Posted by: Judy M. Goodman | February 11, 2010


My biggest fear has been confirmed. From now on, all of my written works will require glossaries, indices, and compendia of definitions. Extraordinarily good friends gifted me a delightful banquet of a book called TOTALLY WEIRD AND WONDERFUL WORDS[3]. It’s simple aboulia[4] that compels me to use every new word I can process[5]. Still, I realize it’s risky to appear at best a maisterel[7] or, worst, mammothrept[8] in this compulsion to find and use words so geason[9] and concinnous[10]. What, for me, is alexiteric[11] to ennui may well leave the reader alexithymic[12].

In the age of texting, when the physical monograph is on the endangered species list, I can’t help worrying that the next generation of writers will consider word-craft emunctory[13]. Of course, that’s a bit paranoid in that paper publishing is becoming as archaic as xenelasy[14]. Still, McKean provides a menu of tasty ingredients for sauciest creations of prose cuisine. The book is fun, educational, and probably won’t get the attention it deserves. Most people today prefer mousse to meat.

[1] With “ a Laurel and a Hardy handshake” for Van Wyck Brooks and Frank Sullivan[2].
[2] And a garland of gratitude for the worthy Mel Brooks
[3] TOTALLY WEIRD AND WONDERFUL WORDS Edited by Erin McKean and Illustrated by Roz Chast and Danny Shanahan with forwards by Simon Winchester and Richard Lederer; Oxford University Press, 2006.
[4] Aboulia [uh-BOO-lee-uh] the loss of will or volition, as a mental illness. (Related to the Greek: “thoughtlessness”)
[5] Process [PRAH-sess] absorb through the ever-thickening [and sickening] neuro-CRS[6] wall
[6] CRS [see-ARGH-ess] Can’t Remember Shit
[7] Maisterel [MAYS-ter-ell] rare and obsolete, imp or familiar (perhaps Middle French maistral: servant)
[8] Mammothrept [MAM-o-thrept] a spoiled child. (From the Greek word meaning: “raised by one’s grandmother.” – Don’t you just love the Greeks!)
[9] geason [GHEE-zun] rare, uncommon — therefore extraordinary, amazing
[10] concinnous [kun-SIN-us] neat, elegant
[11] alexiteric [uh-lek-si-TERR-ik] able to ward off contagion or act as an antidote.
[12] alexiTHYmic [ay-leks-ih-thy-mee-uh] a disorder leaving one unable to recognize or express
[13] emunctory [e-MUNK-tuh-ree] relating blowing (or wiping) one’s nose.
[14] Xenelasy [zen-EE-luh-see] an ancient Spartan law which made deportation loom menacingly over tourists. From Greek words “foreigner” and “drive away” (Think: “the management reserves the right . . .”)


  1. Wow! Judy, another dictionary I need!

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