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#1 2008-06-25 19:33:58

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

In a post on “Rube Goldberg” by Kem, DavidTuggy and I started talking about words that seem fun (or pleasant or weird) to say for some reason that isn’t necessarily tied to the word’s meaning. The original thread is here: http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/forum/view … hp?id=2764 Since that went quickly off-topic, I’ve started this new thread.

I’ve carried mental lists of such words for decades. Here are a few that come immediately to mind:

googly-eyed
globular
dipsomaniac
paroxysmal
marshmallow
aspergillum
sarsparilla
onomatopoeia
zeugma
hypotenuse
kerfuffle
brouhaha
donnybrook
fisticuffs
baobab
gonad
nabob
hobgoblin
ululate
ytterbium
adenoidal
fistula
bronchial spasm
akimbo
podunk
ichor
squamous
eldritch [the last three seem to constitute a Lovecraftian triad]
Lovecraftian
gerrymander
haphazardly
hamhandedly
chalcedony
giggle
muzzle
bazooka
borborygmus
zygote
jugular
jalopy
mumchance
stevedore
mugwort
troglodyte
breakneck speed
braggadocio
hotshot
gewgaw
tschotschkes
kerplotzed [the list derived from Yiddish could be very long]
hugger-mugger
skullduggery
islets of Langerhans
hieroglyphics
vamoose
amscray
dichondra
infundibular
taradiddle
tintinnabulation [words that are transparently onomatopoeic seem a bit like cheating, but it’s hard to exclude the more elaborate ones]

One thing about posting such a list in public is that I’m not at all sure anyone else will feel that some certain, hard-to-define quality links all of these. My own criteria of selection are not transparent to me, though a number of these are words I’ve heard plenty of other people comment on over the years—for example, gewgaw, borborygmus, troglodyte, eldritch, brouhaha. These aren’t necessarily “funny” words by the way. As a chronic asthmatic, I don’t think bronchial spasms are a laughing matter. But there’s something about the sound of that phrase, with all of its consonant clusters, that draws my attention to its sonic profile.

Consonants seem more important than vowels here. Voiced plosives (b/d/g) show up in a lot of these words/phrases. Syllables that both begin and end with consonants seem to catch the ear, especially when they’re lined up in sequence in a word. Uncommon consonant clusters are attention-getting; “amscray,” the Pig Latin version of “scram,” probably owed some of its (now-fading) popularity to that mscr conjunction right in the middle. Greek and Yiddish words are interesting because they often seem both very familiar and yet quite exotic in structure.

But enough analysis for now. Does anyone else have words/lists that seem somehow similar?

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#2 2008-06-25 20:12:25

jorkel
Eggcornista
Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 1455

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

I’ve had a list in the back of my dictionary…
blellum—sounds like a bad dracula imitation
funambulist—evokes “fun” + “ambulance”
ugsome—sounds like it should inspire one to say “ug”
gimcrack—sounds like a cross between gimmick and wisecrack
cunctation—evokes “conk”
golliwog, lollygag, and williwaw
syllabub—surprise ending “bub”
frigorific—sounds like a mild cuss word
usufruct — also sounds like it could come in handy when cursing
splendiferous—sounds totally made up
hidey-hole —this one’s just too cute!
fiddle-footed — this one’s too cute, too.
stonyhearted—sounds cutesy because of stony rather than stone
gallinipper—sounds like a girl who sneaks a nip of alcohol now and then
nosology—sounds like it could be the study of noses
frugivorous
hubble-bubble
oriflamme
flimflam
tintinnabulary —makes me think of the cartoon “Tintin”
borborygmus
argy-bargy
gardyloo—look this one up some time.
fungible—evokes “fungus”
pettitoes—use this one in place of potatoes
erumpant
flibbertigibberty
foofaraw—evokes “foo foo”
neutercane
nugatory
fubsy—what a cute nickname it would make
lowlihead
burgomaster
sockdolager— sounds like a sock used as a hand puppet
stumblebum
proptosis —evokes “prop”
skedaddler
ovoviviparous

Last edited by jorkel (2008-06-27 15:20:39)

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#3 2008-06-25 21:01:36

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

Yes, you clearly understand just what I was getting at. Those are great. And in fact, I was trying to remember “gimcrack” this morning as I was writing “gewgaw,” and I just couldn’t come up with it.

Your list and mine both have many rare words, but I think I’m most fascinated by words like “helterskelter,” and “akimbo” and “podunk” that seem to hold on to this ineffable quality even while getting hard use in the everyday lexicon.

