Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What A Wonderful Word Vol. III: The Phrygian Mode

Yes, folks. It’s that time once again. It is time to learn some new words and hopefully inspire new laughs. I truly never expected to be typing a third installment to this series when I wrote the first one. I am actually working on a fourth list (consider yourself warned).
For those who may be unfamiliar with these installments, allow me to reiterate the rules of making such a list. First, it must be a real word that can be found in the dictionary (I used several dictionary sources). Secondly, keeping in the spirit of my blog, it must be family friendly. Lastly, if you could imagine Tigger saying the word, it had a good chance of making the list. The list has exactly 18 words. There are two main reasons for this number. First, the original list had 18 words. Secondly, keeping such a specific number in mind makes the challenge more interesting to me. With that in mind, here comes the third set of 18.
  • abibliophobia – This word is truly a mouthful. Abibliophobia is the fear of running out of things to read. People spend there daily lives facing this fear as they glance at the ingredients list on the cereal box and stock that top drawer in the bathroom vanity. Since, I feel that abibliophobia drives the avoidance of an awful state, please consider this installment my contribution to the cause. You’re welcome.
  • bric-a-brac - Bric-a-brac is a collection of small trinkets and items that are kept for sentimental reason or to provide some small decorative value. For example, my office space has several guitars, a mandolin, two harmonica sets, a chord chart, a pair of chrome dumb bells, a miniature basketball, and a Hank Aaron figurine. Each of these items gives my office space a special look and feel. However, these items hold value to no one but me. Such a list of items epitomize bric-a-brac. More importantly, if a young child says “bric-a-brac” repeatedly while seated in the back seat of a car, it will drive his parents bonkers. You’re welcome, Mom and Dad.
  • burgle – I chose this word because, since it sounds so silly, people seldom use it. If used, people will repeat the word in confused wonder. It means to break into a building and steal something. It’s what a burglar does. It is synonymous with the word burglarize. Try to imagine the following phone conversation: “911, what’s your emergency?” “Yes, I need the police. My home has been burgled.” “Burgled?…Burgled?..(snicker snicker)”.
  • canoodle – I must say, as funny as this word sounds, it is a strange euphemism to me. The word means to kiss or hold someone in a romantic fashion. One could just say that they saw a couple holding hands or kissing. Instead one says canoodling because it sounds like a 4th grader saw the couple. Still I can imagine the following text in a news bulletin: “…apparently while the man was a block away canoodling with his wife, their home was burgled. The couple is devastated as, along with other bric-a-brac, many books were stolen leaving the couple in a state of acute abibliophobia.”
  • disheveled – This word means to have a raggedy or unkempt appearance. One of the reasons I find this word so amusing is that you never hear the anyone use the apparent opposite of this word. Imagine the stares you would get if you told a neatly dressed person” You look particularly heveled today.”
  • donnybrook – I love this word not only because it has a funny sound (and it somewhat outdated). I also like it because it sounds nothing like what it describes. To me it sounds like some small body of water near a park.It actually describes a nasty fight. It synonyms include the words fracas and free-for-all. “….local police had to break up the nasty donnybrook that occurred between neighborhood residents and the alleged criminal that burgled the several house in the area. (Burgled?)”
  • gadzookery – When I told my daughter I was working on the word gadzookery, she offered me a tissue. The word refers to the use of archaic terms such as one might find in a historical novel. It is also a good word for a young child to repeat endlessly when his parents have warned him against saying “bric-a-brac” one more time. Once again, you’re welcome, Mom and Dad.
  • jalopy – Once again, discussing words with my daughter proved amusing. When I told her the next word was jalopy, she asked: “You mean the fruit?” I have no idea what fruit sounds like jalopy but I was too busy giggling to find out. The word refers to an old, decrepit automobile. I am reminded of a late 1960’s Ford Falcon my family owned when I was in high school (in the mid 1980’s). The floorboard had sheet metal to repair a rust hole. Stopping the car required planning at least five blocks in advance. It had an equalizer connected to the radio which dangled precariously by mangled brackets after it shorted out and my brother punched it. Man, I LOVED driving around in that thing.
  • jocularity – This word has a great use. It refers to the tendency to behave in a facetious or joking manner. A good illustration is the young child who faces a firm discipline from his red-faced parents for his constant uttering of the words bric-a-brac and gadzookery. He can now shout jocularity over and over again and, in doing so, show that he understands what the word means. Really, Mom and Dad, the pleasure is all mine.
