atkins-bookshelf-words“The world is littered with things we ought to know the names for, quite often nearly know the names for, but, in the end, we don’t,” observes writer Mark McCrum, “Along the way you may start to feel some shame that you didn’t know this stuff.” These are the words that stump us on a daily basis; so we substitute with catch-all words like whatchamacallits, doohickeys, thingamajigs, or thingamabobs to fill in the gap of an expansive vocabulary. But don’t be too hard on yourself — with more than one million words in the English language, it is simply impossible to know every single one; consider that the average college-educated vocabulary is about 50,000 words. That’s a mere 5% of the entire English lexicon! Word lovers, however, delight on these whatchamacallits — the more rare and obscure, the more delicious.  McCrum and a fellow writer, Danny Danziger, rolled up their sleeves and dived into the massive haystack of the English language to find the lexical needles that will bring a smile to every logophile.

Achenes: the tiny yellow seeds in the skin of a strawberry
Andirons: the cast iron stands on which logs are placed in a fireplace
Bobeche: the ring at the top of a candlestick that catches melted wax
Claque: a group of people hired by a producer to clap at a performance
Crozier: the long staff carried by a bishop
Dap: the bumping of fists
Grawlix: typographical symbols that represent a swear word in a cartoon
Keeper: the loop of a belt through which the end is threaded
Labret: a lip piercing
Muselet: the wire cage encasing the cork of a champagne bottle
Purlicue: the distance marked by extending the thumb and forefinger
Tines: the prongs on a fork

Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Epeolatry
How Many Words in the English Language?
How Many Words Does the Average Person Speak in a Lifetime?

For further reading: The Whatchamacallit by Danny Danziger and Mark McCrum (2009)

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