am

I doubt if we can say that there was an intended meaning for 'mimsy' Tabatha. Part of Caroll's whimsy in contructing Jabberwocky was to show that a certain number of nonsense words could be put into a sentence and the sentence would still retain its form. So we can say that 'mimsy' must be an adjective and, almost, supply our own word in that category. I say almost because, as the poem builds up, certain possible meaning might suggest themselves in the context of the whole piece of writing.

On the same note, grammargoddess's "brooding gloom" in the oroginal post in this thread only really gains its power because of the build-up of intensity and the symbolic depth of Conrad's presentation of darkness.

So my argument would be that, delightfgul as some individual words are as words, it is words in context that really hold a charge of power.

mar 16, 2009, 12:02pm

A little more rustic, but I enjoy brouhaha, and the phrase "dumb as a stump". The almost-rhyme amuses me.

mar 16, 2009, 1:42pm

GG -

From Dubliners: "But my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires."
From Ulysses: "Flapdoodle to feed fools on."
From Heart of Darkness:: 'And this also', said Marlow suddenly, 'has been one of the dark places on the earth.'
From Lord Jim: "Imagination, the enemy of men, the father of all terrors."
Also, "the impalpable poesy of its crepuscular light."
Also, "those who do not feel do not count."
From Moby Dick: Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me."

But the best word is Joyce's "steelyringing."

mar 16, 2009, 2:59pm

I've always liked "sesquipedalian".

Also, falafel, mimeograph, libidinous, scrumping and smithereens.

mar 17, 2009, 10:23am

"York" and "ford" both tickle me but only as stand-alones, not in compounds. "Yorkshire" and "Hartford" don't have any effect. It seems to be the abrupt termination of the 'or' center which does it. So I also like "gorp." But "York" and "Ford" remain my favorites.

mar 17, 2009, 12:21pm

The other day, I found myself describing a piece of knitting: "The stitches were all cattywompus." I had forgotten that wonderful word (etymologically related to catercorner no doubt, but in my family we always said kitty-corner).

I also like bleb. As a word only, I hasten to add.

mar 17, 2009, 1:24pm


mar 17, 2009, 2:26pm


mar 19, 2009, 2:14pm


mar 20, 2009, 6:50am

I like the word "no". I said it more than twenty times at bedtime yesterday. Sometimes I just sit in my high chair and say "no" for fun, though sometimes this backfires and I don't get something I really wanted.

mar 20, 2009, 7:10am

NO is a good word, Tiny. It will serve you well in the future. Another good word is MINE.

Redigeret: mar 20, 2009, 10:05am

>35 TinyBookworm:: TinyBookworm, you should meet Lenticchia. He not only shares your favorite word, he makes it serve for "Nonna" as well. So now I am a grandma named "No".

His other favourite word is a snorting pig sound. He likes oinking so much that he carries around his stuffed piggy all day to talk to it. This is such a fun word that it's too good to keep just for pigs, so he uses it for flamingoes too. A man of few, but highly appreciated, words, our Lenticchia.

mar 20, 2009, 6:06pm

>35 TinyBookworm: OK, I admit when I'd just read only the first sentence so far, I thought along completely different lines.

>36 Collectorator: I agree. "No" and "Mine" will get you far in life.

mar 24, 2009, 11:33am

'tautology', for its overtones of pedagogy

'oxymoron', for its undertones of unknowing

and 'fustigation', for its tutelary assistance.

mar 24, 2009, 11:50am

Hi Group, just thought I might slow you down a wee bit. You are all very clever, but what is it that you want to discover?
I like assonance, 'cos it sounds like a sword taken out of its sheath.

mar 25, 2009, 9:36pm

giggling @ 38 @ 35 & @ self

apr 4, 2009, 1:07am

I've always found "tender" along with its alternate usages and variants to be especially pleasing: soft or delicate in substance; delicate in constitution; delicate, soft or gentle; easily moved to sympathy or compassion; kind; affectionate or loving; sentimental or amatory; acutely or painfully sensitive; a delicate or ticklish nature; requiring tactful handling; the act of tendering; an offer of something for acceptance; a person who tends.

Compare also with "tendril": attaches itself to or twines around some other body, so as to support the plant.

