Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I recently watched the movie "Love Happens," with Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart (ehh film, though I do think Eckhart is a terribly underrated or, at least, often overlooked actor. But I digress). One quirky facet of the Aniston character was that she enjoyed finding obscure words and writing them on walls behind paintings in a hotel.

Now, I've never actually defaced hotel walls with words like "quidnunc," but I do recognize the impulse to discover and share such vocabulary. I am an admirer of esoteric terms (I've been known to read medical dictionaries for fun, which also feeds into another fascination of mine: Level 4 viruses. But, again, I digress). Mostly, however, I am a connoisseur of rarely-used and somewhat peculiar words that, in a more colorful world, would be of a more commonplace usage.

I suppose that's not going to happen unless quite talented screenwriters start supplying us with our daily conversations. Or Joss Whedon becomes ruler of the universe.

Until that day comes, here are just some of the marvelous words that actually have relevance in everyday life but I'm unlikely to hear:

mendacity, n., an instance of lying (thanks to Tennessee Williams, it's more familiar than it otherwise might have been)

perspicacious, adj., having keen mental perception and understanding

abattoir, n., a lovely-looking word that unfortunately means slaughterhouse (OK, most people don't encounter an abattoir often and have no need to utter the word, but how pretty is that term for such a bloody thing?)

malversation, n., corrupt behavior in a position of trust (how is this not widely used?)

quondam, adj., onetime, former 

pulchritudinous, n., beautiful (of course, if you tell a woman she's pulchritudinous, she might not appreciate it - onomatopoeia doesn't apply in this case.) 

rhabdomancy, n., the use of a divining rod for discovering subterranean water (Granny Clampett had the skill, although I never once heard Jethro call it that. And no, I don't know a single person who might need to use this in real life, but come on ... it's a really cool word.)

 quotidian, adj., daily; commonplace, ordinary, trivial

sybarite, n., a person devoted to luxury and pleasure (should have been used when Enterprise crew visited Risa)

onanistic, adj., (look it up)

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