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Words we don't know (1 Viewer)

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SueC

Staff member
Senior Mentor
I was reading an article in the Guardian on President Trump this morning and along came this word:

perspicacity

It means: Perspicacity is a penetrating discernment —a clarity of vision or intellect which provides a deep understanding and insight. It takes the concept of wisdom deeper in the sense that it denotes a keenness of sense and intelligence applied to insight. It has been described as a deeper level of internalization.

The author said that Trump did not posses this quality, so I had to look it up. I agreed with his assessment, but I wondered - how many of you look up words that you don't know when you see them in print or on the Internet, or do you just read on hoping you'll get the gist eventually? Are you compelled sometimes to use unusual words in your stories, just for the fun of it?
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I definitely look things up. In your example, by using an usual word, the author is bringing your attention to his point. It works well in non-fiction. I think you have to be careful not to try too hard to use unusual words in fiction. It can appear to be clumsy and over-worked. If you do use an unusual word in fiction, you likely need to add some context to it. Why have you used it? That's my initial thought.

But, now that you mention it, I'm going to watch for examples of unusual words in fiction, to see if works.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I do it all the time. When I read books, I jot down words I don't know with the page and paragraph so I can go back and see them used in context. I started a little book with lots of different ways of describing things for reference too. I had a snowy scene section, a thunder storm section, a forest section etc. It was intended as a way of copying but merely a way of seeing how other authors dealt with these scenes. Unfortunately I lost all of that work, along with a good two thirds of my writing.
 

SueC

Staff member
Senior Mentor
I do it all the time. When I read books, I jot down words I don't know with the page and paragraph so I can go back and see them used in context. I started a little book with lots of different ways of describing things for reference too. I had a snowy scene section, a thunder storm section, a forest section etc. It was intended as a way of copying but merely a way of seeing how other authors dealt with these scenes. Unfortunately I lost all of that work, along with a good two thirds of my writing.

What a shame you have lost it!
 

SueC

Staff member
Senior Mentor
I definitely look things up. In your example, by using an usual word, the author is bringing your attention to his point. It works well in non-fiction. I think you have to be careful not to try too hard to use unusual words in fiction. It can appear to be clumsy and over-worked. If you do use an unusual word in fiction, you likely need to add some context to it. Why have you used it? That's my initial thought.

But, now that you mention it, I'm going to watch for examples of unusual words in fiction, to see if works.

I agree, Taylor. Also, one of my biggest turn-offs is when fiction writers spend a lot of time discussing regional aspects that are so unfamiliar that I lose interest pretty quickly. I think this falls in the same category as seldom-used words. Using terminology about an Alaskan wilderness, for example, that has little meaning or understanding to most writers who don't live in Alaska can often spell disaster. I don't mean a casual reference. I mean filling page after page with words that are meaningless unless you have a dictionary nearby. :)
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I do it all the time. When I read books, I jot down words I don't know with the page and paragraph so I can go back and see them used in context. I started a little book with lots of different ways of describing things for reference too. I had a snowy scene section, a thunder storm section, a forest section etc. It was intended as a way of copying but merely a way of seeing how other authors dealt with these scenes. Unfortunately I lost all of that work, along with a good two thirds of my writing.

Perhaps the memory of writing these scenes is more valuable than having the paper record. Sorry to hear about the loss of your work! But, a good incentive to write more...
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
Pulchritude. (It means beauty.)

Who comes up with these words?

Acerbic
. (Adjective | a harsh manner of speaking.)

Don't feel bad if you didn't know it, either. I couldn't even find it in my desktop dictionary.

Avuncular. (Of or relating to an uncle.)

Why do we have a word for this?

Adumbrate. (Summarize as an outline.)

I should have already known that.

Aquiline. (Looking like an eagle.)

This one, though I have heard it before once or twice without investigating the meaning, stuck with me. I think it has a potential for being very "show"-y. It has a built-in metaphor.

Argot. (Jargon.)

Bathetic. (Insincere, superficial. )
This list could probably go on for a couple hundred thousand words.
 
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EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
From today, from a book my library said was a classic:

...pooling Jackson Pollack schmierkunst on the monovalent radicals of the Vinylite seat covers.

I didn't look.

My worry, actually, is using a word my reader doesn't know. So I have this fear that if look up schmeirkunst, I'll like it and want to use it. I don't care about Vinylite, and I don't want to get angry if the author is misusing monovalent radicals.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Pulchritude. (It means beauty.)