Whitman makes good use of the word in Leaves of Grass: "Tenderly will I use you curling glass." Elvis Costello offers a witty take in the line: "You won't take my love for tender."

Also, as referred to elsewhere here, I've always loved Homer's "Wine Dark Sea." I don't live near the sea and only visited there twice; but, I can't create a mental picture of any wine that I've ever seen (red or white) that matches the colour of the sea. Possibly, Homer is emphasizing and depth/complexity of colour in his imagery here. One needs to consider also the inadequacies of translation and historical distance when attempting to derive meaning from a text this ancient.

apr 4, 2009, 9:42am

42 Recent translators render that as "wine-faced sea", which isn't much more enlightening.

apr 4, 2009, 4:34pm

Despite the efforts of some literal-minded scientists to show how wine may appear blueish, or the sea reddish, I don't think it's intended to be a colour term, but relates to quality of light and shade.

apr 4, 2009, 4:40pm

I think it just means murkiness. They probably had really murky wine back then.

apr 10, 2009, 12:49am

By the time they finished putting grated cheese, meal, and leeks into it, it must have been even murkier.

But a meal in itself.

The wine, not the sea.

maj 26, 2009, 4:43pm

I like:


maj 29, 2009, 12:35am

"Loaf" has always amused me.

The Russian word for high-heels: туфли (TOO-flea).

Some phrases:
Let be be finale of seem.
--Wallace Stevens

Первой на войне погибает правда.
PER-vii na VOY-nye pa-gi-BA-yet PRAV-da

maj 29, 2009, 3:43am

#48: I'm so glad I'm not the only one on here who put something Russian down. I mean, no matter how IMPOSSIBLE this godforsaken language is, some of the words are just so... fun!

Redigeret: maj 29, 2009, 9:26am

> 42 "I can't create a mental picture of any wine that I've ever seen (red or white) that matches the colour of the sea"

Ah, but Homer used that in conjunction with "rosy-fingered dawn", so put the two together and I guess everything was bathed in a reddish morning glow. Lovely!

I love this :

Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

But most of what Lear did is fine with me.

As for sounds rolling off the tongue and into the brain, I can never forget that Swedish secretary in the original "The Producers" movie, answering the phone with
"Bialystock and Bloo-oom"

My friend invented a lovely word. Nonebrity. If ever a word "does what it says", that one does! I see nonebrities on my TV every day, mostly presenting some ludicrous show or other. The Nicole Kidman part in that wonderful satire To Die For.

maj 29, 2009, 10:01am

I think "nonebrity" is excellent.

maj 29, 2009, 10:58am

Cole Porter's "delovely".

"It's de-lightful, it's de-licious, it's de-lovely!"

maj 29, 2009, 12:21pm

#49: haha Good. I love the way Russian sounds. I also love the language (I'm sort of devoting my academic life to it). Sometimes, however, I just want to yell because it IS impossible. Or seems like it.

maj 30, 2009, 4:56pm

@48 et seq., you reminded me of my warm response to the Russian word пожалуйста, more or less equivalent to both "please" and "thank you" (or German bitte). For some reason I find it to be the most gracious-sounding of all the Indo-European words I know of.

Пожалуйста sounds like "po-ŽAL-sta," with "Ž" sounded as in the name Žižek (or Zsa Zsa), and a liquid Russian L.

maj 30, 2009, 11:16pm

@54, I also love that word. It just rolls of the tongue so nicely. One of my favorite phrases to say is: Ну, пожалуйста. Adding "noo" as in "Well, of course" or just as a filler.

Some asked for a translation, so:
Первой на войне погибает правда.
PER-vii na VOY-nye pa-gi-BA-yet PRAV-da

Roughly: Truth is the first to die in war. (Sounds better in Russian.)

maj 31, 2009, 12:11am

Along with Robert Pirsig, I have a great fondness for the word "gumption." Somehow its connotation feels more comprehensive than "common sense," and the sound of the word--the hard "gump" followed by the hissing, dying "shun" make it sound like a clap of thunder.

maj 31, 2009, 4:23pm

I don't know why, but when people here (in Moscow) say пожалуйста, I hear a /w/ in place of the л. And one in place of the second в in здравствулте. "puh-zha-wis-tuh" and "zdrast-wis-tye." It's been so hard trying to learn Russian by immersion instead of by actually studying the language - I honestly had no idea there was an у in either of those words until just now looking up the spellings to write this, and I only just a few weeks ago (after nine months!) found out about the w sound in пожалуйста being an л.

