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Article Archive >> Community

Reflections: Words fascinate me

Reflections
Words fascinate me
By William L. Bulla
Weekly Contributing Writer

The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or change their meanings. Words fascinate me. This fascination with words is called "logolepsy". When I hear a word that is not often used in every day conversations with those people around me, I take notice. Is this an old word that I am not familiar with, or is it a word that has been changed to meet today's needs? Daily I hear words that I do not normally use in my conversations or my writings. From time to time, I use words that others do not understand, or want to challenge my use of them.
A few days ago, we had a tremendous rainstorm in our neighborhood. I commented to a friend that it was a "gullywhopper". This is a term I heard as a child meaning a heavy rain shower. The word "gully" means a deep ditch or channel cut into the earth by running water after a prolonged downpour. "Whopper implies some thing large. Therefore by combining both words a large downpour of rain has been called a "gullywhopper."
My friend said I had mispronounced and misused the word. She said it was "gollywhopper" not "gullywhopper". Her grandmother would play a game with her, reaching out to touch her, and saying, "I get your nose, I get your ear, I get your gollywhopper". With this last comment, grandmother would grab under the child's chin. Grandmother called the skin area under the chin one's "gollywhopper."
I recently came across some words used back in the 1830's that are still in use today. "Skedaddle", "hornswoggle" and "sockdologer" are three of them.
"Skedaddle," means run away, scram or leave in panic. "Hornswoggle" is slang for cheat, deceive, trick or bamboozle. "Sockdologer" is still used to express a decisive blow, answer or remark or an outstanding person or thing.
Three words from the same period that are now obsolete are: "blustrification" (action of celebrating boisterous), "goshbustified" (excessively pleased and gratified) and "dumfungled" (used up).
Two words from mid-1800 America that have stayed with us, and could be used to describe many persons seeking political office in the next couple of years is the word "bloviate" (to speak loudly at great length without saying much)" and "bloviator" (a blowhard; one engaged in boasting).
Hopefully, your favorite candidate will not be a "flibbertigibbet" (excessively talkative person) or a "cockalorum" (a boastful and self-important person), but be "bodacious" (remarkable) enough to deserve your vote.
"Karaoke" is an activity many people enjoy. Some are behind the microphone, others in front. It has provided entertainment for many people for several years. It is an opportunity for amateur singers to sing along with recorded music. I asked many people that participate why the activity was called karaoke and no one could tell me, so I decided to find out. I discovered Karaoke is a Japanese word meaning "empty orchestra". I think this is a very accurate name for this type of event.
Another word that intrigues me is "absqualate". It means leave abruptly, so that's what I am going to do now! Bye!

William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.

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