Tag Archives: words

Confusing Words

I learned to speak and write English when I was about twenty-one years old so English has never been a language I use naturally. In fact, it is one of the most difficult language to learn — if you step away from the basics. It has a lot of subtlety, derivations from other languages, turn of phrases that are difficult to master. Prepositions, and their use, have been, and continue to be, a challenge. Some words are similar (lay, lie) others are grammatically confusing (their, there; its, it’s).

Confusing Words is a website that helps with those challenges. It boasts over 3200 words and their definition and use. Here is an example from one of my own confusion:

take to go with
bring to come with


Bring a covered dish when you come to the pot luck supper, but be sure to take your dish home with you when you go.
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Washington Post’s Style Invitational

This year’s best words, in which people are asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition:

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
2. Ignoranus: A person who’s both stupid and an ah.
3. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
5. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation a bout yourself for the purpose of getting lucky
7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.
9. Inoculatte: To take coffee! intravenously when you are running late.
10. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.
11. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
12. Karmageddon: It’s when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, and then the Earth explodes, and it’s a serious bummer.
13. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you
14. Glibido: All talk and no action.
15. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
16. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.
17. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosqui t o, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
18. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you’re eating.

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2007 Word of the Year

The American Dialect Society (founded in 1889) voted subprime as the word of the year for 2007.

Subprime is an adjective used to describe a risky or less than ideal loan, mortgage, or investment. Subprime was also winner of a brand-new 2007 category for real estate words, a category which reflects the preoccupation of the press and public for the past year with a deepening mortgage crisis.

Contrary to the Academie Française, the Dialect Society, comprised of lots of word people such as linguists, librarians, writers, and grammarians, do not judge whether a word should enter the English language. They simply note the appearance of a “new word” that is being used often and in different ways. For instance, a worker would say “I subprimed that project”, meaning that it came out less than best. Here are some other words the ADS felt were worthy of mention, with the number of votes for each word:


  • WINNER subprime, an adjective used to describe a risky or lessthan ideal loan, mortgage, or investment. 79
  • green– prefix/compounding form Designates environmental concern, as in greenwashing. 9
  • surge an increase in troops in a war zone. 1
  • Facebook all parts of speech. 11
  • waterboarding an interrogation technique in which the subject is immobilized and doused withwater to simulate drowning. 1
  • Googlegänger A person with your name who shows up when you google yourself. 7
  • wide stance, to have a To be hypocritical or to express two conflicting points of view. When Senator Larry Craig was arrested in a public restroom and accused of making signals with hisfoot that police said meant he was in search of a anonymous sex, Craig said it was a misunderstanding and that he just had a wide stance when using the toilet. 2


  • WINNER green– prefix/compounding form Designates environmental concern, as in greenwashing. 43/59
  • bacn Impersonal email such as alerts, newsletters, and automated reminders that are nearly as annoying as spam but which one has chosen to receive. 14
  • celebu– prefix Indicates celebrity, as in celebutard. 13
  • connectile dysfunction Inability to gain or maintain a connection. 5
  • wrap rage Anger brought on by the frustration of trying to open a factory-sealed purchase. 39/55


  • WINNER Googlegänger Person with your name who shows up when you google yourself. 84
  • boom An instance of a military explosion in the phrases left of boom, which describes the US military’s efforts to root out insurgents before they do harm, and right of boom, which describes efforts to minimize attacks with better equipment, systems, and medical care. 1
  • lolcat On the Internet, an odd or funny picture of a cat given a humorous and intentionally ungrammatical caption in large block letters. From LOL + cat. 20
  • tapafication The tendency of restaurants to serve food in many small portions, similar to tapas. 4 ó


  • WINNER Happy Kwanhanamas! [Kwanza + Hanukka + Christmas] Happy holidays! 63
  • ruther Someone who espouses a conspiracy theory about the events of 9/11. 5
  • vegansexual A person who eats no meat, uses no animal-derived goods, and who prefers not to ave sex with non-vegans. 35


  • WINNER toe-tapper A homosexual. Senator Larry Craig was arrested in June for an encounterin a public restroom in which toe-tapping was said to have been used as a sexual come-on. 70
  • nappy-headed ho An expression used on the Don Imus radio show, and repeated by the host,about the women’s basketball team at Rutgers University. 27
  • make it rain To drop paper money on a crowd of people, especially in strip clubs, nightclubs, or casinos. 2


