Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Most Awkward Word of 2011: Haboob

It's almost the end of the year, so I wanted to commemorate it by choosing The Most Awkward Word of 2011. Based on the Global Language Monitor's list of the most commonly used words, phrases, and names for 2011, I chose the most awkward one: haboob. This word came into common use to describe dust storms that occurred in the Southwestern U.S. this past summer.

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-noun
1. a thick dust storm or sandstorm that blows in the deserts of North Africa and Arabia or on the plains of India

Examples:
"Your room looks like it was hit by a haboob!"
"She came into my life like a haboob - completely consuming me and leaving nothing but dust in her wake."

Origin: (from dictionary.com)
"1895–1900; Arabic habūb a strong wind"

Awkwardness rating: 10

A real haboob is almost as scary as a messy room. (epod.usra.edu)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Smidgen

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-noun
1. a very small amount

Examples:
"Grandma says the batter needs a smidgen of sugar."
"Move the wreath to the right a smidgen and then it will be perfect."

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"1845, perhaps from Scottish smitch 'very small amount, small insignificant person' (1822). Cf. Northumbrian dialectal smiddum 'small particle of lead ore' (1821)."

Awkwardness rating: 5

Why only a smidgen of sugar? (carlagoldenwellness.com)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Conniption

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-noun
1. informal. a fit of hysterical excitement or anger

Examples:
"My boss had a conniption when I overslept and was late for work."
"She broke her nail and had a conniption. I dumped her."

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"1833, American English, origin uncertain; perhaps related to corruption, which was used in a sense of 'anger' from 1799, or from English dialectal canapshus 'ill-tempered, captious,' probably a corruption of captious."

Awkwardness rating: 6

I broke my nail and my life is over! (sasstrology.com)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Canoodling

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-verb
1. caress, fondle, or pet amorously

Examples:
"I saw my boyfriend canoodling with another girl; I broke up with him on the spot."
"Their constant canoodling made for some extremely awkward family dinners."

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"'to indulge in caresses and fondling endearments' [OED], by 1850s, said to be U.S. slang, of uncertain origin. The earliest known sources are British, but they tend to identify the word as American. In the 1830s it seems to have been in use in Britain in a sense of 'cheat' or 'overpower.'"

Awkwardness rating: 7

Keep the canoodling to a minimum at family dinners. (examiner.com)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tatterdemalion

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-noun
1. a person in tattered clothing; a shabby person

Examples:
"After enjoying a delicious dinner of brains, the zombie wandered around looking like a tatterdemalion."
"Just because you sleep in a coffin doesn't mean you get to be a tatterdemalion."

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"'ragged child, person dressed in old clothes,' c.1600, probably from tatter (n.), with fantastic second element, but perhaps also suggested by Tartar, with a contemporary sense of 'vagabond, gypsy.'"

Awkwardness rating: 8

Maybe I want to be a fashionable zombie and not a tatterdemalion. (123rf.com)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nincompoop

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-noun
1. a fool or simpleton

Examples:
"You actually believed me when I said that unicorns exist? You're not gullible; you're a nincompoop."
"She is a nincompoop. She takes blonde to a whole other level."

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"1670s, nicompoop. Despite similarity [noted by Johnson] to Latin legal phrase non compos mentis 'insane, mentally incompetent' (c.1600), the connection is denied by etymologists because the earliest forms lack the second -n-. Weekley thinks first element may be a proper name, and cites Nicodemus, which he says was used in French for 'a fool,' or Nicholas. Klein says probably an invented word."

Awkwardness rating: 9

Unicorns: a nincompoop's fantasy pet. (bingebehavior.com)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pouf

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-noun
1. a high headdress with the hair rolled in puffs, worn by women in the late 18th century
2. an arrangement of the hair over a pad; puff
3. a puff of material as an ornament on a dress or headdress

Examples:
"I think Snooki wears her hair in a pouf so she looks taller."
"The word 'pouf' was originally in reference to over-stuffed cushions, but I think today it corresponds better to the offer-stuffed egos of the people who wear their hair that way."

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"'styles of elaborate female head-dress,' 1817 (in ref. to styles of c.1780), from French bouffer 'to blow out, puff,' probably of imitative origin. As a fashion in dress-making, recorded from 1869; in reference to over-stuffed cushions, 1884. As a verb by 1882 (implied in pouffed)."

