Culture

No one ever has much trouble describing their kid’s latest tantrum, the terrible movie they watched last night or why we should all stop eating meat. If they did then Facebook would be dead and gone. No, the things we really struggle to wrap our vocabulary around are weird, intense things like feelings, experiences and all of the mind-blowing things that nature does, like spraying water from the tops of waves, creating smells in the earth after it rains and all the magic colors it paints on the world.

Read on for 13 words about nature that’ll make you want to run outside.
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Depending on the leaf I’m going with reddy-orangey-brown but fueillemort sounds so much better.

 

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Often used to refer to plants, some thriving in rain and some shunning rain for drier climes, omrophobous is a great word that comes from the Greek ‘ombros’ meaning ‘rain shower’.
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Estivation is the simple act of ‘passing the summer’ but does have connotations of long, lazy days and warm, contented nights.

 

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Another word more often found on the pages of plant biology journals than heard in bars, frondescence can be used to mark the period of time that a certain species opens its leaves to the sun but can also mean simply, foliage.
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I see this word and I think cereal. Nothing to do with Swiss muesli, Alpenglow is a reddish glow that can be seen on the summits of mountains but is also used to refer to the specific glow of the Alps where the snowy heights reflect the sunlight in an unusual way at sunrise and sunset.
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The sun isn’t just ‘the sun’ in winter, the touch of its warming glow is far more precious than that and should be given its proper name, apricity.
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The opposite of estivation, hyemation means the passing of winter and comes from the Latin hiemāre, “to winter.”
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Similar to the Turkish word gumusservi, a word meaning ‘moonlight shining on water’ and one the internet says has no equivalent, moonglade is a name for the line of moonlight reflected on water.
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This is a wonderful word with stirring origins. Nothing to do with the utensil you use to stir your tea, spoondrift is derived from the old Scots word ‘spoon’ which meant ‘to run before the wind’ while drift may come from the Old Norse ‘drift’, like snowdrift.
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Noctivagent can be used to describe people who go about that dastardly deeds at night but is more commonly used to refer to members of the animal kingdom who are awake during the night such as the spawn of hell, bats.
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Meaning ‘bad land’, malpais refers to terrain that has formerly been the site of volcanic activity, like a lava stream. Not a great place to plant crops and definitely not a good place to build a house.
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We love petrichor. A scientific word, petrichor is derived from the Greek word for stone, ‘petra’ and ‘ichor’, the name for the liquid that flows in the veins of the Greek gods. We like it even more now.
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I have no idea how to pronounce this. Silent P? Another word derived from Greek, psithuros originally meant ‘whispering or slanderous’.

 

 

 

This is a really great opportunity to bemoan our 21st century obsession with looking down at our smartphones rather than looking up and out at our world but I’m not going to do that, mostly because smartphones have Instagram and twitter and cats on pianos and I’m just not sure the sky can actually compete with that.

Let’s give the universe the benefit of the doubt, though and read on for 11 stellar words about the universe that’ll make you look up to the stars.

 

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Divided into twelve equal areas, the Zodiac contains all of the star signs, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces, named after the constellations that once lay in it.

 

 

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The less romantically-named polar mesospheric clouds are visible in the upper atmosphere in deep twilight and noctilucent clouds are a hangover from this phenomenon. Noctilucent means ‘night shining’ in Latin.

 

 

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Ceres is thought to be the smallest dwarf planet in the solar system and is named after the Roman goddess of agriculture.

 

 

 

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‘Ecliptic’ also refers to an equivalent great circle on the terrestrial globe that passes through the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Back in the stars, though the great circle on the celestial sphere is inclined at 23.45° to the celestial equator. Do I sound like I know what I’m talking about?

 

 

 

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Another celestial body named after a Roman goddess, Vesta, the goddess of the hearth, Vesta has a diameter of about 530km.

 

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Poor Pluto, discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh and downgraded in 2006 to a dwarf planet.

 

 

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Cassiopeia is one of the most conspicuous constellations in the skies. Shaped like a W and located near the Pole Star, Cassiopeia has been identified as the remnant of a supernova. Cassiopeia got her name from Greek myth where she is the wife of King Cepheus and after giving birth to her daughter Andromeda is changed into a constellation.

