Category Archives: Fancy Words

Darn you, King James!

Attention Citizens of Earth!

The passage from the King James Bible that says “Suffer the little children to come unto me” — often unfortunately abbreviated to “Suffer the little children” — does NOT mean that little children do, will, should, or must suffer!

Way back in the day, “suffer” meant “allow” — in current parlance, one might equate it to “put up with.”

So the gospel writer reports Jesus saying, presumably to their parents, “Allow the little children to come over here.” That’s all!

The truly sad part? I most recently saw this in not one but TWO different volumes of a mystery series I otherwise enjoyed very much so I won’t tell you the author’s name. But it’s set in 1560, and the character who says it is an educated man who would certainly have known what “suffer” meant in that context. Fie, for shame, churl!

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Filed under DfW Holds Forth!, Etymology, Fancy Words, The History of Language

World Wide Words Newsletter: 13 Apr 2013

Michael Quinlon on the word “Scrumptious”:

We commonly use this to refer to some especially appetising item of food or a very attractive person. Roald Dahl, who wrote the script for the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, felt it was appropriate for the character Truly Scrumptious, which must be in contention with Pussy Galore for the worst-ever* invented female movie name.

Critics have not been kind to scrumptious. In 1921, H L Mencken described it as an “artificial word”, lumping it with sockdolager, hunky-dory, spondulix, slumgullion and similar creations of American linguistic ingenuity. In his Dictionary of Modern English Usage in 1926, H W Fowler classed it as a “facetious formation”.

Many dictionaries just say “origin unknown” or “origin uncertain”, not wanting to engage in complicated but ultimately unsatisfying discussions about etymology. This writer has no such qualms.

via World Wide Words Newsletter: 13 Apr 2013.

*or BEST-ever, depending on your perspective.

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Filed under Etymology, Fancy Words, Nerd Candy, Wordy Websites

Omnivoracious: Unnecessary Words, Blah Words, and Just Plain Wrong Words

Excellent advice from Excellent writer Susan J. Morris:

“There are some things you want to be invisible, like panty lines, pet hair (that’s taken up residence on your shirt), and pimples. And there are other things you definitely don’t want invisible, like doors, fast-moving cars, and your pants. One of the jobs of a writer is to successfully sort things into those two camps, and assign words accordingly. Otherwise, you end up with plenty of panty lines, pet hair, and pimples, but no pants, as you slam into an invisible door, fall, and are painfully but not fatally run over by . . . something. Look, it had tires, if the tracks on your shirt are any indication, but after that, you really have no idea.”

via Omnivoracious: Unnecessary Words, Blah Words, and Just Plain Wrong Words.

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Filed under Fancy Words, Nerd Candy, Writing and Writers

Dictionary of American Regional English Reaches Last Volume –

Joan Houston Hall, chief editor of the Dictionary of American Regional English, still remembers the day back in the late 1990s when she typed “scrid” into Google.

The word, meaning scrap or bit, was to be listed in the dictionary as a purely New England piece of vocabulary traceable to 1860. But suddenly there it was on the Web site of a lathe maker in California.

“I thought, ‘Oh no! This regionalism has jumped the country,’ ” Ms. Hall recalled recently in a telephone interview from her office at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She e-mailed the lathe maker, who wrote back saying he had learned the word from his girlfriend, who was from Maine. A “nice, tight regionalism,” as Ms. Hall put it, was saved.

Such was a particularly nerve-racking day in the life of one of America’s most ambitious lexicographical projects, which culminates with the publication by Harvard University Press of Volume V (Sl-Z) next month, a mere 50 years after the project was inaugurated by Frederic G. Cassidy, an exuberant Jamaican-born linguist given to signing off conversations with “On to Z!”

via Dictionary of American Regional English Reaches Last Volume –

As a New Englander myself, I can attest to the use of “scrid,” although we always said something more like “scridge,” as in, “pick up all those little scridgies on the floor.”

I know, thrilling, but I LOVE regionalisms; they’re wicked awesome! As an editor, I find myself asking clients about regionalisms all the time, especially the southern usages of “anymore” and “whenever.”

And if you don’t know what those usages might be, you need to go order these books, now don’t you? Only set you back about $500!

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Filed under Extra! Extra!, Fancy Words, Nerd Candy

Wordy Awesomeness of the Day

Today’s wordy awesomeness from Mike Reeves-McMillan, a writer from Auckland, New Zealand. Rumor has it he does the Haka (Maori war dance) off his front porch every morning. His neighbors declined to comment.


