I have always been attracted to odd or funny or unusual words. I love that the English language has such a wealth of them.* As I child I would sometimes sit and read the dictionary – finding strange words and trying to work them into everyday speech (or the many unfinished stories I always had on the go).
Words I remember learning in that way:
Grimalkin: an old witch.
Madder: a natural red dye.
Glabrous: smooth skinned.
I first read Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy at 15, and for many years adored it (although I have to say I prefer my prose a lot less fancy these days). But it was full of many words I didn’t understand. I would mark them in the text. Then when I reached a suitable break I would get out the dictionary, look up all the recent words, and write the meanings in to the margins – in case i forgot again by the time I re-read the book (you will recall from previous posts that although I love books, I am not precious about them).
Words I remember learning from Gormenghast:
Gibbous: the moon when it is more than half, but less than full.
Osseous: made of bone.
For a time I became particularly intrigued by unusual names, and kept a small notebook in which I jotted down odd names that I came across.
My favourite company names, learnt whilst working as a temp for a variety of local, mostly mining-related businesses:
Norbert Dentressangle; a haulier, but the name always reminds me of Murun Buchstansangur, which I used to enjoy as a child, and – having now looked it up after *cough* years – is even odder than I remember.
Angst Pfister; they’re real, honest. And safe for work!
I also made up reams of names. Sometimes I would think up a character to go with the name. Sometimes they made it as far as (an unfinished) story.
Tragically I can no longer find the notebook full of my best names. But these are a few from a comic-adventure boarding school story I still vaguely intend to finish one day:
Boscoe Roast; a schoolboy and a bully.
Colt Saltarello; a handsome, laconic Texan, and dancing intructor.
Frances Botticelli-Irvingspoon; from a wealthy but dissolute family, she knows all manner of interesting things that a young girl probably shouldn’t, and is excellent at poker.
And finally, three very common words which for some reason when I see written down I often mispronounce/misapprehend to myself:
misled: (myzelled) I went out for a misle; now I’m thoroughly misled.
mishap: (mish-ap) I have no idea what that could mean. Perhaps it’s similar to a mashup?
doing: I want to pronounce it to rhyme with boing.
Anyone got a favourite word they’d like to share?
* German also has a great number of peculiar words, I later learnt. My favourite is ausgeflippt: freaked out.