Redigeret: maj 31, 2009, 5:31pm

57 All my Russian learning was done in a classroom in Atlanta, so it's hard to imagine what you're going through. Almost seems that your ear is converting some of the most unfamiliar Russian sounds to a familiar "w," maybe with a little help from the Moscow accent.

One sound you never hear in the English is the honey-dripping Russian "L." It is something like an English "W."

Another is a series of consonants like the "-vstv-" in the middle of здравствуйте. Enough to drive an English-trained brain around the bend.

Our instructor emphasized to us that speaking Russian would require the use of facial muscles we had never used before. So it would seem unnatural.

The most difficult sound to master was Ы. It's like the result of trying to say "oo" and "uh" at the same time, and failing at both.

maj 31, 2009, 8:20pm

57 and 58 As for Ы, pretend like you're getting punched in the stomach. That's how I learned, haha.

For the "l" sound in пожалуйста, it really is more of a glide. Just put your mouth in the shape for an "l" without concretely making the sound and let it pass... that's the best way I can describe it. It is similar to a "w."

When I studied abroad in Russia I took a phonetics class, and she taught us how to position our tongue for every sound. It was REALLY helpful. I could never have made a soft "l" without it.

jun 1, 2009, 1:04am

I'm not too bad making the soft л because I spent so much time practicing saying the Italian word gli, which has nearly the same sound.

My advice for ы - pretend you're an old farmer. "Ы! Get offa my property!" Also, knowing German helped because I think ы is really just an i-umlaut. (ï) I mean, assuming "i" is "ee."

jun 1, 2009, 4:10am

Russian is also a truly wonderful singing language. Is there a better way of singing 'I love you' than

Ya Vas Lublu


I believe there's an example in Tchaikovsky's 'Yevgeny Onegin'.

jun 1, 2009, 6:39am

Having been to Taizé a few times, I would MUCH rather sing "Gospodi pomilui (Господи помилуи)" than "Lord have mercy".


jun 1, 2009, 8:13am

I'll second that.

jun 14, 2009, 7:33pm

Back to loveable English words — or formerly English, in this case:

My wife and I have adopted the Middel English "awhaped" into our idiolect. That's a-HWOP-ped, three syllables, meaning "extremely surprised, astonished, floored."

Middle English has a number of words I could wish had stuck around.

jun 15, 2009, 2:00am

I'm so appreciative of all the responses to this thread. I love hearing about all your beloved words!

#47 Sometimes nothing else will do but "harumph."

#64 I assume "awhaped" has no relation to the noise of a spaceship from the planet Krikkit sounding like 100,000 people suddenly saying "wop."

jun 15, 2009, 4:16am

>64 Muscogulus:

'awhaped' - love it. These days, though, it might suggest membership of the SM persuasion!

Interesting that we've neologised 'gobsmacked' - perhaps just in UK?? - suggesting that the need for the concept hasn't gone away completely during the intervening centuries.

Just off to find some briefly attired young ladies in search of some friendly ahwaping!

aug 4, 2009, 10:24pm

One I've always loved, for how the sound imitiates the shape and (possible) motion: sloop. Who wouldn't want to go for a quiet sail on a sloop? All this nice imagery despite the warship history...

aug 5, 2009, 2:05pm

That's a good one. But there's a word that's the opposite, I feel : hammock. How can something you lie back in to watch the clouds scudding past while gently swinging from side to side, sound like a cross between a weapon and a grassy burial mound?

aug 5, 2009, 3:50pm


aug 11, 2009, 2:02pm

In the book The Last Juror by John Grisham, he describes one of the characters as telling tales that are "unburdened by veracity."

Ever since reading that, I have vowed to find some way of using that phrase in casual conversation some time soon....

aug 11, 2009, 6:09pm

I love it! I will use it as soon as I get a chance. I know a few people just like that.

aug 12, 2009, 4:03pm

There was a similar phrase in the UK, in vogue a few years ago : "economical with the truth".

aug 12, 2009, 6:52pm

Redigeret: aug 13, 2009, 2:00am


jan 4, 2010, 10:28pm

I quite like effloresce and deliquesce, especially together, for which introduction I thank The Chills.


jan 4, 2010, 10:41pm

Pinot grigio.