Who comes up with these words?

Acerbic
. (Adjective | a harsh manner of speaking.)

Don't feel bad if you didn't know it, either. I couldn't even find it in my desktop dictionary.

Avuncular. (Of or relating to an uncle.)

Why do we have a word for this?

Adumbrate. (Summarize as an outline.)

I should have already known that.

Aquiline. (Looking like an eagle.)

This one, though I have heard it before once or twice without investigating the meaning, stuck with me. I think it has a potential for being very "show"-y. It has a built-in metaphor.

Argot. (Jargon.)

Bathetic. (Insincere, superficial. )
This list could probably go on for a couple hundred thousand words.

Ok learned some new ones here, but Acerbic and Aquiline are two of my favourites.

Acerbic is so much better than mean or nasty. The word itself has such a visual connotation, I picture acid or sour lemons.

And I use Aquiline to describe a certain type of nose, it is slightly hawked. I have always wanted one myself, so I use it as a favourable feature.
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
Erstwhile (or is it erstwile?) - I always thought, till about two months ago, that it actually didn't mean anything. I thought people - perhaps even erstwhile people - put it in there just to fill space with something fruity-sounding. But it has a specific meaning - the previous occupant of a post.
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
Ok learned some new ones here, but Acerbic and Aquiline are two of my favourites.

Acerbic is so much better than mean or nasty. The word itself has such a visual connotation, I picture acid or sour lemons.

And I use Aquiline to describe a certain type of nose, it is slightly hawked. I have always wanted one myself, so I use it as a favourable feature.

The acidic connotation of "acerbic" did pop out at my after I learned it. That makes it easy to remember, I suppose.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
I was reading an article in the Guardian on President Trump this morning and along came this word:

perspicacity

It means: Perspicacity is a penetrating discernment —a clarity of vision or intellect which provides a deep understanding and insight. It takes the concept of wisdom deeper in the sense that it denotes a keenness of sense and intelligence applied to insight. It has been described as a deeper level of internalization.

The author said that Trump did not posses this quality, so I had to look it up. I agreed with his assessment, but I wondered - how many of you look up words that you don't know when you see them in print or on the Internet, or do you just read on hoping you'll get the gist eventually? Are you compelled sometimes to use unusual words in your stories, just for the fun of it?

How interesting to draw attention to a word hardly used. I really enjoy that meaning. The whole description sounds like more than astute or shrewd and kind of combines both perception and appropriate action.

I’m thinking of other times certain authors drew attention to a word.
I’m recalling something a high school professor said about the word epiphany and James Joyce... that Joyce had brought epiphany back into discussion and that before Joyce it was archaic and not in use. I’m glad Joyce brought it back into use if this is true. After I send I will look this is, so this post will likely be edited.


Edit: Joyce re-purposed the word. Here’s an article:
https://jamesjoyce.ie/epiphanies/
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
I use blue if I personally think the word would be handy for creative writing and useful for showing.

Blanch
(to turn pale as if in fear)


This one could be helpful for creative writing.

Blandishment (false praise meant to persuade)

This is not too helpful for creative writing.

"He supplemented his blandishments by offering us a nice meal."

IDK, it seems a bit dry to me.

Blasé (to be jaded)

If you want your characters to sound obnoxious, use this word in dialogue.

Bowdlerize (to censor in an effort to create G-rated content)

I've never even heard this word in my life.

Bucolic (very rustic in a picturesque manner)

"The houses were weathered grey, wearing shredded paper with company names in place of paint. Crumbling silos, unkempt pastures surrounded them. Their impression, however, was not bucolic."

​Conciliatory (willing to cede)

I mention this one because I thought it had something to do with consolidation or concentricity. Nope! It's it's own word.

Confluence (a place where two things flow together)

A beautiful word. Think about ". . . a confluence of emotions."

Deleterious (harmful to living things)

How hard can this one be to remember? It has "delete" in it.

Diaphanous (so thin as to be transparent)

This could be very useful for writing. "A diaphanous pink membrane."

Dilettante
(a neophyte, someone who does something like a craft or sport for fun but not seriously)

​Dissimulate (to hide one's feelings. Surprisingly non-transitive)

ALTERNATE DEFINITION OF ​Dissipated (consumed by the pursuit of pleasure, usually to some kind of detriment)

Weird how that word also has that other meaning. English is arbitrary sometimes.

