Monday, 14 March 2016

Unusual English Words I learned Later in Life

When English is your second language, there are many words which, if you’re lucky, you get to learn later in life. When it’s your third language, you should probably be grateful you can actually communicate in all three languages.

For a logoleptic lexophile philomath, who also happens to be a writer, things may be a little different. The following is a list of words which I have missed when younger, because they are not too popular or common. Note that these are not the weirdest or the most archaic existing English words, far from it. But rather, they are words that usually take longer to reach the average person, if ever, especially those whose first language isn’t English.  

To make it more enjoyable ― and more educational ― I have also added the definitions and some etymologies.

Also check From English as a Third Language to Author — How I Expanded My Vocabulary to know how I did just that; as well as the more thorough The Writing Process and the Creative Block.

Bunkum (n) [Informal and dated]:
  • Insincere, untrue, or foolish talk; nonsense.

    Originally buncombe named after Buncombe County in North Carolina, mentioned in an inconsequential speech made by its congressman solely to please his constituents (circa 1820).

Balderdash (n):
  • Senseless talk or writing; foolish words or ideas; nonsense. 

    From late 16th century (denoting a frothy liquid; later, an unappetizing mixture of drinks): of unknown origin.

Conundrum (n):
  • A confusing and difficult problem or question.
  • A question asked for amusement, typically one whose answer is or involves a pun; a riddle

Legerdemain (n)

  • Skillful use of one’s hands when performing conjuring tricks; a display of skill or adroitness; deception; trickery.

    It originates from French léger de main ‘dexterous,’ literally ‘light of hand’.

Pandemonium (n)

  • Wild and noisy disorder or confusion; uproar.
  • The infernal regions; hell. 

    From Greek pan- “all” (see pan-) + Late Latin daemonium “evil spirit,” from Greek daimonion “inferior divine power,” from daimon “lesser god”. 

    Pandemonium originates from being the capital of Hell in John Milton’s (1608-1674) epic poem Paradise Lost.

Quandary (n)

  • A state of perplexity or uncertainty over what to do in a difficult situation.
  • A difficult situation in which you are confused about what to do; a practical dilemma.

Shenanigans (n)

  • Secret or dishonest activity or maneuvering; a devious trick used especially for an underhand purpose.
  • Silly or high-spirited behaviour; tricky or questionable practices or conduct; mischief ― usually used in plural.

Subterfuge (n)

  • Deceit used in order to achieve one’s goal; the use of tricks especially to hide, avoid, or get something.

Scruple (n)

  • A feeling of doubt or hesitation with regard to the morality or propriety of course of action; an ethical consideration or principle that inhibits action.
  • The quality or state of being scrupulous. 

Scruple (v)

  • Hesitate or be reluctant to do something that one thinks may be wrong ― improper or immoral. 

Uxorious (adj):
  • Having or showing an excessive or submissive fondness for one’s wife.

    It originates from Latin ‘Uxor,’ meaning wife.

Words With No Direct Translation To English 

More Words With No Direct Translation To English  
Words With Italian Origin That Are Still Used Today In Egypt 

Terms That Have Resonated With Me

Why Many Place Names End with ‘-Stan’

On Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing
For The Love Of Storytelling

Different Shades of Passion 
Selective Hearing Among Men and Women

What The Heck are Vocal Fry and Upspeak?  

Artists Between Mindset and Motivation


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