I think I order it because I like saying it.

Redigeret: jan 13, 2010, 8:32pm

Fun to tell people you speak only monosyllabically.

Ugly as a mud fence.

Pseudo-grecian, as in scornfully declaring "Enough of the pretentious pseudo-grecian phrases."

Sonofabitch. Feels great everytime I say it and even looks good in writing.

jan 9, 2010, 7:04pm

For the good of the order. (Followed by some total non-sequitur, but perhaps useful for a group to hear...)

(Somehow, this DOES get everyone's attention.)

jan 13, 2010, 3:00pm

In Tolkien's writing, you can see how much he loved language.

When I was taking Spanish in high school, my little sister heard me studying "mantequilla", butter. She loved the word so much, she just kept saying it and even named a stuffed animal or something Mantequilla. And she's right! It somehow reminded me of the song "Maria" from West Side Story. "I'll never stop saying Mantequilla..."

I had this tongue twister I liked to say in elementary school, don't know where I got it from, it went something like specifically special species of spurious speckled sphinx...love that word spurious.

And m&ms. I had a foreign professor who mentioned the candy in class and he didn't know where to stop...emineminemineminem!

jan 13, 2010, 7:51pm

#77: "ugly" has, however, two syllables. . .

maj 1, 2010, 4:21am

Conniption- hard to find ways to use it in everyday life, but fun to try.

>79 atiara: mantequilla is good, so is quesadilla!

maj 1, 2010, 4:10pm

Hmmmm... I didn't think had had that many, but reading through the posts reminded me of some:

. I like"flojera" (laxness, looseness). Que flojera! one says of a bunch of slackers.

. That Himalayan Salt Sea Mastadon (From Moby Dick)

. I like Tolkein's "Mathom" Something you don't want to keep, but can't throw out either. The Hobbiton museum was known as the Mathom House.

, The whole posse of words like shlameil , shlamozel, schmendrake, and so on. For them as like bad puns...
Moby DIck starts with "Call me a shlameil!"

Oh yeah, and "drizzly November in my soul" works too.

. Vote for Yetta and things will get betta.

. Oh! How could I forget "gaspillage" (sp?) its French (I guess) meaning wasteful spending. "Du hast verfludgevet mine gelt" (you have extravagantly spent my money) "Do speak a known language man!"
Oh, Sorry, "Quelle Gaspillage!"

maj 1, 2010, 5:47pm

77, I think it's "dumb as a mud fence."

maj 1, 2010, 5:50pm

#77: "ugly" has, however, two syllables. . .

Monosyllabically, however...

maj 1, 2010, 5:52pm

If anyone wants to watch someone go crazy/beautiful with the shit, I recommend watching The Cruise. By the end of the movie you're either want to hug the guy or bitch-slap him.

maj 3, 2010, 8:16am

Ubiquitous and Serendipity.

Favourite phrase; 'spit the dummy'

maj 4, 2010, 10:07am

Ubiquitous - a word that makes me shudder, maybe because I work in the travel guide business. Every food section seems to contain that word - beetroot is ubiquitous in Belarus, potatoes are ubiquitous in Hungary, etc. If it were confined to its proper meaning, I wouldn't mind.

A word I like: eavesdropping. "An eavesdrop is a small open hole under the eaves of a house which allowed a servant to listen in on the conversations of people awaiting admission at the front door." I just discovered that today, it is the kind of gem I want to hold in my mouth like a precious glass marble.

jun 6, 2010, 11:44am

"Discombobulate" as previously mentioned and "cowl" simply because, in effect, one is making use of a cowl when wearing a hood of any kind. This is important to me because I would make use of my hood on my sweatshirts to shut myself off from the noise and chatter going on around me, much like the monks did, so that I might read in something resembling peace.

jun 6, 2010, 3:34pm

These are all fabulous words, everyone. Keep 'em coming! I keep holding out hope that the people who love words will someday outnumber the people who nurse their pet peeves about them.

#82: Ha-ha! "Call me a shlameil!"

