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THERE’S A WORD FOR THAT


cropped-bird-of-paradise-painting.jpg
“Bird Of Paradise” original watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

Did you ever stop to think how arbitrary the naming of things can be? For instance: has anyone ever really seen a bird of paradise? In the rich history of the English language a word has been invented for just about everything including things we have never seen.

Now and then words go missing when we need them and then unexpectedly pop up again in the night while in the middle of a good dream. Haven’t you wished you could think of a great word to apply to someone who does things which are particularly annoying or irritating–whether online, in person, outside your bedroom window or in tedious meetings at work?

It’s fascinating for instance, to learn there’s a word for people who use overly long pretentious-sounding words. There are several I’m sure, but we can avoid getting unnecessarily sesquipedalian. Do you see how useful it could be?

Girouettism is the practice of frequently altering personal opinion to follow popular trends. It comes from a girouette another name for a weather-cock. Just as a weather-cock changes its position according to the wind, so a figurative ‘girouette’ is a fair-weather sort who changes their metaphorical position according to what’s ‘in’ at the moment. The term dates from the 1820s.

Verbomania is abnormal talkativeness. There is, however, little more to say about this one–ironically.

Word-grubber was eighteenth-century slang for someone who used unnecessarily long and complicated words in conversation, unlike the words such a person is likely to use. Many years ago I was annoyed with my father and wrote him a long pedantic and complaining letter. He immediately dashed one off to me using words I never thought he knew. It is universal to believe that we are far more brilliant than our parent, until we are once again proven wrong.

A Buttinsky is a person who constantly interrupts or butts in; it was coined by George Ade in his 1902 novel The Girl Proposition. Ade, by the way was the one who provides us with the first recorded use of the word “bad” to mean “good”, in his 1897 book Pink Marsh. So you see, when someone says another person or musical group is “bad-ass” and means they’re good, it’s really “old-hat”.

Humdudgeon is an imaginary illness or pain, or a loud complaint about nothing. One of its root words is “humbug” or a hoax. You’re in high dudgeon about a humbug. So don’t complain too loudly or people may call you a “humdudgeon”.

One of the great words featured in Samuel Johnson’s eighteenth century Dictionary is bed-presser which Johnson defines as ‘a heavy lazy fellow’.

There must be other annoying words–or rather, perfectly nice words that describe things people do–or things which get your goat.

We borrow from other languages, invent new words, combine words, and still wonder why the rest of the world doesn’t understand us.

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9 comments on “THERE’S A WORD FOR THAT

  1. The universal ‘stuff like that’ means and includes the entire dictionary. Very handy and used as an answer to difficult questions. It is very often combined with ‘you know’. No I don’t know!

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  2. I don’t have the poem at hand, because it’s in a newly published collection by John Ashbery, and only one or two poems are online. But one of the poems in the book ends with the word, “Whatever.” I think that’s one of the most useful new additions to language there is. It can serve as a dismissal, a verbal gesture of boredom, a way to say, “OK. Let’s move on to something else.”

    Of your list, I’ve only heard “buttinsky”, although I have heard of a money-grubber. My favorite on the list is “humdudgeon.” I’ve known a few in my time, and when I come up against the next one, I’ll have a word to use — if only to myself!

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  3. I have used that one myself. Another one which seems to be useful to some is the single word “huh” either delivered with lips closed or not. It always sounds as if they are disagreeing with what you say or are surprised that you would say it.
    I was frequently warned against being a buttinsky as a child. It just shows how curious I was. I thought it was a good thing.

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  4. What lovely words, I will practice hard and wait for the appropriate moment to use them. I am expecting some strange looks! šŸ™‚

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  5. Hi Mom,
    Fabulously creative and “bad-ass” as always!
    Love you

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Another lovely painting, Kayti: the colours are wonderful. I enjoyed this post very much.

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