The Wonderful World of English

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I love the English language. It is chock full of amazing words that most people have never heard. It’s like the dusty, old bylaws of some ancient government with laws still on the books that no one knows like throwing anything besides feathers out a window of a moving vehicle is illegal. I love to root around in the English language. I rummage around in the basement collecting antiques and oddities. I throw them out in conversation every now and again just to confuse people.

There is a word for nearly everything. The little metal or plastic piece on the end of a shoelace is an aglet. Foul armpit odor is hircismus. A small, yappy dog of uncertain ancestry is a fice. The chain that connects a pocket watch to a button is a fob. There are words for practically everything, but the greatest thing about the English language is the sheer number and variety of insults. We have insults for positively every kind of abhorrent behavior.

Cockalorum is a favorite insult. It can either refer to boastful talk or a self-important person spewing boastful talk. First, it’s fun to say. Second, it implies that your knowledge of language is extensive and makes you, in essence, a cockalorum yourself just by saying it because no one has heard that word in over a century.

Other obsolete synonyms for boastful persons include: cacafueggo, hector, blowhard, braggadocio, cracker, gasconader, swaggerer and vaunter. Cockalorums will crow boastful and blustery tales known as fanfaronade, biggety, gasconade, bombast, jingo and swagger.

Ninnyhammer, usually shortened to ninny or more commonly, nincompoop, is one of the thousand ways to call someone a foolish person. I like to break out these words on occasion since most people don’t know what they mean or haven’t heard them since their great-grandfather was still alive and swearing at them for running through the house with scissors.

Other antiquated ways to call someone an idiot include: blatherskite, dolt, numskull, duffer, blockhead, chucklehead, featherhead, saphead, dunderhead, pinhead, clodpoll, noddy, nitwit, mome, fribble, cretin… and well, you get the picture. When you say one of these words, especially the lesser-known ones, to someone in the heat of an argument, I can guarantee it will give pause while the ninnyhammer tries to figure out what the hell you just called them.

In addition to the thousands of words for a foolish person, there are equally as many words for what it is that they say. All of them are completely antiquated and a hell of a lot of fun to say. Folderol is a favorite. First, it’s a pretty word. It flows nicely off the tongue. Second, it implies a certain amount of bureaucratic idiocy on top of just being nonsensical. The government is chock full of folderol.

Ninnyhammers can be found spinning ridiculously false or foolish statements known as bunkum, applesauce, hokum, balderdash, beans, tosh, blither, guff, hogwash, picayune, bosh, claptrap, codswallop, taradiddle, fiddle-faddle, fiddlesticks, bêtise, flapdoodle, hokeypokey, poppycock, hoodoo, nerts, hooey, horsefeathers, bilge, blah, humbug or humbuggery, jazz, malarkey, moonshine, muck, piffle, slush, drool, tommyrot, flummery and twaddle. All of those words are archaic and they are all great.

Then there’s fop. A fop is a conceited and vain person, inordinately fond of themselves, and their own appearance or accomplishments. It is the pretty boy insult. The next time someone spends four hours getting ready or interrupts you to talk excessively about themselves, call them a coxcomb, jackanapes, popinjay, dandy, masher, dilettante, gewgaw, swell or fop.

Fops are generally concerned with frippery, another favorite word. Frippery is showy ostentation for no practical reason. It is the cherry on top of the vanity cake. It also has multiple synonyms that are just as arcane: vainglory, foofaraw, bric-a-brac, foppery, trumpery, bagatelle, gimcrack, kickshaw, finery and fribbling.

I’ve written a ton of words already and I haven’t even gotten to my favorite verbs. So as not to go on forever, I’ll just name a couple of them. Defenestrate means to throw something or someone out a window. Yes, we have a word for that. Isn’t that neat? We also have multiple words for covering something or somebody in poop: bescumber, immerd, bedung, beray, sharny and, yes, shitten.

Honestly, this post could be infinite because I absolutely adore this language that I’m fortunate enough to speak. Suffice it to say, the next time a hector tells you some taradiddle, you tell that jackanapes to defenestrate himself before you bedung him.