A couple of years ago, one of my seventh grade students told me about this great word she had learned (I don’t know where she had learned it). The word was defenestrate, which means to throw something or someone out of a window. This was a new word for me too (not being much of a history student, it turns out). She was such an enthusiastic student, and I liked the word so much, I added it to my students’ vocabulary list, where it remains to this day. All the students love the word and I doubt if any of them will ever forget what it means! In fact, when we were recently talking about their novel, The Outsiders, and I asked them how Ponyboy and Johnny saved the children from the church fire, they replied (with glee, I might add), “They defenestrated them!”
Turns out that the word was coined in 1618 from the Latin prefix de (down or away from) and fenestra, which means window. It originates from two incidents in Prague, known as the Defenestrations of Prague. In 1419 several town officials were thrown from the windows of the town hall. Then, in 1618, two imperial governors and their secretaries were tossed from Prague Castle. This event began the 30 Years War. Who knew?
So, I decided to find some other fascinating words I could tell you about. Thus, I launch the Weird and Wonderful Words Series. The posts won’t appear every week; after all, there is still grammar to be done! Today, here are ten unusual words that begin with the letters A, B , C, and D.
Although my company is called bigwords101, I am not a proponent of using big, fancy words in your speech or writing. However, sometimes new and unusual words can be fun to use!
1. aglet (noun) – You may know this one. I once knew it, but quickly forgot. The aglet is that plastic thingie at the end of your shoelace. (Origin: 1400-1450 from Middle English and Middle French).
2. bastinado (noun) – This is a type of torture by beating the soles of the feet (or sometimes the buttocks) with a stick. (Origin: 1570-1580 from the Spanish baston, meaning stick.)
3. bibcock (noun) – This is a faucet that has a downward-bent nozzle (origin 1790). Question: Don’t they all? Wouldn’t we get really wet otherwise?
4. bibliobibuli (noun) – Obviously from biblio, meaning book. This one was coined by H.L. Mencken in 1957: “There are people who read too much: the bibliobibuli. I know some who are constantly drunk on books, as other men are drunk on whiskey or religion. They wander through this most diverting and stimulating of worlds in a haze, seeing nothing and hearing nothing.” So there! Proud to be one!
5. boondoggle (noun) – This word refers to unnecessary activity or wasteful expenditure. It is an Americanism apparently coined around 1930 by R. H. Link, an American scoutmaster, referring to simple tasks the scouts were taught.
6. bumf (noun) – Slang for toilet paper and informal for junk mail and other worthless paperwork. It is 1889 British schoolboy slang.
7. cataglottism (noun) – This one, as bibliobibuli, is in the Urban Dictionary. It is from the Greek cato (down) and glotta/glossa (tongue). You figure it out! Seriously, it means French kissing.
8. corybantic (adjective) – This one means frenzied or agitated, so you will probably be able to put this one to work pretty quickly! In classical myth, Corybants was a wild attendant of the goddess Cybele.
9. defenestrate (verb) – To throw something or someone out the window.
10. discalced (adjective) – This word means barefooted, usually referring to friars and nuns who wear sandals. (Origin: 1625 from the Latin)
Would you rather be defenestrated or the victim of bastinado when you are discalced?