Friday, October 21, 2005


OK, so the neologiggle post (see below) didn't go over so well, but I'm not deterred. I have another linguistic challenge for you logophiles. Background: Today a friend of mine here (my fellow PTS grad Eric Jacobsen) and I were discussing the word precis as an example of an "academicism" -- i.e. obtuse words whose clever use raises one's score on the academic credibility scale.

So this week's challenge is this: can we devise a list of 50 such words, the persistent use of whicbh are sure-fire signs that the one employing them is a registered denizen of the ivory tower. The criteria are:

1) Words must be obscure
2) They must be hard to spell and / or have a pronunciation nuance (so you
can correct people)
3) They must have a perfectly good 'common' synonym.

Have fun!


bethany said...

my favorite is perspicuity/perspicacity. Both mean clarity.

Phil Smith said...

I have a somewhat related question: What is the origin of "decadent"? I mean, take this word apart for a minute. Deca=10, dent=teeth. So 10 teeth are a luxury?! (Insert favorite Appalacia joke here).

Ron Rienstra said...


Actually, as you might suspect, the etymology is from Latin. In this case it came into English through Middle French. The root is decadere (to decay), which actually is a compound: cadere (to fall) plus prefix de (apart, down).

Jack Brown said...

This is only partially relevant, but since I am barely relevant myself it's a step up. Don't know if any of you have seen this:
The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Theological Erudition. Definitely good for a chortle. Or perhaps a guffaw. Maybe even a cachinnation.

Andrew Burnett said...

While driving earlier this week, Dawn delivered a passionate comment on one of our fellow motorists: "Ah, the turpitude!" An urbane alternative to flipping somebody the bird, I think. Just one more confirmation that I wound up with the right woman.

Dawn B said...

We've been atalkin' South Dakotan so long, it's hard to remember them fancy booklarned words, but here's a couple:

There was a recent comic strip rant about the word "forte" being mispronounced by most people, including me!

Also, was it Churchill who said there's no such thing as a synonym, that each word has such nuanced connotations that no two are truly the same in meaning?