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The world of wacky words

Published: 
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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