Redigeret: mar 23, 2012, 5:08pm

#8 -> I love "discombobulate", my great-grandmother used it, sometimes as "I feel discombobulated". Others saying she had were "Behave yourselves or I'll transmogrify you into mashed potatoes!"

Redigeret: mar 23, 2012, 5:07pm

Denne meddelelse er blevet slettet af dens forfatter.

jul 13, 2010, 1:26pm

#87 -> I love what you had to say about "eavesdropping". I would never have guessed!

jul 13, 2010, 1:40pm

What a wonderful memento. Your great-grandmother must have been quite a character and a lot of fun.

jul 17, 2010, 1:08am

I wonder if (and when) we become "ancestors" we will be seen with so much love?

okt 2, 2012, 8:03pm

"Grok" from Stranger in a strange land by Robert A. Heinlein.

From the book: Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because of our Earthling assumptions) as color means to a blind man.

I've always assumed that this would become a common term, and yet it hasn't taken off.

It's so much more intimate than "love," because it's so complete.

okt 3, 2012, 8:15am


Interesting - I've actually heard the word "grok" used that way, but nothing to do with Heinlein. Maybe it DID take off, after all?

okt 3, 2012, 10:01am

I've never heard 'grok' used, but I think this is generally true of most made-up words. 'Science Fiction' makes up a lot of words, I think.

It's hard enough when a word is common currency in a place, and is then popularised my a person or popular movement. I have in mind 'grotty', which caused a stir in the 1960s, particularly across the Atlantic. This was supposed to have Liverpool origins, as a shortening of 'grotesque' (OED) although its meaning differs.

okt 3, 2012, 10:07am

Unfortunately 'grok' just reminds me of the West Country word 'grockles', a mildly derisory way of describing outsiders / incomers / tourists, and so will never in my mind sound positive. In any case, the hard consonants produce quite an aggressive sound, thus counteracting Heinlein's intentions for the word.

okt 3, 2012, 10:10am

I agree ed.pendragon, a 'grok' could only ever mean a single member of that family of grockles in the huge, slow caravan ahead blocking the road!

okt 4, 2012, 8:23pm

Thanks, ed.pendragon and John_Vaughan. I can now add grockles to my vocabulary. We have many of them coming to Massachusetts to see the colors of the changing leaves--in fact, we call them leaf-peepers!

okt 5, 2012, 4:02am

>100 BeckerLibrarian:
Leaf-peepers! I like that!

okt 6, 2012, 12:00am

I've heard grok used, quite frequently, in my circles - which include a huge number of American SF fans. Not quite as common as a Monty Python quote, not as rare as, oh, a reference to melan'ti (also a literary reference, but from authors who don't (yet) have quite the exposure Heinlein does). Somewhere relatively recently (in the last year or so) I saw it being used by someone who clearly did _not_ know the origin of the word, but did know its meaning reasonably accurately (I've forgotten the circumstances, though. It might even have been something on the internet, rather than someone local to me).

Yeah...in Washington DC, the word is just "tourists" - but carries all the negative connotations. "Oh. It's coming up on tourist season..."

I've never seen anything about how Heinlein came up with the word. I wonder if he thought about the sound of it?

Redigeret: okt 6, 2012, 1:13am

Grockles, leaf-peepers and, of course, emmits.

Reminds me of the irregular noun (was it from Bernard in "Yes Minister"?): I am a traveller, you are a tourist, he is a tripper.

okt 6, 2012, 4:19am


Grok is also used quite a bit by hackers* and was pretty common at quite a few computer science departments at one time.

Of course by hacker I mean those people covered by definitions 1 to 5 listed by the Jargon File* and not the 'person who breaks into computer systems' definition which has taken hold (due to years of misuse by the press and media going back to the mid 80s).

Of course grok also appears in the jargon file too.

* Versions of which have been published as The Hacker's Dictionary and The New Hacker's Dictionary

okt 6, 2012, 5:47am


Yes, I was recently startled to discover that the early computer pioneers (Gates, Wozniak, Jobs, et al) regarded themselves and described themselves as 'hackers'. Meaning - as you say - something rather different than what it's used for now.

nov 14, 2016, 5:37am

I just discovered this:


I think one of my favourites there is "cellfish" - isn't that just so true? I'd add "cellf-centred" to that, as people who almost knock you over in the street because they're staring at their tiny screen, not looking where they're going.