April 2018

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

P.S. 17 Words, words, words

Sarah Palin coined "refudiate," the 2010 word of the year. I wonder if she knows the word "malaprop." Oxford University Press has defined the word refudiate as a verb “used loosely to mean ‘reject’.” Somehow, I suspect she meant "repudiate." Just one letter off, after all. She probAbly confused repudiate with a similar Russian word, which she heard frrom her front porch.

I like some of the other contenders better. reports that "mama grizzly", "starwhacker", "vuvuzela" and "meme" were other possibilities. I like "immappacy", which is formed by analogy with “innumeracy,” and means the inability to understand maps. I wonder what the word for the tendency to get lost even with a map is.

You may not know that "Mama Grizzly" is the name of Sarah Palin's reality t.v. show. According to, "A mama grizzly is a conservative woman with 'common sense,' as Sarah Palin puts it, someone who 'rises up' to protect her children when she sees them endangered by bad policies in Washington. She is fearless, and that, in combination with her femaleness, makes her scary—a new kind of political predator. She will take on any foe and, the implication is, rip him or her to shreds."

I can't figure out what a starwhacker is, but I found contexts on the innernets that suggest that it has to do with computers, private body parts, and violence. There's a whole site called "Starwhacker," and all the people there seem to know what it is, but I don't want to spend my time there.

"Vuvuzela", the famous South African blowing horn, seems to be a more g-rated andl lyrical word.

Grant Barrett on his site explains that the word "meme" was coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. The word seems to mean Internet phenomena like viral videos, image macros, catchphrases, and web celebs. Or maybe starwhackers.

Grant talks about another “Word of the Year” contender, "Obamacare". I am guessing the word has a negative connotation, which reminds me of the first Bush's ability to turn the word "do-gooder" into an insult. This seemed ironic to me since he also hallucinated about "a thousand points of light." I think those thousand points of light were do-gooders. I would like to be a do-gooder, and I appreciate "Obamacare."

I love words. Some of my favorites are "balloon" (a very happy word), "conundrum" (I remeber fondly the Dublin cabdriver who used "conundrum" repeatedly in our ride from the airport--he was a poet and a philosopher), and "dappled" (my favorite word in 9th grade--I haven't grown up much, I guess). I also like the word "Oregano", which is why it was our dog Tripper's middle name. (He was called Tripper because as a puppy he would hump our legs, tripping us as we walked. Not so poetic, maybe. ) I also like the words "nasty" and "tasty".

I've been asking friends about this, and they roll their eyes, then immediately know a word or two. Pea likes "damper", an excellent word. Chris has two good ones: "petticoat" and "blink". Jane has a lot of good ones, like "expeditious", "cacophony", "purple", "Oskaloosa" (her home town) and "lavender". She also like words that make her laugh, like "rubber" and "trick" (she says she was thinking of bridge.) Carrie likes "yogurt", "sunshine", "beep", "doodle", and "ostensibly", all excellent words. My mom likes "fiddlesticks", which is her favorite four-letter word and "abide" as in "I cannot abide that man."

There are also nasty words, like "puce" (that's the worst) and "vomit" (nasty word even if you didn't know what it meant.) Carrie dislikes "slacks", "backpack", "chick", and "felt". I dare you to write a sentence with all those nasty words in it.

Jane says she doesn't like words that have unpleasant sounds like "petunia" or "wash".

Jane also thought of a new category: names. She wrote, "There are some names that I won’t say I don’t like, exactly, but that I sure am glad my parents didn’t name me: Donald, Matilda, Geoffrey (though I do like Jeffrey), Lois, Myrtle !!, Gertrude !!!, George, Celia, Petunia, Candy, Penny, Theodora, Gordon (which was ALMOST the name of my youngest grandson, but I saved him from that fate eight days after he was born, two hours before his bris. Someday he will be properly grateful.) I want any readers to know that none of my prejudices about names were formed by knowing someone by that name. I just don’t like the sound. I have known people I liked a lot by most of those names."

I would add "Dick" to that list of undesirable names. It just makes me uncomfortable.

"Smegma" made Jane's list of words she likes AND words she doesn't like. "Smegma" seems to be on her mind. When I was first teaching,  a group of freshman boys kept calling each other "Smegma." I made them look it up in the dictionary. After that, they came in from lunch every day to look words up. I think they all ended up going to Harvard. Inquiring minds.

Last night at at the UW women's volleyball match against Stanford, it occurred to me how accurate the word "ponytail" is. All those women have long hair pulled back in a band, and their hair does in fact look like a pony's tail. I started thinking of other words that are perfectly accurate: jump rope, for example. In this category, my friend Jane likes "shellfish", "stargazer", and "bluebird".

When the dog bites
When I step in turds
When I'm feeling mad,
I simply remember
My favorite words
And then I don't feel
So bad.



  1. He felt up a cute chick wearing slacks and a backpack, and she responded by throwing up puce vomit.

  2. I just recently heard of another newish word "doucheboat" - it's a combination of dreamboat and douchebag. Matthew Mcconaughey doing yoga on the beach is a great example of a doucheboat.

    Extra points for working smegma into a blog post, BTW.

  3. And a friend of mine coined (or spread?) the word palinate - to cause all color and life to drain from the human body in response to being utterly and totally shocked by the acceptance and normalization of concepts, ideas, language, beliefs and lifestyles that are completely strange, abnormal, distorted, uninformed and innaccurate and have no connection to the innate laws, intelligence and beauty of Nature and the Universe.


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