Last edited by patschwieterman (2008-06-25 21:02:44)

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#4 2008-06-25 23:18:06

JonW719
Eggcornista
From: Colorado
Registered: 2007-09-05
Posts: 285

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

Among my favorite funny words are:
doily
Beloit (city in Wisconsin; a friend told me once it sounds like a fart in a bathtub!)
galoot
rapscallion (sounds like an onion, no?)
austere (which, to my ear, always sounded like it meant the opposite of what it really does)
gnocchi
prestidigitation
newfangled
kerfuffle
weasel (I once heard someone claim that any sentence could be made funny by throwing this word in)
narthex
nazard (an organ stop)
narcissistic
asinine
jackanapes
gobbledygook
dowager
distaff
needlenose (pliers)
strudel
shibboleth
Mephibosheth (biblical name; always thought it would be a good name for a frog)
shenanigans
dastardly
gimmickry
gallivant
bifurcate
throat
matriculate (makes me think of something trickling or someone peeing)
masticate
zither
ziggurat (anyone got a light?)
lithe; lithesome
harangue
superfluous
chartreuse
festoon
bedraggle
falderal

I suspect I will think of more later.

Last edited by JonW719 (2008-06-25 23:20:31)


Feeling quite combobulated.

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#5 2008-06-26 00:59:33

jorkel
Eggcornista
Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 1455

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

Here’s a class of words that I can never take seriously…
hurry-scurry
raggle-taggle
skimble-skamble
hoity-toity
helter-skelter
fiddle-faddle
tittle-tattle
snipper-snapper
hurly-burly
chiff-chaff
hubble-bubble
argy-bargy
arby-barby
ticky-tacky
hanky-panky
namby-pamby

I’m aware of the literary origin of “namby-pamby.” Even so, I could never get myself into the quaint mindset of these words and their arbitrary juxtapositions. What’s with them? Did most of them enter the language in an era when such constructions were in vogue?

Last edited by jorkel (2008-06-26 01:00:54)

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#6 2008-06-26 03:26:39

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1751
Website

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

Wonderful! Love all those words, though I’ve gotta admit I don’t remember ever hearing or seeing borborygmus before. Did anybody mention syzygy , or sesquipedalian ? Yes, zeugma is a wonderful one. I know we mentioned metathesis ( = methasetis) and haplology (= haplogy) on another thread. (Got tired of making italics here…)

A set I love: nonce blends, most of them, though some have been repeated. They are all self-referential (like anomolaous or innacuracy): mixed up words (like mesathetis) meaning mixed up. All of them are documented as (pretty surely) non-purposeful mistakes.

intertwingled
intertwaddled
entwangled
intertwoven

intersposed

snarbled
snargled
jarbled
jambled
magnled
smershed

mis-mash
mitch-match
mix-mash
hodge-modge
methasetis
mixted up
minxed up

misconscrewed
misconstrused

felxible
fombling
pertumation
nilly-willy
skelter-helter

Re self-referential (and its flip-side: self-denying) language, the sentence I am proudest of having authored and published (in a book chapter on morphology, with special emphasis on English) reads:

English exhibits a definite propensity for diminutivity, even monosyllabicity, in its lexical formulations; on the other hand, it likes long words too.

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2008-06-26 03:31:55)


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#7 2008-06-26 21:54:57

Fishbait2
Eggcornista
From: Brookline, MA
Registered: 2006-10-09
Posts: 80
Website

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

DavidTuggy,

You have ever right to be proud of that sentence. I love it too.

It’s a bit like:

“The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the blue, one red.”

The monosyllable thing is something I love about English. Alexander Pope was terrific at it:

Where’er you walk, cool gales shall fan the glade;
Trees, where you sit, shall crowd into a shade.
Where’er you tread, the blushing flow’rs arise;
And all things flourish where you turn your eyes.

Is “flow’rs” cheating? I don’t think so, especially in an “r”-less dialect.

To return to the topic, I nominate:

anodyne
eructation
incarnadine
crepuscular
farrago
lycanthropic

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#8 2008-06-26 22:27:27

rogerthat
Eggcornista
From: Denver, Colorado, USA
Registered: 2008-05-19
Posts: 64

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

Wowee Zowee! Besides Pat’s decades, how long have you guys been compiling this cool stuff? Hope some of your efforts rubs off on me. Thank you.

