Unusual Color Names

atkins-bookshelf-wordsWhen you walk into a paint store, you can always ask for basic — not to mention, boring — colors like white or beige, but it is far more entertaining to stump the employee behind the counter by requesting one of  the most unusual colors in the English language:

Bisque: light grayish brown
Bittersweet Orange: strong reddish orange
Cattleya: medium purple
Damask: grayish red
Jasper: blackish green
Orpiment: Golden yellow
Puce: dark cranberry red
Smalt: medium blue
Titian: brownish orange
Verdigris: yellowish green
Vermilion (or Vermillion): bright red-orange

Read related posts: Why is it Called the Golden Gate Bridge?
How Rock Bands Got Their Names

For further reading: When Blue Meant Yellow: How Colors Got Their Names by Jeanne Heifetz, Henry Holt & Co. (1994)

Rare Anatomy Words

Kim Kardashian’s ubiquitous presence in the world has created two entrenched camps: the loyal fans that love her and the growing legion of critics that lampoon her (not to mention an industry that has developed around her — reality shows, tabloids, paparazzi, endorsement deals, etc.) Following in the footsteps of Heidi Montag (despite being attractive at the age of 23, Montag underwent 10 plastic-surgery procedures in one day), Kim Kardashian stepped into the limelight in late 2012, after “having some work done” — providing fresh fodder for the media, and encouraging concerned discussions about narcissism and body dysmorphia. In the spirit of Senator James Watson’s famous line “If you can’t lick em, join em!” logophiles should not miss an opportunity for a teachable moment — dusting off some very rare, but colorful, anatomical words that might describe the always entertaining bathycolpous reality star as well as other people in the limelight:

Bathycolpous: having large breasts
Bathycolpian: having large breasts or deep cleavage
Bourdonnement: the sloshing, gurgling sound that breast implants make during their break-in period
Callipygian: having beautiful buttocks
Kakopyge: having ugly buttocks
Daspygal: having hairy buttocks
Hermipygic: possessing only one buttock
Steatopygic: having extreme accumulation of fat on the buttocks
Amphirhine: having two nostrils
Zygomatic bone: the cheekbone
Gonion: the points on each side of the jaw as it turns up toward the ears
Vermilion Border: where the skin meets the lips
Cupid’s Bow: the slight dip in the middle of the upper lip
Stomion: the middle of the mouth, where the two lips meet
Canthus: the place where the upper and lower eyelid come together
Retrousee: a turned up nose
Philtrum: the depression below the nose running to the top of the mouth
Nasion: the point where the bridge of the nose meets the forehead
Mentolabial Sulcus: the slight depression below the lower lip and chin
Leptorrhine: having a long narrow nose
Gnathion: the  lowest point on the chin

Read related posts: How Long Does it Take to Read a Million Words?
How Many Words in the English Language?
How Many Words Does the Average Person Speak in a Lifetime?

Word Oddities: Fun with Vowels
What Rhymes with Orange
Obscure Scrabble Words

For further reading: Carnal Knowledge: A Navel Gazer’s Dictionary of Anatomy, Etymology and Trivia by Charles Hodgson, St. Martin’s Griffen (2007); The Logodaedalian’s Dictionary of Interesting and Unusual Words by George Saussy, University of Southern Caroline Press (1989).
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/14/heidi-montags-10-plastic_n_423855.html. http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20336472,00.html

Word of the Year 2012

Recently the esteemed editors of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) announced 2012’s word of the year: omnishambles. The word, coined by the writers of BBC political satire in 2009 means a situation that is chaotic or disorganized from every conceivable angle. “It was a word everyone liked, which seemed to sum up so many of the events over the last 366 days in a beautiful way,” explained one of the lexicographers. “It’s funny, it’s quirky, and it has broken free of its fictional political beginnings, firstly by spilling over into real politics, and then into other contexts. If influence is any indication of staying power, it has already staked its claim by being linguistically productive in its own right, producing a number of related coinages (e.g., Romneyshambles or omnishambles). While many of them are probably humorous one-offs, their very existence shows that the omnishambles itself has entered at least the familiar parlance, if not quite the common parlance.”

The runner-ups for 2012 word of the year included:
Eurogeddon: the threatened financial collapse in the eurozone
Mummy porn: a new genre of erotic literature inspired by the 50 Shades trilogy
Green-on-blue: military attacks by neutral forces
To medal: a verb, that means to win a medal in an athletic competition, inspired by the London Olympics
Second screening: to watch TV while working on a computer or mobile device at the same time
Yolo: Textese for “you only live once”
Pleb: an ordinary person, often belonging to lower social class

For further reading: http://www.oed.com. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20309441

There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier

Definition: Noun. The witty remark you wish you had made.

Pronounced: (es-PREED les-kah-LYAY)

Etymology: Literally, “staircase wit” from the French esprit meaning “wit” and escalier meaning “stairs.” The phrase was coined by philosopher and encyclopedist Denis Diderot in his essay, Paradoxe Sur le Comédien: “a sensitive man, such as myself, overwhelmed by the argument levelled against him [by statesman Jacques Necker], becomes confused and can only think clearly again [when he reaches] the bottom of the stairs.” In other words, Diderot did not come up with a witty comeback until he reached the bottom of the stairs, too late to make an impact on the conversation.

Variants: l’esprit de l’escalier (lay SPREED les-kah-LYAY)
esprit d’escalier (es-PREED des-kah-LYAY)

There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist

For further reading: Les Bons Mots: How to Amaze Tout le Mond with Everyday French by Eugene Ehrlich, Henry Holt (1997). http://www.merriam-webster.com 


Definition: Adjective. Something that is so great or wonderful that it cannot be described with words.

Etymology: From the Latin ineffabilis meaning “unutterable;” lietrally, “not speakable from in- “not” and effabilis “speakable.”

Related words: ineffably (adverb) and ineffability (noun).

For further reading: Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition edited by John Simpson and Edmund Weiner, Oxford University Press (1991).

There’s a Word for That: Cacology

atkins-bookshelf-wordsCacology, an ugly sounding word, is a poor choice of words or very bad pronunciation. The word is derived from the Greek kakologia meaning “evil speaking” or “abusive language” and kakos meaning “bad.

Related word: Cacography, bad writing or bad handwriting.

Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia

There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian

For further reading: Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition edited by John Simpson and Edmund Weiner, Oxford University Press (1991).