Posts tagged ‘language’

Yes, they’re all real words (the first sentence notwithstanding)

We’ve all heard of people discussing whether or not ‘gruntled,’ ‘whelmed,’ ‘combobulated,’ &c are real words. The only thing I can add to that debate is that ‘whelmed’ is a real word, and it means ‘engulfed or submerged.’ What I’m more intrigued by are words that actually have valid counterparts that no one ever uses.1 This topic came to my attention as I sat on my balcony enjoying the clement weather, and investigating it has turned my understanding of English etymology into a ravelled web once again. I want to say I’m exasperated by this, but I never started with any asperity, so I haven’t really run out of it yet.

Even more interesting, though, are the false positives. I know many people whom I consider experts in their fields, but I doubt many of them are former perts. I imagine that most discomfiture is not due to a lack of comfits. I may be decanting odd words at you, but it’s better than canting them. What a strange language we speak!

1: I admit, the dangling preposition has its place. I considered writing “By what I’m more intrigued are words…” but that was too much even for me.

English, a silent language

Lots of letters can be silent in English, but I’m missing a few. Can anyone help fill in the rest of this table? Proper nouns are cheating. So is “February.”

Edit: words in italics were found by minorninth at this page. To be honest, though, I’d like better ones for Q and Y.

  • A – boat
  • B – numb
  • C – scissors
  • D – adjective
  • E – made
  • F –
  • G – gnaw
  • H – through
  • I – piece
  • J –
  • K -knew
  • L – talk
  • M – mnemonic
  • N – damn
  • O – leopard
  • P – psychic
  • Q – lacquer
  • R –
  • S – island
  • T – often
  • U – fugue
  • V –
  • W – who
  • X – faux
  • Y – prayer
  • Z – rendezvous

Does anyone else keep these lists?

Words I’ve managed to use in conversation:

  • pecuniary
  • smarmy (which sounds just like it means)
  • brickbat
  • offing
  • stripling
  • apposite
  • phthisis
  • juxtapose
Words I’m still trying to work into the conversation:

  • lickspittle
  • pulchritude (which sounds nothing like what it means)
  • disingenuous
  • phantasmagoric
  • ontic
  • perfidy
  • the phrase “I’m not really into Pokémon