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#9 2008-06-27 00:13:27

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2101

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

English lost its claim to being a Really Serious Language on the first day that someone said the word “canoodle” and his tongue didn’t leap out of his mouth and lash him into unconsciousness.

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#10 2008-06-27 03:53:46

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1751
Website

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

Kem strikes again!

Canoodle sort of fits with spooning and with oodling with your googly eyes.

A favorite of mine:

They looked it over with their scruten eyes.

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2008-06-27 13:00:23)


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#11 2008-06-27 05:18:16

klakritz
Eggcornista
From: Winchester Massachusetts
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 674

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

Some words are fun to pronounce, some have surprising meanings, and others just look good. I suspect that one quality that unites all eggcornologists is our aesthetic responsiveness to words. (If we were mathematicians, we’d be trading best-loved integers!)

I hadn’t consciously been maintaining a list of favorites, but here are some that immediately came to mind once i saw the lists above:

inspissated
syncategorematic
diapaison
consilience
celerity
chiaroscuro
riparian
hebdomadal
autochthonous
infundibulum
fissiparous
barmecidal
obloquy
deixis
avuncular
squirearchy
mulct
tumbril
verisimilar
apodictic
amphibology
morganatic
plenipotentiary
sidereal
alexithymia
meretricious
supratentorial
sublunary
paronomasia
zeugma
anaphylaxis
premunition
seersucker
orotund
syllepsis
macrodactyly
monopsony
lubricious
arbitrage
factitious
troglodyte
invidious
rodomontade
fenugreek
haberdasher
stereopsis
monomania
azimuth
papilledema
imbricated
mereology
vermiform

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#12 2008-06-27 14:41:50

Fishbait2
Eggcornista
From: Brookline, MA
Registered: 2006-10-09
Posts: 80
Website

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

Thanks, Klakritz, for reminding me of a couple of my favorites: “diapaison” and “sublunary.”

As for “diapaison,” listen to Handel’s “Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day,” words by John Dryden. It’s gorgeous:

From harmony, from heavenly harmony,

This universal frame began.

Through all the compass of the notes it ran

The diapason closing full in man.

Of course the setting follows the words, illustrating a “diapaison.”

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#13 2008-06-27 17:20:16

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2101

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

And thank you fishbait, for reminding me of a beloved piece of music.

Your organ reference brought to mind of the Prelude to James Russell Lowell’s The Vision of Sir Launfal, a poem I had to memorize parts of in my early days. The first stanza:

Over his keys the musing organist, /
Beginning doubtfully and far away, /
First lets his fingers wander as they list, /
And builds a bridge from Dreamland for his lay: /
Then, as the touch of his loved instrument /
Gives hopes and fervor, nearer draws his theme, /
First guessed by faint auroral flushes sent /
Along the wavering vista of his dream.

This poem has in it the famous line “And what is so rare as a day in June.” Appropriate-today is our first real day of warmth (25 C) on Vancouver Island. So far one of the coolest Junes on record.

I wonder why some people spell diapason with an extra “i” (diapaison)? Is this the modern spelling? There is no iota in the Greek source phrase.

Last edited by kem (2008-06-27 17:32:29)

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#14 2008-06-27 19:07:00

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1751
Website

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

(Was starting to comment on the spelling of diapason, but you beat me to it, kem.)

Another beautiful word that came to mind today: febrifuge

I was recalling Charles Williams’ Ballonistic use of it, in Many Dimensions , where he has Lord Arglay considering the possibility

that amid all this mess of myths and tangle of traditions and . . . and . . . febrifuge of fables, there is something extreme and terrible

A febrifuge of fables. Sheer antediluvianism.

(Many of you have probably enjoyed the game of venery and An Exaltation of Larks . If not, you have a treat in store. Two of my favorites (not from the book, as I remember):

A felony of cats
A lot of realtors)

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2008-06-27 19:09:41)


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#15 2008-06-27 19:22:18

Fishbait2
Eggcornista
From: Brookline, MA
Registered: 2006-10-09
Posts: 80
Website

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

Kem, thanks. I’ve never read “the Vision of Sir Launfal” apart from “What is so rare as a day in June?” which was in our high school anthology. If you had to memorize the whole thing I’d guess that you are . . . 108? Of course, the answer to Lowell’s question is “a day in April, September, and November. . . while a day in February is rarer still.”