 

 

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Apogee is also often used in a more general sense to refer to the highest point of something.

 

 

 

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Another constellation that can be easily spotted, the Ursa Major is visible north of latitude of 40° and is also known as the ‘Great Bear’. The seven brightest stars at its center are known as ‘the Plough’.

 

 

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Zenith has a few other meanings too. The Zenith is the highest point reached in the heavens by a celestial body, the culminating point of the time at which something is most powerful or successful, ie, ‘the zenith of her career’.

 

 

 

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Everybody’s heard of the Aurora Borealis, right? The bands of light that can be seen in an aurora are usually green, yellow or red in colour and are caused by charged particles from the sun, trapped in the earth’s magnetic field and reacting with air molecules.

 

 

 

 

As Jules Verne said, ‘The sea is everything.’

The sea covers seventy percent of the world’s surface and for all the Discovery Channel documentaries out there it remains largely undiscovered. A source of genuine mystery, the sea lures us closer to it while the danger of its depths pushes us away.

Read on for 7 mysterious new words about the sea from around the world.

 

 

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An oceanid is a figure from Greek mythology. Made up of the three thousand daughters of Titan gods Oceanus and Tethys, Oceanids are patronesses of bodies of water.

 

 

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The allision of two ships is different to a collision in that one of the ships must be stationary at the time. If this word isn’t currently used in automobile accident insurance claims then it should be. Like, there you were, minding your own business when suddenly another driver rams into you causing an inconvenient allision in the grocery store car park.
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Ever heard the idiom, ‘in the offing’? No? Well, now you have. If something is ‘in the offing’, it means it is a thing that’s soon to come, something that can be seen to approach from the shore.
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Although ‘abyssopelagic’ originates in the colorful and evocative Greek language its usage is primarily scientific these days and refers to a layer of the oceanic zone at depths between around 4,000 and 6,000m. The depth at which, I imagine, you find the things with no name.
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The beautiful thing about this word is that it does not just mean moonlight. Gumusservi is not just any old moonlight shining down on any old surface. No, gumusservi is specifically the moonlight that reflects on the surface of water. Gorgeous.
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Although the indigenous Australian language of Wagiman is near-extinct, the word murr-ma – which means to walk along in the water searching for something with your feet – was given new life recently when it was chosen by a student design team as the name of their innovative design for an amphibious prosthetic leg.

 

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A lovely onomatopoeic word about the sea to end our list, sough is soothing to the ear, as both a word and a sound.

 

I think we can all admit to thinking we’re pretty smart. But how to prove it? Opportunities to prove the efficiency of our brain function in day-to-day commonplace situations are few and far between. It’s remarkably difficult to slip your academic achievements into conversation, no one wants to know that you completed the NYT crossword in ten minutes and everyone hates a guy who quotes. Improving your vocabulary might just be the only socially acceptable way of showing everyone what a smarty-pants you are.

Read on for 11 new adjectives that’ll make you sound like a genius.
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Think Brian Blessed. You know, Flash Gordon, ‘GORDON’S ALIVE’. Yeah, you got it.
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I’m not sure whether being aspectabund is a desirable quality or not. I guess it depends how often you feel pissed off.
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If this hasn’t turned up in the left-leaning German press like a million times in recent months then I’ll eat my shoes, Werner Herzog style.
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The only feasible way I can see you shoehorning this word into general conversation is in the following, ‘yeah so this girl was wasted at the bar, swaying all over, and we knew she was going to go and when she finally did it was quaquaversal, man.’
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A perfect word to throw into post-Christmas conversations that inevitably start with ‘so, did you enjoy the holidays back home?’

 

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You’re no longer just ‘bored with work’ or ‘ready for a change’, you’re novaturient, baby.
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Maybe if you explain your actions using amazing vocabulary like ‘sturmfrei’ your parents will forgive you for the hundreds of dollars’ worth of damage inflicted on their house during your first house party? I doubt it, though.
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Never say anything was ‘amazing’ again.
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Never say anything was ‘rubbish’ again.
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I’ve definitely heard this word in use but had no idea what it meant until now. See, we’re all learning here.
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Don’t be that guy. Don’t be that finifugal guy who just won’t let go. Just take a taxi to the airport.