Mike Reeves-McMillan12:03 AM  –  Public
From the current WIP. A debate is going on about where to put some refugees.
“So the Tussocklands are unclaimed territory?”
“Completely unclaimed. Nobody wants them, and as at now, nobody has them.”
“They sound ideal.”
“Well, except for the tussock flies.”
“Tussock flies,” said the general.
“Yes, they bite, I’m told.”
“Bite? What do they eat normally?”
“Tussock birds, I imagine.”
“And could we eat these tussock birds?”
“They taste unpleasantly of tussock.”
“Wonderful. And, of course, the military are going to be encamped there longer than anyone.”
“I keep you around for your keen ability to predict strategic situations,” said Determined.
Got some Wordy Awesomeness you’d like to share? Click the “Contact” link and send it right along! Who knows, you might be awesome enough to be featured in a Dispatch from Wordnerdia!

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June 21, 2012 · 1:55 pm

11 Ways to Bore the Boots Off Your Readers | Copyblogger

This is dead on.

Some of the advice — for example, “be charming” and “don’t be too original” — is a bit nuanced for writers just trying to get it done already– I’d say they’re Level II. Level I is solid: Use short sentences, and omit every word you can.

I would, however, like to point out that SOME bloggers use convoluted sentences and sesquipedalian vocabulary NOT in the vain hope of being perceived as more intelligent than they really are, but because, as Dr. Seuss would have it, “These things are fun. And fun is good.”

image of bored man

11 Ways to Bore the Boots Off Your Readers

The 11 most common mistakes bloggers make that bore the hell out of their readers. And of course, if you prefer to engage, entertain, and entice your readers … just turn these around, and make your content really work.

via 11 Ways to Bore the Boots Off Your Readers | Copyblogger.



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Filed under Extra! Extra!, Fancy Words, Nerd Candy, Wordy Websites

Rhetoric in Haiku: Alliteration

First sound, recurrent
like waves upon the water:
rise, retreat, repeat.

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Filed under Fancy Words, Rhetoric

Exactly how many words do you, you know, like, NEED?

The 100 most-used words in the English language make up 50% of all written material. Twenty-five nouns, twenty-five verbs, twenty-six adjectives and fourteen prepositions grant you an astounding command of the language.

good words (right order) » Use Words As If You Were Paying For Them.

And what are these magical words?


1.      person

2.     year

3.     way

4.     day

5.     thing

6.     man

7.     world

8.     life

9.     hand


11.   child

12.  eye

13.  woman

14.  place

15.  work

16.  week

17.  case

18.  point

19.  government

21.  number




1.      be

2.     have

3.     do

4.     say

5.     get

6.     make

7.     go

8.     know

9.     take


11.   come

12.  think

13.  look

14.  want

15.  give

16.  use

17.  find

18.  tell

19.  ask

21.  seem





1.      good

2.     new

3.     first

4.     last

5.     long

6.     great

7.     little

8.     own

9.     other


11.   right

12.  big

13.  high

14.  different

15.  small

16.  large

17.  next

18.  early

19.  young


21.  few






1.      to

2.     of

3.     in

4.     for

5.     on

6.     with

7.     at

8.     by

9.     from


11.   about

12.  into

13.  over

14.  after

15.  beneath

16.  under

17.  above

 NOW the question is: what percentage of that 50% is worth reading?

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Filed under Fancy Words, The Science of Language

Use Fancy Words!

‘Avoid Fancy Words’ is one of the injunctions in ‘The Elements of Style’. The British novelist Will Self…

Will Self
(this guy, who is cordially invited for tea and banter)

says he has often been criticized by readers who, whether they absorbed the lesson from Strunk and White or not, take the sentiment as gospel:

‘“I have to look them up in a dictionary”, they complain – as if this were some kind of torture.’

‘[W]e are repeatedly told … that athletes capable of the most difficult feats offer vital inspiration to couch-potato kids,’ Self writes. ‘Let the same be the case for mental athletics, because without the bar to jump over set high, we’ll all end up simply playing in the sandpit.’

*The piece is transcribed from a radio feature.

Will Self: Use Fancy Words – Ideas Market – WSJ.

Extra Nerd Points! 

What two elements of the content above indicate that this text originally came from a UK publication? I’ll give you a hint:  “British novelist” doesn’t count.

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Filed under Extra! Extra!, Fancy Words, Slap Fight!

World Wide Words

Greatness to which I can only aspire!

About World Wide Words

“The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or change their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least some part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, the background to words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.”

Michael Quinion, via World Wide Words

I know what you’re thinking. “That sounds too good to be true, Deb. There’s no way it can be as magnificent as it sounds.”

Well if you’re unsure, why not divine the answer via Catoptromancy?

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Filed under Extra! Extra!, Fancy Words, Wordy Websites