Awkwardness rating: 4

The signature Snooki pouf. (haironthebrain.com)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hippopotamus

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-noun
1. a large herbivorous mammal, Hippopotamus amphibius, having a thick hairless body, short legs, and a large head and muzzle, found in and near the rivers, lakes, etc., of Africa, and able to remain under water for a considerable time

Examples:
"I am hungry as a hippopotamus."
"A hippopotamus has a better chance of being skinny than you do of getting that girl's number."

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"1560s, from Late Latin hippopotamus, from Greek hippopotamus 'riverhorse' (earlier ho hippos ho potamios 'the horse of the river'), from hippos 'horse' (see equine) + potamos 'river, rushing water' (see potamo-). Replaced Middle English ypotame (c.1300), which is from the same source but via Old French. Glossed in Old English as sæhengest."

Awkwardness rating: 4

A baby hippo for your enjoyment. (1funny.com)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Snollygoster

Definition: (from thefreedictionary.com)
-noun
1. slang. one, especially a politician, who is guided by personal advantage rather than by consistent, respectable principles

Examples:
"That politician is a snollygoster; he would do anything to get reelected even if it would harm his constituents."
"You knowingly charged me way too much for this car! You are a dirty snollygoster!"

Origin: (from word-detective.com)
"The most likely origin of 'snollygoster' is another, very similar, word — 'snallygaster.' From the German 'schnelle (quick)' plus 'geister (spirits),' a 'snallygaster' was a mythical monster (a giant reptilian bird, according to one source) said, among residents of Maryland, to attack and eat livestock as well as the occasional child. Just how Maryland’s version of Rodan came to be associated with avaricious politicians is anyone’s guess, but the resemblance of 'snollygoster' to 'snallygaster' is too striking to ignore."

Awkwardness rating: 9
A snollygoster or a giant reptilian bird? (leetaru.com)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Gibbosity

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-noun
1. the state of being gibbous
2. a protuberance or swelling

Examples:
"The gibbosity on my face is too big to be covered by foundation; I can't go to prom looking like this!"
"Don't overreact, it's just a pimple. But just in case it doesn't go away, I'll find you a mask to cover that gibbosity."

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"c.1400, 'bulging, convex,' from Late Latin gibbus 'hunchbacked,' from Latin gibbus 'hump, hunch,' of uncertain origin. Of the moon from early 15c.; also used from 15c. of hunchbacks."

Awkwardness rating: 6

I can't go to prom with a gibbosity on my face! (beautyoholic.blogspot.com)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Guffaw

Suggested by Adriana S.

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-noun
1. a loud, unrestrained burst of laughter
-verb (used without object)
2. to laugh loudly and boisterously

Examples:
"Her tendency to guffaw when nervous has ruined a fair number of first dates."
"The comedian had a hearty guffaw at one of his jokes to make up for the silence from the audience."

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"1720, Scottish, probably imitative of the sound of coarse laughter. Cf. gawf (early 16c.) 'loud, noisy laugh.' The verb is from 1721."

Awkwardness rating: 6

We are guffawing with you, not at you - maybe. (sawyouatsinai.com)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Jalopy

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-noun
1. informal. an old, decrepit, or unpretentious automobile

Examples:
"That jalopy has more rust on it than paint!"
"My first car was a real jalopy; the driver-side door didn't work so I had to climb in the window."

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"'battered old automobile,' 1924 (early variants include jaloupy, jaloppi, gillopy), of unknown origin; perhaps from Jalapa, Mexico, where many U.S. used cars supposedly were sent."

Awkwardness rating: 4

It may be a jalopy, but it gets me where I need to go. (archuletacountyfair.com)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Spelunk

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-verb (used without object)
1. to explore caves, especially as a hobby

Examples:
"One of my favorite activities is to spelunk local caves looking for treasure."
"When I spelunk, the only 'treasure' I find is bat guano."

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"'a cave, cavern, a vault,' c.1300, from Old French spelonque (13c.) or directly from Latin spelunca 'a cave, cavern, grotto,' from Greek spelynx (accusative spelynga, genitive spelyngos) 'a cave, cavern,' from spelos 'a cave.' An adjective, speluncar 'of a cave' is recorded from 1855."

Awkwardness rating: 8

Off spelunking I go! (atravelbroad.com)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pumpernickel

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-noun
1. a coarse, dark, slightly sour bread made of unbolted rye

Examples:
"Pumpernickel bread sounds just about how it tastes: awkward."
"In German, the word pumpernickel relates back to the indigestible quality of the bread."