 

 

 

Here at Wordables we wouldn’t exactly want to condone insulting people but if you’re going to do it, you might as well use a really great word.

Read on for 9 great archaic insults that’ll baffle whoever you throw them at.
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Like many old insults that no one has heard of since the 1800s, pecksniffian is a Dickensian invention. Mr Pecksniff is a character from Martin Chuzzlewit (1844) who spent his time prattling on about good morals and benevolence while going about various dastardly deeds in the background.
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I could have sworn this was a Dickens’ word too but it seems not. The word can be traced back as early as 1824 and entered popular usage in Victorian London to describe street children.
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Often used in reference to lawyers this word goes way, way back to the mid-1600s and, pleasingly, needs little explanation.
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Nowadays this word is used to refer to a person who had made scandalous claims about someone with the intention of damaging their reputation but back in the day ‘scurrilous’ was used to describe shocking (but also funny) writings that used a lot of vulgar language.
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This English word means the same thing however it is used, as a noun, verb or adjective. Cool, huh?
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There must be hundreds of colloquial terms that carry the same meaning as uxorious but there’s something about throwing a word with an x in it into conversation that can instantly make you feel righteous.
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Finally, an insult that derives from Shakespeare. ‘Chop logicke’ first turns up in Romeo and Juliet in 1597 and refers to anyone who involves themselves in specious argument. To be avoided.
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Do be aware that calling someone marmoreal, particularly one’s spouse, knowing that they have no idea what that word means is somewhat marmoreal in itself.
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Say what you mean why don’t you? Widdiful comes from an old northern English and Scottish word, widdy, meaning a flexible branch used to fasten things together. Later ‘widdy’ came to refer to the hangman’s noose and led to the cheerful saying that one could be ‘born to fill a widdy’. Nice.

 

 

If you want to get a glimpse of what a culture is truly like look no further than its slang. Colloquial language reveals much about a country’s history, its quirks, its outlook and, vitally, its sense of humor. In South Africa, where 11 languages compete to be heard it’s even more important to have an understanding of what’s being said to you. You don’t want people to think you’re a mampara after all.

Read on for 11 beguiling South African words and their everyday meanings.
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In South Africa China does not mean a vast communist nation in East Asia, nor does it mean a type of porcelain or ceramic used to make tea sets for fancy people. In South Africa ‘China’ means ‘good friend’ and is one of the last remaining vestiges of Cockney rhyming slang in use in the country. China plate = mate. Perfect.

 

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Pronounced with a rolling r, lekker is a very hard-working word in South African and can be used in pretty much any circumstance to express satisfaction.

 

 

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Jol can be used to refer to any kind of party, disco, family activity or general good-time in South Africa. May or not derive from the British, ‘a jolly’.

 

 

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To confess that you’re in a ‘dwaal’ in South Africa is to say that you’re feeling a bit brain-dead, that you drifted off for a moment and missed whatever it is you were supposed to be focusing on.
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The word mampara comes from the Sotho language group and can be used in an insulting way or in a light-hearted, you silly mampara sort of way.
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Wherever you go in the world there will be a different word for the useless remains of a cigarette. Where I grew up in the UK we used ‘dumper’ and in South Africa its ‘stompie’, a marvelous word that can also be used in the idiom ‘picking up stompies’ which means to intrude on a conversation at the end with no understanding of what came before.

 

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There’s something wonderfully comforting about the word muti when you compare it to the sterile and scary-sounding ‘medication’. From the isiZulu language, muti typically refers to traditional African medicine.

 

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Forget Johnny 5, C3PO and the T-100, a robot in South Africa is not an electro-mechanical helper/villain but a simple traffic light.

 

 

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Saying ‘oke’ in South Africa is similar to saying guy or dude.

