Nice Words

Random List of ‘Nice’ Words

Well Words I Liked Anyway

For a while now, whenever I’ve seen a word I liked and not known the meaning of, I’ve looked it up and stuck it on the end of a list in Google Keep. I was looking at the list the other day – I could not really remember (a) what any of them meant, or (b), where I read them. So, what I have done it stuck them all in a Google Sheets spreadsheet and bit-by-bit I’ll go through, look them up and note down the meaning.

The table is linked directly to the Sheets spreadsheet here, I am using the Inline Google Spreadsheet Viewer WordPress plugin to make it all WordPress friendly and such.

I know what this was in physiological sense, but I think I came across as more a lack-of-foresight type critical sense. Not sure where.
FlaneurA man (or woman?) who saunters around observing society
Bildungsphilister (a neologism: Bildung + philistine) A philistine with cosmetic, nongenuine culture...whatever that means. Probably using the word qualifies.
Jante (, law of)A condescending attitude towards individuality and success. A nordic thing.
DiasporaPeople who have spread or been dispersed from their homeland.
"the Ukrainian diaspora flocked back to Kiev"
BoustrophedonWritten word where consecutive lines read forwards-backwards-forwards-backwards...kind of makes sense. if you ask me. Some ancient languages did it - did not catch on, but nor did Betamax.
WIsh I knew waht the context was where I found this word.
KaizenA Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement of working practices, personal efficiency, etc. Thing I came across the word reading about 'The Toyota Way' in the book: The Machine that Changed the World
Vocal fry
TorschlusspanikThe fear that time is running out to act, often regarding a life goal or opportunity.
Weltschmerz vs stoicism
MilieuA person's social environment.
From the French 'mid-place'
autotelic(of an activity or a creative work) having an end or purpose in itself.
Faustian bargain
An extremely confused, complicated, or embarrassing situation. A confused heap.
starch gelatinization and proteins agglutination
Wu wei
LegerdemainSkilful use of one's hands when performing conjuring tricks.
Also, more generally, deception & trickery.
From the French, Leger de Main ('Slight/ lightness of hand")
Myoclonus,Myokymia & fasciculation
Sanchean phrase
komorebi (木漏れ日)
Flake of hay, blown calf (and cow blowing...) cast sheep
FlimflamNonsensical or insincere talk, or a confidence trick.
Came across when I was looking up 'Legerdemain' elsewhere in this list.
MoteA tiny piece of a substance; a speck.
"A mote of moon dust".
AtonalNot written in any (musical) key.k.
"There is no celestial harmony, but atonal panic" descring the sound of storm waves on a tropical island
SibilantMaking or characterized by a hissing sound
PeregrinationsA journey, especially a long or meandering one.
tête à baffeFrench for 'a pain in the neck'; but literal translation is 'the kind if face that makes you want to slap it'
unctuousExcessively flattering or ingratiating, but in toady, slimy & insincere sort of way.
hormesisphenomenon where a low dose of a stressor causes some small beneficial response whereas larger dose would not. An observed effect in toxicology... Different from homeopathy in which 'low' are orders of magnitude smaller (to the point of being, most studies would indicate) ineffective.
techne and epistemecrafts and know how & book knowledge, know what
fissiparousinclined to cause or undergo division into separate parts or groups. 'the fissiparous tendencies innate in tribalism"
iatrogenicsrelating to illness caused by medical examination or treatment.
spuriousI know, a relatively common word; but I like it and wasn't 100% what it meant:not being what it purports to be; false or fake.
asinineextremely stupid or foolish."Leo ignored Jon's asinine remark"
cynosurea person or thing that is the centre of attention or admiration
promulgatepromote or make widely known (an idea or cause). "these objectives have to be promulgated within the organization"
"these objectives have to be promulgated within the organization"

Are Obscure Words ‘Bad’?

Every once in a while I come across something that says using obscure words is ‘bad’. Bad because obscure (actually more typically ‘long’ in the articles) words are pretentious, or actually make you sound stupid, not erudite…or just make you an arsehole. An example of such an article is here on LifeHacker; that article quotes a study titled Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilised Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly

I kind of agree, kind of do not.

I suppose language is really just a means of getting an idea (or more broadly something of an idea) across. Ideally, you want what you mean to say to be taken in the manner you meant it to be said. I initially considered being a little less wishy-washy: you want to be ‘concise’, ‘efficient, ‘clear’, but unless you are writing a shopping list or a scientific paper there can be lots of other things going on in your choice of language under the hood. For instance, “Blah-blah said such-and-such” and “We understand Blah-blah might have implied such-and-such”. Okay, there are no long/ obscure words in latter of those sentences but you catch my drift. Of course, the issue is the difference between what the writer/speaking is implying through her choice of words, and what the receiver is taking from it – ideally, I suppose, these do match, and if the choice of words are not doing the job, then they maybe are ‘needless’.

Anyway, as I see it, words are just like tools in a toolbox, and you use them as you see fit.

The words in my list, for the most part, originated from pretty established authors. So I, perhaps naively, hope that they used that word in the place they did because it was the best word of what they knew, for the job – it was an obscure word, it was for a reason.

Not sure what my point is really. I just like words, the (Japanese) word for the-dappled-light-coming-through-leaves-in-a-forest or word-for-tall-poppy-syndrome-on-Holland, or flimflam.

An Aside

For the sake of it, I did some Googling and came across My result was an estimated vocab of 32500 words, which was around the 70 percentile for a 37-year-old English speaker, which is okay I suppose.

The page’s blog does point out that the results are based on surveys of 2 million people as of 2013, but this population is representative of the 98% percentile of the American population as a whole: A certain type of person would take such a test. I was also pleased to see a couple of words in my list in the test words I was presented with!