15 New Words


In writing I am seduced by the sound of words and by the interaction of their sound and sense.

— Barbara Tuchman in Practicing History

I read all books—even borrowed ones—with a soft-leaded pencil in my hand. When I come across a word I don’t know I put a √ in the margin. When I copy quotes into my journal, I add the words I’ve learned. I also add to my collection of be– words (beguiled, bewhiskered, betake, etc.), but that’s a story for another day.

Here are a few of my favorite 2013 additions to my treasure chest of words:

taradiddles — lies
shrammed — benumbed with cold
virago — loud, overbearing woman

flibbertigibbet — silly, flighty person
semaphores — visual signaling with flags or light
boulevardier — man who strolls on Paris boulevard

billyho — unimaginable large amount
fortnight — contraction for “fourteen nights”
carnival = carne vale = goodbye meat

aptronymic — suitably named
debouched — to cause to emerge
snuggery — a snug, cozy place

smeddum — spirit, energy, determination
plaint — expression of grief
puling — whining, whimpering, crying plaintively


5 thoughts on “15 New Words

  1. The 1970s era animated movie of Charlotte’s Web with Debbie Reynolds (Charlotte), Paul Lynde (Templeton), and Agnes Morehead (the mama goose) used flibbertigibbet. The goose once declared, “I’m no flibberti-ibberti-gibbet!” All of her speech was like that — it was so funny.

    • I will have to see if YouTube has that clip. I grew up without a TV and wasn’t allowed to go to movies, so there are many references that I miss. This summer, I heard “in the all together” (meaning nekkid) for the first time. All sorts of friends reminded me that it was in a Disney movie.Ah, well.

  2. Snuggery…have you been reading Dickens? One of my favourite all time ‘new’ words is pusillanimous (from Scottish Chiefs by Jane Porter) but I have great difficulty saying it.

    • I found snuggery in Miss Read (Under the Oak, I believe). I’ve dipped into Scottish Chiefs a few times, but have never read it through. Your comment reminds me that I want to do that.

      I just listened to the Miriam-Webster dictionary pronunciation of pusillanimous. I never know if the first syllable sounds like “pew” or “poo”. (It is “pew”). But it is a great word.

  3. Pingback: Saturday Review of Books: January 4, 2014 | Semicolon

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