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"'dark rye bread,' 1756, pompernickel, from German (Westphalian dialect) Pumpernickel (1663), originally an abusive nickname for a stupid person, from pumpern 'to break wind' + Nickel 'goblin, lout, rascal,' from proper name Niklaus (see Nicholas). An earlier German name for it was krankbrot, literally 'sick-bread.'"

Awkwardness rating: 7

Pumpernickel bread looks deceivingly delicious. (germanfoodguide.com)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pussy Willow

Suggested by Poiyka

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-noun
1. a small willow, Salix discolor, of eastern North America, having silky catkins
2. any of various similar willows

Examples:
"My mother thought that the addition of some pussy willow branches would complete the table centerpieces."
"A flowering pussy willow is one of the earliest signs of spring."

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"1869, on notion of 'soft and furry,' a children's word."

Awkwardness rating: 10

Pussy willow makes a lovely centerpiece. (arborday.org)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Curmudgeon

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-noun
1. a bad-tempered, difficult, cantankerous person

Examples:
"My principal is such a curmudgeon; I'm pretty sure he's jealous of our full heads of hair."
"Without proper caffeine intake in the morning, many adults turn into curmudgeons."

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"1570s, of unknown origin; the suggestion, based on a misreading of a garbled note from Johnson, that it is from French coeur mechant 'evil heart' is not taken seriously; the first syllable may be cur 'dog.'"

Awkwardness rating: 4

Don't talk to me before I've had my coffee. (memesomething.com)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Aplomb

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-noun
1. imperturbable self-possession, poise, or assurance
2. the perpendicular, or vertical, position

Examples:
"The bride walked down the aisle with aplomb until she tripped and fell."
"Bob accidentally walked into the women's bathroom but he handled the situation with such aplomb that he did not get arrested."

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"'assurance, confidence,' 1828, from French aplomb (16c.), literally 'perpendicularity,' from phrase à plomb 'poised upright, balanced,' literally 'on the plumb line,' from Latin plumbum '(the metal) lead' (see plumb (n.)), of which the weight at the end of the line was made."

Awkwardness rating: 3

She walked down the aisle with aplomb. (afloral.com)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tittle

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-noun
1. a dot or other small mark in writing or printing, used as a diacritic, punctuation, etc.
2. a very small part or quantity; a particle, jot, or whit

Examples:
"Without adding a tittle, your 'i' will look like a vertically challenged 'l.'"
"I don't even have a tittle of interest in this class."

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"late 14c., 'small stroke or point in writing,' representing Latin apex in Late Latin sense of 'accent mark over a vowel,' borrowed (perhaps by influence of Provençal titule 'the dot over -i-') from Latin titulus 'inscription, heading.'"

Awkwardness rating: 9

Don't be rude. (whatdoyouknowshow.com)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Loofah

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-noun
1. also called dishcloth gourd, rag gourd
a. any of several tropical vines of the genus Luffa, of the gourd family, bearing large, elongated fruit
b. the fruit of such a vine
2. also called vegetable sponge. the dried, fibrous interior of this fruit, used as a sponge

Examples:
"My favorite part of the bath and body section in the drugstore is all the colorful loofahs!"
"Natural loofahs come from the luffa plant. Some people eat it too so they are clean inside and out!"

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"1887, from Egyptian Arabic lufah, the name of the plant (Luffa ægyptiaca) with fibrous pods from which flesh-brushes are made."

Awkwardness rating: 5

A small section of the loofah rainbow. (rapgenius.com)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Anemone

Suggested by Kristen P.

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-noun
1. any of various plants belonging to the genus Anemone, of the buttercup family, having petal like sepals and including several wild species with white flowers as well as others cultivated for their showy flowers in a variety of colors
2. sea anemone (any sedentary marine animal of the phylum Coelenterata, having a columnar body and one or more circles of tentacles surrounding the mouth)

Examples: (from Disney/Pixar's Finding Nemo)
"...and the sea cucumber turns to the mollusk and says, 'With fronds like these, who needs anemones?'"
"All new explorers must answer a science question. You live in what kind of home?" "An anemonemone. Amnemonemomne." "That's okay kid, don't hurt yourself."

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"flowering plant genus, 1550s, from Middle French anemone (16c.) and directly from Latin anemone, from Greek anemone 'wind flower,' literally 'daughter of the wind,' from anemos 'wind' (cognate with Latin anima; see animus) + -one feminine patronymic suffix. According to Asa Gray, so called because it was thought to open only when the wind blows. Klein suggests the flower name perhaps originally is from Hebrew (cf. na'aman, in nit'e na'amanim, literally 'plants of pleasantness,' in Is. xvii:10, from na'em 'was pleasant'). Applied to a type of sea creature (sea anemone) from 1773."

