Out of a language with at least a quarter million words, some are likely to be slightly peculiar.
Luckily, far from having just a few to choose from, English boasts a veritable treasure trove of weird words.
Ever encountered someone eating worms, or a painfully awkward middle schooler in the throes of puberty, and wished there were neatly packaged terms for these unenviable individuals?
Determined to discover what Shakespeare, Pink, and Napoleon all have in common besides their fame?
You’ve come to the right place. For the record, all the words below are taken from the Oxford English Dictionary.
The verb ‘darkle’ means “to lie darkling; to show itself darkly” or “to lie in the dark, conceal oneself.”
For decades, this antonym of ‘sparkle’ has lain mostly dormant and unused–until now. ‘Darkle‘ is in your hands.
If you need a bit of assistance to get you started promoting the darkle revolution, Gene Stratton-Porter used the term in her 1904 book Freckles to describe a character whose eyes “sparkle and darkle.”
What do Einstein, Pink, Shakespeare, and Napoleon all have in common? More than their dashing good looks (hey, there’s someone for everyone).
All four are mononymous, meaning people know and call them by one name only. The adjective stems from the noun ‘mononym,‘ a term for–surprise!–a one-word name.
This intimidating noun denoting “the eighth power of a number” was used for the first and hopefully last time in 1557.
But the fact that it exists at all is a tribute to people with agile tongues everywhere.
Despite including the word ‘snicker,’ the definition of ‘snickersee’ is no laughing matter. Both a noun and a verb, ‘snickersnee‘ is either “a large knife” or “the act of fighting with knives.”
The term is perhaps most famously used in the libretto of the Gilbert and Sullivan opera The Mikado.
If you happen to own a snickersnee and can refer to it thusly without snickering — or losing all control, for that matter — you might actually have a chance at warding off unwanted guests.
An adjective meaning “one who eats worms,” ‘scolecophagous‘ is listed in the Century Dictionary in 1891 as “worm-eating, as in a bird.”
Technically, though, there’s no hard and fast rule forbidding someone from using it to refer to a person.
If you know anyone who eats worms, you now have the perfect descriptor. Go forth as an early bird and catch the worm-eaters.
This terrifying concoction is a noun for “the action or habit of estimating as worthless.”
Some also consider it to be the longest unchallenged and untechnical word in the English language, but others contest that it shouldn’t count because Eton students supposedly coined it from a combination of Latin stems with similar meanings. For fun. Just another average day at Eton.
Despite sounding like a name for the lost eighth member of the Seven Dwarfs, ‘wheeple’ is actually a verb meaning “to utter a somewhat protracted shrill cry, like the curlew or plover,” as well as “to whistle feebly.”
The phrase “Wheeple while you work,” however, just doesn’t have the same ring.
For those who don’t feel like attending class, a humdudgeon is the perfect solution. It’s a noun defined as “an imaginary illness” originally stemming from two words, ‘hum‘ and ‘dudgeon.‘
‘Hum‘ is slang for “a hoax,” while ‘dudgeon‘ means, among other things, “ill humor.”
In a nutshell, a ‘humdudgeon’ is basically little Peggy Ann McKay’s attempt to dodge school by accident on a Saturday in Shel Silverstein’s famous poem “Sick.”
The opposite of megalomania, ‘micromania’ is “a persistent or exaggerated tendency to belittle oneself or regard oneself as unimportant.”
Of course, there is also the second definition: “the delusion that the body or part of it has become abnormally small.”
While both seem like equally undesirable ailments, the latter might require more antipsychotics.
Last but not least, ‘hobbledehoy’ is a noun defined as “a youth at the age between boyhood and manhood, esp. a clumsy or awkward youth.”
The term has mysterious origins. While most people associate it with the word ‘hobble,‘ implying an awkward or clumsy gait, linguists claim the term has a similar structure to ‘hobidy-booby‘ (“scarecrow”) and Hobbididance (“the name of a malevolent sprite or fiend” introduced during a type of dance).
Try pronouncing those ten times fast. At any rate, whatever the etymology of ‘hobbledehoy,’ the world can be content to use it as a term for boys undergoing puberty everywhere.
Now you too are privy to the wild and wacky world of the scolecophagous and mononymous.
Don’t be afraid to call them by their real names; chances are they’ll thank you for it. Or look at you like you’re a micromaniac. Either way, don’t let your courage darkly.
Do you know any other weird words? Share them in the comments section below.