Cromulent, embiggen, vellichor, jouska

Jouska is a hypothetical conversation that you repeat again and again in your head.

dictionary of obscure sorrowsMy friend Dan happened upon the word cromulent and a whole bunch of other unfamiliar terms. I suggested – not that he listens – that he ought to write a blog post about words. “Nah. I do Albany along with rants about politics… Words are your thing.”

From an article by Merriam-Webster: “It is safe to say that The Simpsons has contributed a great deal to the English language. One famous example is cromulent, which was coined specifically for the 1996 episode ‘Lisa the Iconoclast.’ In reference to one character’s questioning of the use of embiggen, another says ‘it’s a perfectly cromulent word.'”

Somehow I didn’t remember cromulent, although I was still watching The Simpsons regularly at the time. However, embiggen is another story. I don’t know where I heard it but I HAVE used the word, colloquially to be sure, but still.

Dan put the word “cromulent” into Google and kept clicking on definitions on the page. His spellchecker liked none of them; after this post goes live, my Grammarly score is really going to sink.

Vellichor is the strange wistfulness of used bookstores, which are somehow infused with the passage of time—filled with thousands of old books you’ll never have time to read, each of which is itself locked in its own era, bound and dated and papered over like an old room the author abandoned years ago.”

Somehow this reminds me of that 1959 Twilight Zone episode Time Enough at Last with Burgess Meredith.

Jouska is a hypothetical conversation that you repeat again and again in your head. For example, replaying an argument in your head where you say all the right things and ‘win’ the argument.” I used to do it frequently.

Also check out chrysalism, occhiolism, and kairosclerosis. All of them, plus vellichor and jouska, appear in The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.

What the heck is THAT? It is a Tumblr and YouTube channel that give us words that don’t exist in the English language but definitely should.

“The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is a compendium of invented words written by John Koenig. Each original definition aims to fill a hole in the language—to give a name to emotions we all might experience but don’t yet have a word for.

“The author’s mission is to capture the aches, demons, vibes, joys and urges that roam the wilderness of the psychological interior. Then release them gently back into the subconscious.”

Going to the site, I’m informed that an actual book will soon exist, from Simon & Schuster, and I may very well have to buy it.

I’m just a soul whose intentions are good

If this had happened some years ago, I would been mortified, and probably depressed, for days.

There’s an article, Quoof and other family nonsense, which is about the mispronunciation of words, both intentional and otherwise. I have done both.

There are a slew of words I simply cannot spell unless I say them – sometimes in my head but occasionally aloud, albeit in fun – the way they are spelled. For instance, I’d say epitome is EP-i-tome, not e-PIT-o- me; facade is fa-CADE, rather than fa-SAHD . And my favorite word, because it has all the vowels in alphabetical order, is facetious, which I like to do as FACE-tious, rather than fa-SEE-shus; it also works with the adverb form, by adding the -ly.

But one word I simply had never said aloud was omniscience, which I knew from reading, often religious books, meant the state of knowing everything. When I saw it, I thought OM-ni-science. Now I could, and have, pronounced omniscient, and so I knew the emphasis was on the second syllable. But that last syllable confounded me.

I discovered this on Mother’s Day, when the youth of the church was running the services. So, instead of going to choir, I attended Christian education for the adults. Folks took turn reading this paper written by the leader, my friend Grace, about “Exploring the nature of God and the existence of suffering in the world.”

The word omniscience showed up, not once but about five times. After I butchered it a few times, someone said aloud, “om-NI-shents”, and the brain said, OK. Truth is, if this had happened some years ago, I would been mortified, and probably depressed, for days, or probably longer.

During the church service, two of our church high schoolers gave the sermon on diversity fighting hatred. One of them was Sofia, the daughter of the Transitional Presbyter for Albany Presbytery – well, not for too much longer. So I jokingly say to Pastor Miriam, in front of Shannan the Presbyter, “So we got someone to take your [preaching] job.” But I was misunderstood, with both of them thinking I wanted to get rid of Pastor Miriam, instead of sideways complimenting Sofia. I so hate being misunderstood.

And since Eric Burdon’s birthday was this month, it’s time for a #15 song in the US in 1965 by the Animals, oh, Lord, Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.

Good day: asylee, bamboozled, storyline

“Persecution or the fear thereof must be based on the alien’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

This is what makes a good day: learning something new. Often it’s at work, but not always.

I was doing some research on demographics. I could NOT find what I wanted at the Census, so I looked on the page for the Department of Homeland Security. I discovered a word that was new to me: asylee. My spellcheck does NOT like it.

USCIS’ somewhat skewed definition: “An alien in the United States or at a port of entry who is found to be unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality, or to seek the protection of that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution. Persecution or the fear thereof must be based on the alien’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. For persons with no nationality, the country of nationality is considered to be the country in which the alien last habitually resided. Asylees are eligible to adjust to lawful permanent resident status after one year of continuous presence in the United States. These immigrants are limited to 10,000 adjustments per fiscal year.”

The difference between a person seeking refugee status and asylum status you can check out here; the distinction is narrow. The dictionary definition of asylee is merely “a person who is seeking or has been granted political asylum.”

That day, Facebook decided that I might want to repost something from five years ago, and I, unusually, actually did. The item received more likes this time around than it did in 2012, maybe because it’s even more true:

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”
― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

On my way home on the bus that night, I hear the guy behind me talking, ending with “I try not to f@#& too many of the shanks in the apartment building.” I figure he’s some sort of lowlife scum.

But then I hear, in an odd mechanical male voice, “I try not to f@#& too many of the shanks in the apartment building,” which is oddly amusing. And then he sends the audio file to someone, I believe to himself. Is he some sort of writer? If you find that line in a book published in the next couple years, or hear it in a movie theater near you, know it was created and dictated on the CDTA 905 bus.

F is for farpotshket (ABC W)

Can you think of a word that sounds more complicated, muddled and frustrated than farpotshket?

Better Than English: Untranslatable Words defines the Yiddish word farpotshket as “Something that is all fouled up, especially as the result of attempts to fix it–repeatedly making something worse while trying to fix it.” It is pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable.

This term rather well described me when I took wood shop in 7th and 8th grade. Continue reading “F is for farpotshket (ABC W)”

Z is for words that start with Z

The only four letter word that I did not know but that had a definition was zarf

zigzagBereft of an appropriate topic for the week, I went to the Wordfinder Words that Start with Z, which “can help you score big playing Words With Friends® and Scrabble®.”

I started with the one two-letter word, za: Shortening and alteration of pizza.
Our Living Language: When people speak casually of ordering a za, “pizza,” they are unwittingly producing an expression Continue reading “Z is for words that start with Z”