 

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A Yiddish word now to blow your mind. In South Africa, kugel often refers to an overtly-groomed, patently materialistic young woman and comes from the Yiddish word for a plain pudding that is dressed up as a delicacy. In England we have the hideous phrase ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ which means something along the same lines.
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Pronounced with an uh sound, like bub-buh-luss, babalaas is a great word for that washed-out, nauseous feeling after one too many the night before.

 

 

 

As if real, earthy creatures weren’t bad enough – spiders, snakes, grizzly bears, bats for christsake – we also have mythical, unreal-until-proven-real, creatures to contend with. Throughout the history of the world, across different continents and cultures, people have been obsessed with otherworldly creatures. These mythical beasts may not exist but that doesn’t stop them from leaving traces of their presence behind or even allowing themselves to be spotted.

Read on for 9 bizarre mythical creatures that’ll give you the creeps.
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The ancient Greek’s believed that the first amphisbaena was spawned from blood that dripped from Medusa’s head. Subsequent generations of this hideous serpent beast stayed alive by feeding off corpses found it in its territory of the Libyan Desert.

 
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In Old Norse mythology four legs just wasn’t enough and so the mythical Sleipnir was blessed with eight legs and is described as ‘the best of all horses.’
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Although often referred to as an elf, the Nuckelavee was first thought to be a horse-like demon and originated in Norse mythology. The most horrible demon of the Scottish Islands, the Nuckelavee may have been related to Old Nick himself.
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The Taniwha is a whale-like monster from Māori mythology that is thought to live in deep pools or in the sea. Thought to favour places with dangerous currents or giant waves, the Taniwha were thought of as predatory beings who could even kidnap Māori wives for their own.
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This creeps me out no end. A Jorōgumo is a type of Yōkai, a ghost or demon found in Japanese folklore, and is a giant spider than can shape shift into a beautiful woman.
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From Zulu mythology, the tokoloshe is a water sprite that tends to cause mischief rather than actual harm but can be called on my malevolent people and set upon others.
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Every culture seems to have its own werewolf and vampire myths but in Slavic culture they’ve combined the two into the terrifying Vukodlak monster, a blood-drinking wolf who stalks its prey at night.
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A creature of Russian legends, Sirin were generally believed to have the head and chest of beautiful women but the bodies of birds, usually owls. Sirins were thought to live near the Euphrates River and were frequently accused of having purposefully led men to their deaths.
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According to Angolan legend, a kishi has a man’s face on one side of its head and a hyena’s on the other. After smooth-talking young women into being alone with them, the kishi are said to turn their heads to the hyena side and eat their prey’s face. That’s one way to get your teenage daughter to stay home.

 

 

 

Portuguese is one of the most melodic and enchanting languages we have. The seventh most spoken language in the world, Portuguese stretches its influence way beyond the country of Portugal as the most-spoken language – with variations – in Brazil, parts of India, Macau and several African nations.

 

Portuguese is a romance language, closely related to Spanish and French and is notoriously easy on the ear. When it comes to translating other languages into English there is always ambiguity, a little something is always lost, but with some words there is no just no equivalent.

 

Read on for 7 illuminating new Portuguese words with untranslatable meanings.
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Most of us probably feel like desenrascanҫo pretty much sums up our entire lifestyle as we lurch miraculously from one near-disaster to another. If it works, it works!
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Family legend has it that when my grandad died suddenly in his forties my grandma’s hair went grey overnight. That’s an extreme example of mágoa, a heart-break that changes your very appearance.
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To call someone a malandro in Portuguese is not necessarily a direct insult. The only equivalent I can think of in English is the British colloquial ‘chancer’, as in, ‘look at that chancer, trying to get a free cup of coffee by flirting with the waitress.’
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Used to describe the period of time between liking someone and being head over heels in love with someone, ‘apaixonar’ is essentially the act of falling in love and it can take years or just one moment.
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While there are tons of adjectives in the English language that can be used as a synonym for ‘beautiful’ there is no equivalent for ‘lindeza’ which is a noun and so literally means ‘the prettiness’ or ‘the beauty’. It is the ultimate compliment.
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Calorento is a way of describing someone who doesn’t fare too well in the summertime when the temperature is high. I’m not sure whether it’s a purely descriptive term or it’s a bit of an insult. Either way we don’t have an English equivalent but to be fair we don’t need one in Britain or the most northern parts of North America where it’s freezing all the time anyway.
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Everybody’s favorite untranslatable word, saudade’s closest equivalent is ‘longing’ but it’s a particularly weighty, nostalgic longing that only the Portuguese can adequately express in one word.

