Dead Languishes

As a semi-professional writer (a grade-school classmate once gave me a quarter to scribble an obscene limerick about his teacher on the back of his homework), I am always interested in expanding my vocabulary — and not just by increasing the space between letters in my word-processing program. Which, by the way, is known as “kerning,” because the concept was first implemented by a Broadway composer who wanted to stretch his name across a theater marquee in order to take up as much real estate as his lyricist partner’s; hence:

SHOWBOAT with music and lyrics by
Oscar Hammerstein II
J  e  r  o  m  e   K  e  r  n

I’m interested in uncovering obscure verbiage. In fact, I’ve even come up with my own word to describe this pursuit:

  • Grammortician: someone dedicated to utilizing words that are obsolete or have fallen out of favor, such as “antimacassar,” “flibbertigibbet,” or “presidential.”

Here are some terms from a list I’ve compiled over the years, along with what I believe are the correct definitions since I have been bereft (from the French beret, meaning a jaunty cap left behind somewhere) of a dictionary ever since I mailed my copy of the OED to the White House, with certain scatological entries highlighted. (Scatological, as I’m sure you know, means “trying to make sense of all this shit.”):

Ailurophile:  the compulsion to invite someone into your apartment for some nefarious purpose

Portmanteau:  what you see when male tourists wearing sandals come ashore during a cruise.

Carphology:  the act of driving too close to the vehicle in front of you.

Disenthrall:  the feeling you have a year after voting for a clearly unqualified and disturbed political candidate

Monorchid:  a plant given as a housewarming gift to someone moving into new “bachelor’s quarters”

Paresthesia:  an unusually strong desire to travel to France

Galligaskins:  the act of reminding your cousin to fill the tank after borrowing your car for the weekend

Caruncle:  the vehicle you suggest your cousin borrow the next time they ask

Fourchettes:  (plural) often paired with giggles, as in “I just did it fourchettes and giggles.”

Probang:  historically, something that happens at a bachelor party

Metanoia: the feeling when an overly-chatty stranger won’t stop talking to you in a museum

Tittle:  a small breast

Saudade:  the father of a female pig’s brood

Teleology:  relating to the history of programmes viewed on the BBC

Jejune: the month after Muhmay

Tmesis: the act of giving a present to a female sibling

Stercoraceous: heroically offering to return natural peanut butter to a spreadable condition once it has separated in the jar

Historicity: feeling panicked in an urban environment

Umbriferous: a fear of stepping outside on a rainy day

Persiflage: attempting to make a handbag look inconspicuous

Wittol: aware of a wife’s infidelity; also, the next derogatory nickname Donald Trump will affix in a tweet

Paralipsis: something that many of the Kardashian-Jenner clan are known for

This list is by no means exhaustive, but I may have worn out my welcome by sharing this excerpt. Or, as the Greek say, I hope I have not adenoid you too much.


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