Distend (to swell from the inside)

Ebullient (an adjective meaning "to be full of jubilee," basically)

Eclectic (having style based on a wide variety of tastes, cultures)

This is an honorable mention because I learned it yesterday.

Effervescent (to be in high spirits)

I thought this one meant something like "brightly glowing," which it does . . . in a metaphorical way pertaining only to attitude.

Evanescent (behaving like a vapor, vaporous in a way that tends to disappear)

​Extirpation (complete destruction beginning from the "roots")

Filial (relating to the offspring of the parent generation)

Foible (a little weakness of character)

Fracas (a boisterous argument)

Fulsome (displaying a disgusting excess of fawning or flattery)

Gamut
(range or scope, but it must be abstract)

Garrulous (full of trivial conversation)

Genuflect (to kneel before a king or religious item)

Gossamer (delicate and thin, such as with food)

Gourmand (a glutton, a pig)

Gustatory
(relating to taste)




That's all for now.
 
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SueC

Staff member
Senior Mentor
Can you pronounce the word I posted? I can't get my tongue around it. At least we can say epiphany. I like epiphany... thank you James Joyce. ;) and you!
 
Blandishment (false praise meant to persuade)

This is not too helpful for creative writing.

"He supplemented his blandishments by offering us a nice meal."

IDK, it seems a bit dry to me.

I've never heard it, but I like it. It's similar to 'flattery' but with a different connotation -- kind of a blustery, flamboyant feel, as opposed to 'flattery,' which sounds like a soft-voiced snake.

Bowdlerize (to censor in an effort to create G-rated content)

I've never even heard this word in my life.

I hear it a lot, I think because I hear a lot about "bowdlerized Bible stories," which is a real problem in Christian kids' books/adaptions. The story of Jonah's a classic one: the whole point gets missed because bowdlerized versions skip the part where Jonah doesn't 'learn his lesson' and remains unmerciful and hateful towards the Ninevites, even after God was merciful and loving to him.

It's a very useful word to describe that phenomenon: stories being ruined or truth being compromised because somebody thought it was too hard for kids to handle.

​Conciliatory (willing to cede)

I mention this one because I thought it had something to do with consolidation or concentricity. Nope! It's it's own word.

This one makes sense to me: "concil," like "reconcile" -- make up, compromise.

Diaphanous (so thin as to be transparent)

This could be very useful for writing. "A diaphanous pink membrane."
Ooh I like it. It kind of has a squishy, slimy feel.

Distend (to swell from the inside)

Ok, that's close to what I thought it meant ... I kind of thought it meant, 'swell in a distorted way,' because "dist"<-->"dist." It still has a grotesque connotation for me; not sure if I can shake that.

Fracas (a boisterous argument)

New to me, too. Love that! Because it has a positive connotation whereas "argument" has a negative one, and "debate" is too cool, too mild. Fracas -- great.

Genuflect (to kneel before a king or religious item)

Haha, thank you for correcting me on this one. I thought it meant "to make the sign of the cross," because I'd only read it in the context of Catholic novels. Goes to show how I should be looking up words more often!
 

MistWolf

Senior Member
Diaphanous isn't squishy or slimy. It's thin, light, delicate and semi transparent. "Aphrodite wore a diaphanous gown."

One of my favorite words is defenestration. It means to throw someone or something out a window. "Dr. Dastardly must be stopped before he can unleash his doomsday machine, the Defenestration Device!"
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Diaphanous isn't squishy or slimy. It's thin, light, delicate and semi transparent. "Aphrodite wore a diaphanous gown."

One of my favorite words is defenestration. It means to throw someone or something out a window. "Dr. Dastardly must be stopped before he can unleash his doomsday machine, the Defenestration Device!"

Sadly, there is no defense against defenestration. :-(

Unless you're too fat to fit.
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
Diaphanous isn't squishy or slimy. It's thin, light, delicate and semi transparent. "Aphrodite wore a diaphanous gown."

One of my favorite words is defenestration. It means to throw someone or something out a window. "Dr. Dastardly must be stopped before he can unleash his doomsday machine, the Defenestration Device!"

Sadly, there is no defense against defenestration. :-(

Unless you're too fat to fit.

I wonder if "deport" has a similar provenance, only with doors.
 
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