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#16 2008-06-27 19:33:31

Craig C Clarke
Eggcornista
Registered: 2005-11-19
Posts: 232
Website

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

fructose

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#17 2008-06-27 20:03:48

JonW719
Eggcornista
From: Colorado
Registered: 2007-09-05
Posts: 285

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

Sort of off topic; thanks, Kem, for naming the title and author of the poem. Can you point me to a source online for it? My mom has always quoted “What’s so rare as a day in June?” but didn’t know the rest of the poem, nor did she know where it had come from. I’d like to be able to read it to her….

On topic, I like the word proboscis (very satisfying to pronounce), and I always find the word nostril to be mildly humorous, though I don’t know why. Picturesque is a word that sounds like what it means, though as a child I went through a time, inexplicably, of not being able to pronounce it (it came out as “pisscaresque”), when earlier I had been able to pronounce it with no difficulty. Very frustrating.

Last edited by JonW719 (2008-06-27 20:19:28)


Feeling quite combobulated.

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#18 2008-06-27 20:29:50

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2101

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

Vision of Sir Launfal is here: http://www.lib.rochester.edu/Camelot/launfal.htm

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#19 2008-06-27 20:41:45

klakritz
Eggcornista
From: Winchester Massachusetts
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 674

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

Nothing makes me happier than a new item of vocabulary- mumchance, febrifuge, taradiddle and erumpent are great!

Here’s one more semi-random list of words I enjoy. I promise to stop after this.

peccadillo
reredos
totipotent
eleemosynary
verbigeration
ambit
mountebank
sequestrum
anadromous
logorrhea
davit
ephebophile
qualia
lemniscate
cryptococcosis
sempiternal
noctilucent
velleity
sumptuary
hippocampus
fungible
sesquipedalian
syncytium
cliometrics
neoteny
sessile
ipsilateral
sussurrant
uxorious
pasha
methodeutic
candidiasis
exaptation
valetudinarian
apse
contravariant
litotes
hamartoma
ecliptic
pasquinade
heliotrope
sorites
parenchyma
deuterostome
homiletics
peduncle
subfusc
bezoar
epigenesis
aleatory

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#20 2008-06-27 20:51:43

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1751
Website

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

We are a bunch of nuts here. Glad to meet you all!

Unlike these rare funny words, some common ones are funny. Who was it mentioned nostril just now? That’s the sort of thing I mean.

One I’ve heard my kids laugh about for a half hour straight (’course they can do that about nearly anything) is bucket . I think it may have started with my oldest son’s opining that Charlie Bucket’s surname in Roald Dahl’s book was just right. Somehow, I agree. I’m not just sure why, but bucket is a very funny word, much funnier than pail, almost as funny as nostril …

Oh, by the way, another rare one: vigesimation. “So, do you want to be decimated, or absolutely vigesimated?” Sounds like vigesimation ought to be “twice as worse”, but actually it’s only half as bad.

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2008-06-27 20:58:21)


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#21 2008-07-02 23:41:28

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1751
Website

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

Two others that for some reason came to mind today:

quincunx

razz-ma-tazz


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#22 2008-07-03 05:09:33

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

Synchronicity! I was thinking of “quincunx” today when I saw a beautiful copy of the novel by that name for sale for 33 cents. (Copies of that book always look beautiful—I doubt many of the people who bought it read it.) Good choice.

A few more have occurred to me, too:

abdomen
burble
bumptious
scrumptious
hiccup
curmudgeon
dudgeon
pigeon
hamadryad
catamaran
doodle
hagridden
shortcoming
strop
abhor
doldrums
gastronomy

Last edited by patschwieterman (2008-07-03 22:39:47)

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#23 2008-07-03 13:09:05

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1751
Website

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

Never seen the novel. It is a fun word though.

As are the others you list, though I must say I abhor that (abhominable) spelling.

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2008-07-03 17:38:37)


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#24 2008-07-03 22:39:10

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

Oops—thanks. I’ll edit it. Never ignore your spellchecker.

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#25 2008-07-03 23:04:32

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: words that seem inherently amusing, pleasant or odd

If you haven’t seen The Quincunx by Charles Palliser, you mustn’t browse piles of old novels in English much—it’s ubiquitous. Hey, there’s a word that should be on the list….

Some others as penance for my misspelling:

cwm
panjandrum
picnic
scrimshaw
Shavian
animadversion
farrago
congeries
rabies
dropsy
oddment
shambolic
ziggurat
sagebrush [love that /dzhbr/ collision right in the middle]
brinksmanship
asparagus
slumgullion
hebetude
hecatomb
odalisque
tussock

Speaking of spellcheckers, ours is flagging “hebetude” but is just fine with “panjandrum.” Huh.

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