Friday, July 6, 2012

5 Words You Always Wished Existed

Have you ever tried to describe something and just wished there was an actual word for it? As I've been learning French, it's started to become increasingly clear how many words we're missing in the English language. For instance, a plural "you." (The Southerners were awfully innovative with "ya'll," but...we're not going to go there.) There are countless words that seem to be missing from English.

Personally, I would like there to be multiple words for the idea of "love." I think there should be different words each for familial love, friend love, and romantic love. And maybe another separate word for a love for things or loving to do something. As it is, I constantly declare that I "love" the cat down the street that I've seen twice, the computer lab on campus, my professors, the manager of my complex, reading classics, and my roommates. What do all these things have in common? ...Well, nothing, really. I don't love my professors in the same way as I love the cat down the street. In fact, I feel totally differently toward each of them. So why must I use the same word for a different feeling?

Photo by Mauro Cateb
A guy named Gelett Burgess understood this sort of experience, and he decided to take action. He realized that there are lots of concepts that we talk about all the time and need words for, so what did he do? He came up with new words, of course!

Unfortunately, this valiant endeavor was rewarded with very little attention. Out of the 100 words that Burgess proposed, only one of them survived and is actually used: blurb. (However, it's not used exactly the way Burgess originally intended. The original definition: "Praise from oneself, inspired laudation.")

Some of Burgess' words seem like they would actually be pretty useful. (Find the full text of his book here.) For example:

Gixlet: One who has more heart than brains, an entertainer. 

...I know several gixlets. Maybe it's a good thing it's not a real word...

Or how about this one?

Oofle: a person whose name one cannot remember; to forget. 

I confess, there was an oofle in my class today. I really shouldn't have oofled, since he's been in my class for two weeks already. I was pretty sure his name was Tony... I kept hoping the teacher would call on him or something. Finally I asked him. It was Tim, not Tony. But I'll still probably call him Tony next week.

Here's one of my favorites:

Wumgush: women's insincere flattery of each other. 

Wumgush is everywhere. It can't be escaped.

Here's another winner:

Tashivation: the art of answering without listening to questions. 

I tashivate in French class. All the time. But I'm not very good at it. My main answer is "oui"...which, needless to say, does not always work.

But my all-time favorite is this one:

Tintiddle: an imaginary conversation; wit coming too late. 

Yep. We would ALL use that word, wouldn't we? Tintiddle happens to me all the time!

See any words you like? Start using them! And don't worry about looking like a doofus. After all, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Language change can start with you. Just a few minutes of looking like a doofus a day might save millions, one day, from having to use multiple words, instead of just one, to describe their tintiddle.


  1. These are fun words! But maybe Burgess would have had more success in getting his words adopted if they were less silly-sounding.

    I have a hard time using unusual words, even real ones. It's an unfortunate problem that I didn't have when I was young. I think it came about because I started to realize how many words I was mispronouncing because I only knew them from reading. I never heard anyone pronounce them! Now I tend to dumb down my speech so I only use common words. For example, I'll describe symptoms to my doctor in layman's terms even though I have thoroughly Googled my condition and I could just tell her that I have the symptoms of (fill in the blank). Then she'll tell me that those symptoms mean I have (blank), and I'll nod like I just learned something. (I still think it's a good idea to run things by my doctor instead of diagnosing myself, but I kind of wish she realized that I actually know a lot of medical terminology.)

    1. That's really funny! I was that way when I was a kid. I think there are still words that I've convinced myself I pronounce correctly and I really...don't.

      Also, I bet your doctor would be overjoyed to find out that you know as much as you do and that you actually care enough about your health to do your own research!

    2. If it makes you feel any better, my English teacher pronounces words wrong on a daily basis, and I check every time, because I think, "Oh, he's an English teacher; he knows this kind of stuff," but really everyone just does their thing, and that's okay. The fact that he doesn't know the correct pronunciation doesn't, in my mind, detract at all from the message that he's trying to convey, because thoughts are ideas in the first place and not words. Thanks for the post! It was really interesting!

    3. Haha! Maybe a lot more people pronounce words wrong than I ever thought...