There are few sensations in this life more difficult to put into words than desire. Complicated, uncontrollable and all but inexplicable, desire is a thing you feel, not a thing you talk about. But if you do care to share the particulars of the fire in your belly and the tingle in your toes then the words below might come in handy.

Read on for 7 words about desire from around the world.

 

 

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The word appetence is seldom used although in my opinion it should be as it’s a far better way of expressing desire for someone than, ‘I’ve got the hots for you’. From the Latin, appententia which meant ‘to strive after’.

 

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Use velleitie if you want to give the affair you never had a more romantic aura. Also from medieval latin, velleitie comes from the word velle, ‘to wish.

 

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I have no problem with basorexia and appreciate that it can strike when you least expect it but please guys, not in the cinema, not in the café, not in my face. It seems basorexia isn’t in the dictionary but don’t let that put you off using it.

 

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Oysters, chocolate, three bottles of wine, anything that gets you in the mood can be described as aphrodysia. Derived from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation.

 

 

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‘Baby, you’re concupiscible.’ Worth a go.

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A slightly creepy word but one worth knowing, especially if you ever end up in a court of law trying to defend yourself for getting naked in the park. Apodysophilia is related to the word ‘apodyopsis’ which is the act of mentally undressing someone. Even creepier.

 

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We’ve all got a touch of the cheiloproclitic in us I feel, especially if we’re watching something with Tom Hardy or Scarlett Johansen in it. The internet has failed me in my quest to find out the origin of this word but let’s just guess Latin.

 

I’m sure a group of linguists could have themselves a lovely long debate about peculiarities in the speech of the people of Scotland. Is Scots its own language? Is Gaelic dead? Isn’t all Scottish a dialect of English? And so on. I have no idea what the academic consensus is but as a person who lived for many years just 70 miles from the Scottish border and yet could not understand a word of what was being said to me on a trip to Glasgow I can assure you, Scotland has its own language. And a beautiful, lyrical, colorful language it is.

I’ve blethered on enough and I’m feeling fairly wabbit so read on for 9 wonderful Scottish words to bring in the New Year.
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Blether is a fairly friendly word used to refer to extensive chit chat, the sort that goes on so long you need to stop for refreshments.

 

 

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No, this is not a mispronunciation of everybody’s favorite floppy-eared friend, the word wabbit is often used to describe the feeling of a mild hangover or exhaustion following a long week at work.

 

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Unsurprisingly the Scottish have lots of words to describe bad weather. Dreich with its impressively throaty rasp on the ‘ch’ at the end most perfectly sums up the feeling of a miserable spring day in Scotland.

 

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To be fankled used to be a state that only referred to tangled-up wool but now it can be used to refer to anything that can get itself muddled or tatted, eg. Bicycle chain, Christmas lights, earphones, hair and thought patterns.

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A Gaelic term from Saxon times that survives in Scotland to this day, Sassenach is a mildly derogatory term that can refer to any English person.

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Related to the scots word glaiks which means ‘tricks or pranks’.

 

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Mawkit derives from the Old Norse word ‘mawk’ which quite hideously means maggot. Rather than referring to something that’s simply dirty, mawkit is used for things that are filthy or rotten.

 

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Gutty is thought to derive from gutta-percha, a form of rubber made from the percha tree, native to Malaysia. The word gutty has been in use since the nineteenth century and was used to refer to anything made from this form of rubber.

 

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Another friendly term to describe an act that isn’t always so friendly, to pockle is to steal but the kind of stealing that’s not real stealing, like taking paper clips from the office or helping yourself to an extra helping of lunch that no one wants anyway.