Awkwardness rating: 3

Nemo and his "anemonemone." (animatedviews.com)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Kerfuffle

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-noun
1. chiefly British informal. a fuss; commotion

Examples:
"There was a big kerfuffle in school today!" "How did a bird get inside the school?"
"There was a keruffle in the grocery store over the last jar of pickles."

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"'row, disturbance,' c.1930, first in Canadian English, ultimately from Scot. curfuffle."

Awkwardness rating: 8

A kerfuffle sounds more like a bird's name than a commotion. (magistream.com)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wallop

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-verb (used with object)
1. to beat soundly; thrash
2. informal. to strike with a vigorous blow; belt; sock
3. informal. to defeat thoroughly, as in a game
4. chiefly Scot. to flutter, wobble, or flop about
-verb (used without object)
5. informal. to move violently and clumsily
6. (of a liquid) to boil violently
7. obsolete. to gallop
-noun
8. a vigorous blow
9. the ability to deliver vigorous blows, as in boxing
10. informal.
a. the ability to effect a forceful impression; punch
b. a pleasurable thrill; kick
11. informal. a violent, clumsy movement; lurch
12. obsolete. a gallop

Examples:
"Wendy wants to wallop William when Wisconsin wins."
"The sauce on those chicken wings really packs a wallop."

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"late 14c., 'to gallop,' possibly from Old North French *waloper (13c.), probably from Frankish *walalaupan 'to run well' (cf. Old High German wela 'well' and Old Low Franconian loupon 'to run, leap'). The meaning 'to thrash' (1820) and the noun meaning 'heavy blow' (1823) may be separate developments, of imitative origin."

Awkwardness rating: 5

That sauce packs a wallop! (sodahead.com)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Shoehorn

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-noun
1. a shaped piece of horn, metal, or the like, inserted in the heel of a shoe to make it slip on more easily
-verb (used with object)
2. to force into a limited or tight space

Examples:
"I always keep a shoehorn in my purse in case my shoe falls off and I can't put it back on by myself."
"How can I shoehorn all your stuff into my tiny apartment?"

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
noun: "1580s, from shoe (n.) + horn (n.); earlier shoeing-horn (mid-15c.)."
verb: "in the figurative sense of 'to put or thrust (something somewhere) by means of a 'tool,' 1859, from shoehorn (n.). Earlier it meant 'to cuckold' (mid-17c.), with a play on horn."

Awkwardness rating: 4

A shoehorn in action. (maniacstore.com)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bullyrag

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-verb (used with object)
1. to bully; harass

Examples:
"The cat liked to bullyrag the dog by biting his tail."
"Her boyfriend bullyragged her so much at the party that she threw her drink on him."

Origin: (from dictionary.com)
1780-90; earlier ballarag, of obscure origin

Awkwardness rating: 7

If you bullyrag me, you are getting a wine shower. (sheknows.com)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tutelage

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-noun
1. the act of guarding, protecting, or guiding; office or function of a guardian; guardianship
2. instruction; teaching; guidance
3. the state of being under a guardian or a tutor

Examples:
"Under the tutelage of their new coach, the football team finally won a game."
"Despite the patient tutelage of the eagle, the penguin was still unable to fly."

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"c.1600, from Latin tutela 'a watching, protection,' from variant past participle stem of tueri 'watch over' (see tutor (n.)). Meaning 'instruction, tuition' first appeared 1857."

Awkwardness rating: 8

Thanks for your tutelage coach! (wisconsincollegecoach.files.wordpress.com)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Muddle

Definition: (from dictionary.com)
-verb (used with object)
1. to mix up in a confused or bungling manner; jumble
2. to cause to become mentally confused
3. to cause to become confused or stupid with or as if with an intoxicating drink
4. to make muddy or turbid, as water
5. to mix or stir (a cocktail, chocolate, etc.)

Examples:
"The bartender could muddle a cocktail at the speed of light."
"Just looking at math problems makes me feel muddled."

Origin: (from etymonline.com)
"1590s, 'destroy the clarity of' (a transferred sense); literal sense ('to bathe in mud') is from c.1600; perhaps frequentative formation from mud, or from Dutch moddelen 'to make (water) muddy,' from the same Proto-Germanic source. Sense of 'to make muddy' is from 1670s; that of 'make confused' first recorded 1680s. Meaning 'to bungle' is from 1885."

Awkwardness rating: 4

Let me muddle this drink for you. (cocktail-guru.com)