Some English words are unutterable, not for their rudeness but because to say them aloud would make you sound like a stick-in-the-mud.
No, these tasty old words (like “pickerdevant” and “susurrous”) should be savoured on the page, in the quietude of our minds, and there remain a secret, guilty pleasure.
A reason, perhaps, why these words feel so good to read but make us sound pompous when spoken is that these two worlds – of speech and writing – are so divergent.
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So much so that it is possible to damage the part of the brain responsible for one without affecting the other, a recent study found.
“It’s as though there were two quasi-independent language systems in the brain,” said lead author Professor Brenda Rapp, a cognitive scientist.
With this in mind, the author trusts that you will savour the following list of weird and wonderful words without daring to give them voice.
List of words
| ||Accismus: pretending not to want something you truly do desire|
| ||Bombinate: to make a humming or buzzing noise|
| ||Bookstaves: the letters of the alphabet|
| ||Chatoyant: like a cat’s eye|
|Cledonism: the use of superfluous words to avoid saying something that is supposedly unlucky|
| ||Crepuscular: dim or twilit|
| ||Dottle-trot: to walk with short, quick steps rather than long strides.|
| ||Ebullience: bubbling enthusiasm|
|Eusystolism: using the initial letters of profanity or an embarrassing phrase to avoid saying it in full|
| ||Fugacious: fleeting|
| ||Gazing-stock: someone at whom everyone else is staring|
| ||Huffle: a sudden gust of wind|
| ||Ingeniculation: the act of bending a knee|
| ||Inglenook: a cozy nook by the hearth|
| ||Jingbang: the entirety of something|
| ||Junkettaceous: frivolous, worthless|
| ||Mugwumpery: a total disinterest in politics|
| ||Nawlstring: a baby’s umbilical cord|
| ||Petrichor: the smell of earth after rain|
| ||Phosphenes: the lights you see when you rub your eyes|
| ||Pickerdevant: a short beard, trimmed to a point at the chin|
| ||Purpurescent: tinged with purple|
| ||Quatopygia: the enticing movement of a man or woman’s buttocks|
| ||Quinquangular: to have five sides or corners|
| ||Recumbentibus: a knockout blow|
| ||Susurrous: whispering or hissing|
| ||Syzygy: an alignment of celestial bodies|
| ||Tachygraphy: shorthand writing|
| ||Vellichor: the strange wistfulness of used bookshops|