With almost every class I teach, my students always seem to ask me if there is one word to describe an entire situation or sentence or phrase. And every time any student asks me this, I draw a very large ravine-like blank. While I am getting better at naming synonyms for words on the spot, this is still quite a predicament. For all I know, there very well could be a word for their specific situation/sentence/phrase. It’s not like I’m Winston Churchill…or a dictionary.
I’m actually very much a dork when it comes to learning new words. I have a spreadsheet full of words I want to learn and my upcoming New Year’s Resolution is to learn a new word each day (Monday through Friday) and to do so I need to say the word at least 5 times a day. Whenever I read a book, I always have a piece of paper and pen to jot down all of the words I don’t know….so I can look them up later (Thanks for that one, Dad). Thankfully, with my awesome Kindle, I can look up the words while I’m reading. It’s so great! I guess you could say my goal is to be the Winston Churchill of words.
I will be teaching my students words they don’t even need to know….and that most of the English-speaking world won’t understand. Yes, I am that good of a teacher…or I will be. Not only will my students have a better grasp of the English language but their grasp will be better than most native English speakers.
When teaching my students about hangovers I can throw in that many people in their potvaliancy, commit acts of vandalism or foolishness. And when we discuss their lazy brother who refuses to get a job, I can teach them louse and profligate so that they will be better equipped when hurling insults. While learning about the wonders of pronouncing the letter y in English words, I can teach them borborygmus and amygdaliform. In my students anacoluthic speech they could inadvertently create a neologism or, more likely, a nonce word. Isn’t this fun!
Potvaliancy (noun) [pot-val-yuh n-see] – brave only as a result of being drunk.
Louse (noun)- an unethical, contemptible person.
Profligate (noun) [prof-li-git, -geyt] – shamelessly immoral; characterized by excessive devotion to pleasure.
Borborygmus (noun) [bawr-buh–rig-muh s] – a rumbling or gurgling sound caused by the movement of gas in the intestines.
Amygdaliform (adj) [uh–mig-duh-luh-fawrm] – something almond shaped.
Anacoluthic (adj) [an-uh-kuh-loo-thik] – lack of grammatical sequence or coherence in a sentence.
Neologism (noun) [nee-ol–uh-jiz-uh m] – a new word introduced to the language.
Nonce Word – a word that has been coined or borrowed for a specific purpose but unlikely to become a standard in the language.