  • WINNER human terrain team A group of social scientists employed by the US military toserve as cultural advisers in Iraq or Afghanistan. 60
  • shmashmortion/smushmortion Abortion. 8
  • va-j-j Also va-jay-jay or vajayjay The vagina. 30


  • WINNER green- prefix/compounding form Designates environmental concern, as ingreenwashing. 70
  • global weirding An increase in severe or unusual environmental activity often attributed toglobal warming. This includes freakish weather and new animal migration patterns. 3
  • Super-Duper Tuesday Feb. 5th, the day 23 US states will hold primary elections. Also knownas Tsunami Tuesday. 1
  • wide stance, to have a To be hypocritical or to express two conflicting points of view. WhenSenator Larry Craig was arrested in a public restroom and accused of making signals with hisfoot that police said meant he was in search of a anonymous sex, Craig said it was amisunderstanding and that he just had a wide stance when using the toilet. 13
  • locavore someone who eats food that is grown or produced locally. Nominated by Dick Bailey.13
  • texter a person who sends text messages. 5


  • WINNER strand-in Protest duplicating being stranded inside an airplane on a delayed flight.31/74
  • Billary/Hill-Bill Bill and Hillary Clinton. 1
  • earmarxist A congressman or senator who adds earmarks–money designated for a particular person or group–to legislation. Coined by the blog Redstate to refer to Democrats. 32/2
  • quadriboobage The appearance of having four breasts caused by wearing a brassiere that is too small. 40/19


  • WINNER subprime Used to describe a risky or poorly documented loan or mortgage. 65
  • exploding ARM An Adjustable Rate Mortgage whose rates soon rise beyond a borrowerís abilityto pay. 10
  • liar’s loan/liar loan Money borrowed from a financial institution under false pretenses,especially in the form of a ìstated incomeî or ìno-docî loan which can permit a borrower toexaggerate income. 1
  • NINJA No Income, No Job or Assets. A poorly documented loan made to a high-risk borrower.34
  • scratch and dent loan A loan or mortgage that has become a risky debt investment, especially one secured with minimal documentation or made by a borrower who has missed payments. 2
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A Quotable Quote

Every morning, when I boot up my computer and check my email, I’m greeted with the Word of the Day from A Word A Day. Sometimes the words are obscure and simply add to my understanding of the language although there is little chance that I will use them. Sometimes, like this week, the words are shiny new and reflect the culture we live in. For instance today is:

carbon-neutral (KAHR-buhn NOO-truhl, NYOO-) adjective

Adding no net carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

[A greenhouse gas such as carbon dioxide is a contributor to global
warming. Carbon-neutral means contributing zero total emission of the gas
into the atmosphere. The earliest citation of the term is found in a 1992
article in The Independent (London, UK).]

Being carbon-neutral doesn’t necessarily mean producing zero carbon dioxide.
What it means is that the net addition is zero, offset by other actions,
such as planting trees, buying clean energy, etc. And it doesn’t have to be
all or nothing. If you cannot be completely carbon-neutral, you can definitely
reduce your carbon footprint.

Calculate your carbon footprint: http://carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx

-Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)

“As an award-winning leader in green design, it’s no surprise that
Vancouver architect Peter Busby is planning North America’s first
carbon-neutral office tower.”
Kerry Gold; Carbon-neutral Building Sets a Standard; The Globe and Mail
(Toronto, Canada); Nov 20, 2007.

What I like about A Word a Day, apart from its being completely free, is that in addition to the definition, it gives you the pronunciation an explanation where necessary, and its usage in a “real” quote from the world to put it in context.

There’s another thing I like about my daily word email: the quote section. A daily quote is included with the word definition, although it’s not always directly related to the word itself. Anu Garg, the owner of A Word A Way, always selects a thought-provoking one from a well-known person. Today’s especially resonated with me since I made a lifestyle choice ten years ago of leaving a well-paying job to write.

For money you can have everything it is said. No that is not true. You can
buy food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; soft beds, but not
sleep; knowledge but not intelligence; glitter, but not comfort; fun, but
not pleasure; acquaintances, but not friendship; servants, but not
faithfulness; grey hair, but not honor; quiet days, but not peace. The
shell of all things you can get for money. But not the kernel. That cannot
be had for money. -Arne Garborg, writer (1851-1924)

I’ve never regretted my choice, not for one minute, but it’s often been interesting to juggle the necessities of life. This quote reminded me why I do what I do. Thanks, Anu.

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