Some Unconventional Words

My friend and colleague Christine Lindberg is a senior editor of dictionaries and reference books at Oxford University Press—my nickname for her is “Wise One.”  She also writes a bi-weekly language column called  Let’s Look at the Language for a local newspaper near her home in upstate New York. One of her New Year’s resolutions was to choose twelve unusual words and use one in a column each month.

The words are:

digitabulist—n.    a person who collects thimbles
ensorcell—v.  to enchant or fascinate
fricative—n. or adj.   the sound of consonants such as f and th
gaberlunzie—n.   a strolling beggar of medieval Scots origin
haruspex—n.   a religious official in ancient Rome who interpreted omens by inspecting the entrails of sacrificed animals
longanimous—adj.   long-suffering, patient
noisome—adj.   smelly (a word frequently mistaken to mean noisy)
salvific—adj.   leading to salvation
scop—n.   an Old English poet or minstrel
treen—n.   articles, usually antique, made of wood
ugsome—adj.   a Scottish expression for horrible or loathsome
Usonian—adj.   relating to the United States

What word nerd could resist writing a bit of flash fiction using all of these delicious words? Not I.


Trust me, as a longanimous Usonian digitabulist, I know what hard times are. I have little choice but to embark upon a salvific journey, hoping for enlightenment. First stop, town haruspex, of course, who predicts an ugsome odyssey and hands me some sticky, noisome treen he claims has the power to ensorcell—which I don’t believe for a minute, but I thank him politely as it’s expected.

Weary and disoriented after a month’s peregrination, I seek guidance from a group of scops. Entertaining, yes—but by their refusal to communicate in anything but iambic pentameter, they simply confuse me further. I toss them the treen. “Fricative!” I cry. Am I doomed to the life of a gaberlunzie for eternity?


24 responses to “Some Unconventional Words

  1. Reading the list how many could you imagine being used in everyday conversation? Bet they are useful for scrabble though! 🙂

  2. Wow – what a creation! I’ll bet it took you all of 5 to 10 minutes, if I’m any judge of verbosity. Actually I was familiar with “salvific,” coming from a religious background, and “treen,” since I devour home decor books from cover to cover. My favorite of this list is “gaberlunzie.” It has a great rhythmic sound. By the way I want to put you on to a terrific artist who is one of a kind – Greta Gretzinger of Jackson Hole, Wyo. I think you’ll get her and what she’s all about. Maybe you have heard of her. Have a lovely evening!

  3. So they still use the word treen? I thought it was sort of obsolete. Next time you see it, could you give me an example? We’re interested in modern citations of the word.

    It’s weird that the less generic the words, the easier it is to write something.

    I’ll check out the artist you suggested, thanks for writing!

  4. My suggestion is to google up the word “treen,” a lot of stuff using the word came up. In particular I noticed a piece about Steven S. Powers, and also a company called “Unique Treen,” really beautiful stuff. The word is used quite often in country home decor publications!
    I still can’t stop saying “gaberlunzie.” It has real appeal to the ear.

  5. OOOOOH I just thought of another favorite word of mine that no one hears any more – “rhodomontade” – vain boasting.
    Oh, this is going to be fun. You shouldn’t have gotten me started!

  6. We have that as ‘rodomontade,’ which probably makes more sense as “rhodo” is the prefix for ‘rose’ or ‘rose-colored’ (rhododendron, etc.)

    Great word though, new to me!

  7. the word of me

    I have a big smile on my face…great work. 🙂

  8. Loved it! Great work and great idea. I am happy to say that I at least wasn’t completely ignorant, I did know the words: ensorcell, fricative, haruspex, langanimous, scop, treen and ugsome.

    Longanimous I’ve even used in a conversation with my brother a few weeks ago! Yes, we are word geeks I suppose. My father was a woodworker so that is why I had heard the word treen before, must be common in those circles I suppose.

    On an entirely different note, are any other WordPress users having trouble signing in? I have not been able to sign in for the last two days!

    • Yay, WordPress is back! Withdrawal symptoms abating! Hives gone!

      I think treen is more common than I thought, what a great word. Our house is made from recycled treen!

      Word geeks are so much fun to talk to, they get it. I keep reading we should all use everyday words in our writing, I guess because most folks fear dictionaries. I even read a post a while back where someone criticized thesauruses as being unnecessary! Sheesh!

  9. This is so adorable!

    I had to take my own little peregrination over to to find out what an iambic pentameter was. : )

  10. Thanks! Really fun. Bless all of you lovers of language, you’re the best!

  11. Could not stop laughing about the fact that you actually put all these together in a coherent (I think given I did not recognize one of these words) writing piece. Now, I have to remember at least one of these. Who the heck thought of a word for someone collects thimbles?! Thanks. I’m still smiling.

  12. Hi Bill, your assignment for this week is to use one of these words each day!

  13. wow, alot of big words, now for one of my own, i made it up. Quizilogicol-cenundrum. Anything as confusing as a list of twelve really long words :D. It was fun to read.

  14. Ha ha, Jeremy, cute. The prefix for 12 is dodeca (like a dodecahedron) whereas cen is the prefix for 100—so quizilogical-dodeconundrum would make perfect sense! There’s your word lesson for today, tune in next week for more. Thanks for writing!

  15. Love, love, love it! Will share with other wordsmythes as I meander through the countryside.

  16. I have to admit, this post is awesome! 🙂 I’m going to start using some of these words regularly. “Ugsome” will get a lot of work! I also know a digitabulist who probably doesn’t know that is what they are.

    • Hi Thomas,

      You actually know a digitabulist?

      OK I can’t resist…digitabulists are awesome, but literally have issues. How will they ever utilize them? Someday their heirs will be lamenting “we, like, have a multi-pronged thimble situation that is not sustainable, but no worries, at least they’re eco-friendly! So much for Mom’s branding!”
      Words that Should be Given a Rest

      • Well said, I would agree that the digitabulist’s longanimous family, unable to find a haruspex to tell them if there is any chance of a gaberlunzie appearing to take the noisome agglomeration off their hands will be using a non-salvific fricative word before long!

  17. I have had a web site for more than 10 years which was always headed up as Welcome to Ed Frey’s Website. When I started to travel as a Fulltimer I added The Peregrinating Graybeard as a heading for each blog entry.

    It was good to see someone else use peregrination. We will bring it back ito common usage!

    • There is a disturbing trend I see among writers who claim they don’t believe in using “fancy” words. Yes they actually call them “fancy.” This is just ridiculous and contributes to our global dumb-down. For goodness sake where do they think the word peregrine falcon came from?

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