Friday, February 8, 2013

There's No Buncombe About It

Post by Kerrie

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading the paper and came across the headline, "University Selects Most Useful Yet Underused Words This Year." It definitely caught my attention for a couple of reasons. First I was curious what words were chosen. Then I thought, if I use these words more consistently in my writing will it make me sound smarter and more sophisticated? Finally, I wondered who in the world had time to sort through the dictionary every year to come up with this kind of list--then I realized, it was probably a writer finding ways to avoid writing.

It turns out Each year Wayne State University creates their list for the top ten most useful and underused words in the English Language. Jerry Herron, a dean at the university and three of his colleagues came up with the idea for this list 5 years ago when they created the Wayne State Word Warriors program. Their goal was and still is,  to encourage people to experience the joys of the English language.

Here are this year's words:

• Buncombe – Rubbish; nonsense; empty or misleading talk.

• Cerulean – The blue of the sky.

• Chelonian ­– Like a turtle.

• Dragoon – To compel by coercion; to force someone to do something they’d rather not.

• Fantods – Extreme anxiety, distress, nervousness or irritability.

• Mawkish – Excessively sentimental; sappy; hopelessly trite.

• Natter – To talk aimlessly, often at great length; rarely, it means simply to converse.

• Persiflage – Banter; frivolous talk.

• Troglodyte – Literally, a cave-dweller. More frequently a backward, mentally sluggish person.

• Winkle – To pry out or extract something; from the process of removing the snail from an edible periwinkle.

Which word on the list do you like the best? Can you use it in a sentence?


RichardK said...

Just did so on Twitter: Not to get mawkish, but this list of underused words is pure persiflage

Rini K said...

Hm, I wonder if it is significant that I actually know half the words on there, and used a couple of them. Must be because I am into fantasy :) I am actually surprised at cerulean being on that list.

Kerrie said...

Wow Rich, you got two words into one sentence. Rini, I was surprised as well to find cerulean on the list.

I really like the word Winkle.

Jerry Eckert said...

Natter is very common, I thought. I use it all the time to describe some the constant stream of blather I hear in some places. Usually followed by "on."
For extra credit, who remembers the elected official who put "troglodyte" into the national vernacular.

Carol Kilgore said...

I see cerulean, mawkish, natter, and troglodyte used from time to time. I've never heard of the others until now. I do see that I write with chelonian speed. Sigh :)

Kerrie said...

Jerry, except for cerulean, the other words were new to me, but I do like them.
Carol, I like the idea of chelonian speed. :-)

diane bucci said...

I think it's unanimous that cerulean should not have been included on that list. How about the color virescent? On the other hand, how much time would it take these guys to go through the whole dictionary to come up with underused words, when they do have other duties as educators which they’re getting paid to be doing? So kudos to them for attempting to expand our vocabulary! Cool article, thank you!

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