10 Words We Don’t Use Enough

The marvelous Jenny Hansen knows how much I love studying words and grammar, so she sent me a fabulous article on Important Infrequently Used Words to Know.

Among the words listed are some I’ve used with fair frequency, like alacrityegregious, gratuitous, hubris, poignant, sycophant, and veracity. But there are plenty I almost never use, like copacetic, fatuous, insipid, misanthrope, polymath, and unctuous — even though I know that they mean. (I won’t talk about the ones I had to look up!)

But there are plenty of other words I use, which maybe we don’t use quite enough. Here’s my own list of 10 words you might want to include in your vocabulary:

Boondocks. I thought everybody used this word, until I recently had a teenager read a story of mine and comment that she didn’t know that word and didn’t think anyone in her age cohort did. *sigh* It means way out there in isolated country. Like “I had to drive an hour outside of town to reach his lone shack out in the boondocks.” Although I’m more likely to use it as in, “Where is my car in this mall parking lot? Oh, yeah. I parked out in the boondocks.”

Conniption (Fit). So the word is conniption, but I never say it without immediately following with the word fit. What’s a conniption fit? Well, conniption means the full range of hysterics. So a conniption fit is what you have when you discover your two-timing boyfriend is at it again or your children have left another mess in the middle of your living room or the election ballot once again provides two completely unacceptable choices.

Hissy vs. Conniption Fit Mug - available from Zazzle.com
Available from Zazzle.com

Eschatology. Ever wonder when the world will come to an end and how? Then, you might be intrigued by eschatology, a branch of theology that deals with the end of the world’s history and/or humankind. It may sound a little depressing, but it’s quite interesting to hear all the theories of what a grand finale might look like.

FlabbergastedWhy go for simply “surprised” when you can amp it up and say you’re flabbergasted? Synonyms include “astonished,” “perplexed,” and “amazed.”

Gobsmacked. Need something even more than flabbergasted? Hello, gobsmacked. You gotta love a word that sounds like its meaning. Gobsmacked is like “surprised” on steroids. When you just can’t believe something, you’re gobsmacked.

Julie demonstrating "surprised," "flabbergasted," and "gobsmacked"

HippopotamiSure, you say hippopotamus, but do you look for opportunities to say hippopotami? Personally, I’m not entirely happy if I see a single hippo; it just sort of takes away from the pronunciation fun of punctuating that final long i. You can also extend the fun with other -us to -i words, such as cacti and octopi and radii and alumni. (Yes, I know you can also say hippopotamuses, but where’s the fun in that? 😉 )

That last entry is in honor of “Hip Jenny,” who is recovering from recent hip surgery.

Lackadaisical. Welcome to summer with teenagers! However, this word gets used in my house throughout the year. It means lazy, listless, idle, unambitious, slothful. You may live with someone who qualifies as lackadaisical or have a few days when you meet that definition yourself.

Persnickety. Got a nitpicking, finicky person in your life? This word entered my routine vocabulary with the arrival of my second son and his picky eating habits. But persnickety has come in rather handy in a number of other situations, when someone is a bit too fussy about this or that.

Rambunctious. Anyone who has children or has been to a rock concert needs this word. Google’s dictionary defines it as “uncontrollably exuberant; boisterous.” If you’re trying to imagine this word in action, just think Chuck E. Cheese. Pretty much everything going on in there describes rambunctious.

Surreptitious. I likely hear this word in mysteries more than any other place. Which makes sense, since it means “done in a secret way,” or on the sly. Surreptitious brings to my mind such actions as peeking, sneaking, and spying. That guilty pleasure of yours? Do that surreptitiously.

Which of these words do you use or want to add to your vocabulary? And what words do you use with some frequency that you don’t think we all use enough?