  • panjandrum – I have never used this word in my life. I really wish I had discovered this word much earlier in my life. I can think of so many people I could have described with that word. It is used to describe a person who feels themselves to be very self-important. Imagine an 8th grade student council president who insists on walking with a security detail, seeing other students by appointment only, and plugging his recently published book which is available on Amazon. This person can be described as a pompous and pedantic panjandrum.
  • paraprosdokian – I am not sure I could ever use this word as I would have far too much trouble saying it correctly. Still, it sounds far too amusing to omit it from the list. The word, from its Greek roots mean “beyond expectation”. It refers to a story that has an concludes in an unexpected fashion given its establishing storyline up to that point. O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi provides a great example of such a story (and a great illustration of a couple’s sacrificial love). See, Mom and Dad, I am teaching your kid some new words AND providing him with a piece of classic writing. Again, YOU ARE WELCOME! Now chill out a little.
  • popinjay – I would almost welcome any future opportunity to use this word just because it sounds funny AND pretentious. The word refers to a self important person who is prone to empty chatter. Again, my mind wanders to the following: “Larry Lawson (who was normally a nervous Nellie), upon the procurement of the presidential position, promptly presented himself to be a pompous, pedantic panjandrum and a pretentious popinjay.” Get the aforementioned young child working on that phrase when you have your gut full of bric-a-brac, gadzookery, jocularity, and paraprosdokian. I’ve got your back, Mom and Dad.
  • sequacious – I love the sound of this one. I think the "q" sound in the middle greatly adds to the appeal. The word means that someone is intellectually submissive and somewhat eager to follow another person’s lead (as opposed to thinking for one’s self). It seems to me that a pompous and pedantic panjandrum would hope to be surrounded by a group of sequacious sycophants (check Vol. I for that word).
  • skylarking – This is a word I heard for the first time when I was in Navy boot camp. Skylarking is basically horseplay. It is highly frowned upon in Navy boot camp. This is because skylarking, if left unchecked, usually results in an avoidable injury of some sort. Two recruits caught fighting would sometimes admit to skylarking as the punishment for skylarking was less (slightly) severe. The young child who repeatedly utters random words is not skylarking unless he is jumping up and down on the couch while doing so. Sorry, Mom and Dad, you lose your edge on a verbal technicality this time.
  • snickersnee – Okay, the word refers to a large knife used primarily for combat. It’s kind of a shame as such a weapon sounds too funny to be intimidating. “…when the police first attempted to break up the donnybrook, the alleged thief threatened that he had a snickersnee. The thief was promptly subdued and arrested the alleged thief once they stopped laughing.” By the way, Mom and Dad, your child now has a new word and is back in action. You’re welcome.
  • supercilious – This word just sounds silly to me. I think that if a paramecium was a comic book hero, his name would be Supercilious (microbiologists everywhere just groaned at that one). The word speaks of an action, particularly a facial expression, that gives an air of haughty pride or superiority. Think back to the pompous and pedantic student council president. During the debates leading up to his election, his opponent stammered when present with facts about his numerous detention. This gave the panjandrum a supercilious smile.
  • superfluous – I learned this word from a vocabulary class I took in high school. It means that something is unnecessary and should be left out. I decided one day to try to impress my mother with my newly acquired vocabulary. I just picked the wrong moment. I was being lectured. My response to my Mom was as follows: Mother, I apologize if I have perturbed you. However, I must state that these repeated reprimands are simply superfluous. My mother’s reaction: “If you don’t get an A on your vocabulary test, you’re grounded”.
  • untoward – This word means to be unruly or improper in behavior. A good example was my aforementioned wordy response to my mother. My response, while intended to be humorous, was inappropriate and untoward for the situation. Given my untoward behavior, my mother directed me toward my room to study for the vocabulary test (since I was so interested in using my newly learned words). By the way, I aced the test.
Well, folks, we have done it again – another list of funny sounding words with legitimate uses. If you found that I omitted words from this list (or the previous volumes). Feel free to chime in as long as they meet the guidelines (funny and family friendly). I am sure the alleged thief will get a fair trial. I, personally think he was the one that burgled the young couple’s house (Burgled?) Mom and Dad, I pray you will be patient with your young child as he learns new and interesting words. Young children could learn much worse.


  1. Very well done as usual. Of course I could use a pronunciation guide, since I am not as smart as your average bear. And my Momma is really smart !

  2. That may be something to consider in future volumes. I had no idea when I wrote the first one that I would already have a list started for a fourth one.

    I am glad you like it. My Momma was smart also but she would also recommend that I look it up (advice my kids have hated hearing from me).


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