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The world of wacky words

Monday, September 22, 2014

“You have weak mandibles,” the dentist told me, sorrowfully. “Good teeth, though.”

He had first mentioned my mandibles more than 20 years ago and I scowled because “mandibles” sounded like something a grasshopper would have.

Weak mandibles mean that, genetically, I was at the end of line when dental blessings were being handed out. Nothing I could do about the wimpiness of my jawbones, except see a specialist twice a year and hope for the best. 

Meanwhile, I am adding “mandibles” to my list of Names For Things I Never Thought I Would Need to Know.

The other latest additions include pipette, which is not a cute diminutive pet name for a close friend whose real name is Philippa but a tiny tube used to give babies medicine; and douter, which is the name for that long-stemmed thing used to put out candles; and aiglet, the plastic keepsafe at the end of shoelaces, which was taught to me by an over-achieving eight-year-old girl last week, who has a hobby of learning five new words a day. 

Being word-shamed by a mini genius with a dictionary is not my idea of a good time. 

So take this, my little future island scholar: The Monday List of Names for Things You Had No Idea You Wanted To Know:

1 Peen—not a French urinal, but rather the end opposite a hammer’s striking side.

2 Feat—the dangling piece of a lock of curly hair. Shouldn’t that be curlicue?

3 Wamble—the sound of a stomach rumbling. (Now somebody is just making this stuff up and having a joke on the rest of us.)

4 Floaters—the specks you see in front of your eyes that you try to swat away thinking they are insects.

5 Ferrule—the metal part of a pencil that crammers chew down on during exams.

6 Glabella—the space between your eyebrows, which should be waxed if there is no space.

7 Rhumba—a group of rattlesnakes, which is almost as important to know as a “murder of crows.” This could actually be a handy word to drop at parties, as in “That man should not be trusted any more than a rhumba,’’ and then wink conspiratorially and walk away.

8 Grawlix—the string of meaningless symbols cartoonists use to represent colourful language, as in “What the *&%#@ is grawlix?”

9 Barm—the foam on a beer, which might account for the British slang “barmy,” meaning crazy.

10 And my all-time favourite, overmorrow—the day after tomorrow, which sounds like something a leprechaun would say instead of “Goodbye,” as he skips along a rainbow.

• Send me your wacky words at [email protected]


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