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America's number one favorite word is “defenestration”.

Yeah, that’s what I thought, too.

As a person who loves to write, I enjoy learning new words, but I’m far from the leading expert. That person works for Merriam-Webster OnLine, which conducted a survey to uncover the top 10 favorite words, of which number one was, indeed, “defenestration”.

That’s derived from the Latin word for window, and means “throwing of a person or thing out of a window.” Seriously.

Well, nobody said it had to describe a funny thing, although it is a funny word. On the other hand, throwing someone out a window can be funny, depending on whom that someone is.

Of the other words in the top 10, number 4 if discombobulate, which is what I was when I read the list. (upset or confused.) Are they seriously claiming they surveyed the public at random, and there were enough people who knew these words to vote them into the top ten? Surely they came across some ex-pro wrestler whose answer was: “Duh . . . rutabaga?”

Maybe they only surveyed Mensa members. Oh, Mensa’s not a word; it’s an organization of really smart people and means … um … well, I don’t really know what it means. They rejected my application.

Wait, I looked it up – turns out I can spell “Google”. Mensa means table in Latin, so there you go.

No, I don’t get it either. Maybe it’s connected to “defenestration”. I wonder what the Latin word for “Latin” is?

Although it isn’t spelled out, this list must be only for words that have made it into the English language; otherwise we’d see words pop up such as “Uhuru”, which means either freedom or nice legs in a short skirt (it’s an inside joke, let it go), or “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, which means expensive Disney movie with lots of dancing and songs you can’t get out of your head.

I’m not going to quote the article verbatim – which means an exact reproduction, and everyone knows I’m never exact. However, other words include:

Serendipity, which is what happens when a valuable or agreeable thing that you’re not looking for happens to fall into your lap. I’m not familiar with the effect, but I’m told it’s very nice.

Onomatopoeia, the use of words whose sounds suggest the senses. Comic books users are familiar with this effect: “Bam!” “Whoosh!” And my favorite from the Sgt. Rock comic book, the sound of a machine gun: “Budabudabuda” -- which I don’t think sounds like a firing weapon at all, but I’m not going to argue with a guy carrying a machine gun.

Plethora: excess, profusion, abundance, or superfluity. Oh, here’s another one: superfluity, which means plethora. Example: I’ve got a plethora of superfluous ideas, but a dearth of ability to make them happen.

Juxtapose: to place side by side. I juxtaposed my life plans to my actual life, and didn’t like the result.

Persnickety: fussy about small details. There’s a problem I’ll never have.

Kerfuffle: disturbance or fuss. Why not say disturbance? Or fuss? Why create a kerfuffle over the deal?

Flibbertigibbet: A silly, flighty person. You know who you are.

And finally, my personal favorite, Callipygian: having shapely buttocks. You know, that could save me a lot of trouble. “My dear, you have a lovely callipygian”. By the time she’s looked it up, I’m safely out of slap distance. Do they have another word for nice legs?

As interesting as these words are, I doubt very much if any would appear on the average person’s top 10 list. For one thing, the average person is too busy trying to keep his head above water to learn long words that haven’t been used in a conversation since Shakespeare trod the boards. Here is a more realistic list of favorite words:

“Sleep.” There’s nothing funny about it, we just wish we had more.

“Chocolate.” See above.

“Banana.” It should be pointed out that some words are fascinating directly in relation to the consumption of alcohol by the person considering them.

“Cumquat.” Don’t ask why. It just is.

“Flatulence.” And its cousin, which I’m not sure I can say here.

“Viagra.” The butt of many a joke. Well, maybe butt isn’t the right word.

“Lottery winner.” Technically it’s two words, but with that kind of money you can buy all the words you want.

“Prophylactic.” It’s the dirty connotation.

Speaking of dirty, there are numerous other words that are considered funny, or at least favorite words, purely for their shock value. As in anything, overuse blunts their effectiveness ... but then, people with such limited vocabularies don’t usually have the necessary imaginations to discombobulate people with a plethora of more serendipitous words, and the rest of us would just like to defenestrate them.

If you have a favorite word, send it to me, and maybe I’ll start a new list. But don’t be persnickety about it.


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 26th, 2007 07:30 am (UTC)

Although plethora and superfluos don't REALLY mean the same thing. *grin*
Apr. 26th, 2007 07:31 am (UTC)
*sigh* And I really can't type! *glares at keyboard*
Apr. 26th, 2007 10:47 am (UTC)
I'm going to go with it being the keyboard's fault. They were designed by Bill Gates, you know.
Apr. 26th, 2007 10:46 am (UTC)
I hoped by the time I got to the end everyone would be too confused to notice any mistakes. :-)
Apr. 26th, 2007 08:37 am (UTC)
I like disarticulate. Deglove is also a good word, although I would have been quite happy to have never heard it in conjunction with bits of me, let alone twice on one day.
Apr. 26th, 2007 10:49 am (UTC)
speaking of Warren
Oh, boy. Twice in one day? There's a story behind that, but I'm not sure I want to hear it -- I winced when they explained the term in EMT class.
Apr. 27th, 2007 06:45 am (UTC)
Re: speaking of Warren
Story? Hell, I have photos. Well, after being stitched up. I was full of morphine, they'd wrapped my leg in a splint thing and I had no access to my phone camera at the time to get earlier photos.

The second time I heard Hamish, the ER doctor, use the term I was very close to telling him to stop saying it as it just seemed to be invoking the bloody things. This would be working on my morphine-addled theory that it was a nice clean cut before he opened his mouth.
Apr. 27th, 2007 09:52 pm (UTC)
hand in glove
I'm torn between a certain medical interest in wanting to see the photos and all the rest of me that screams "Noooo!!!"

I've been very lucky -- I've gotten into a lot of extreme situations without any injury worse than a bruise or a few stitches. And when I do get hurt it's not while having a ceiling fall on me in a burning house, or while shutting down a venting propane tank -- no, it's slipping and cracking a rib on my very own proch steps. *sigh*
Apr. 28th, 2007 07:44 pm (UTC)
that's it -- I'm moving.
Not so bad, once it's sewn up -- I've seen my share of stitches and bruising.

On an unrelated note, beautiful dogs, by the way.
Apr. 26th, 2007 09:01 am (UTC)

"Spiffy" (which does NOT mean Spike/Willow/Buffy, btw)


"Antidisestablishmentarianism" (even though technically, I suppose I'm an anti-antidisestablishmentarian)




And, yes, "defenestration".
Apr. 26th, 2007 10:51 am (UTC)
Antidisestablishmentarianism? That term had to come from someone within the establishment. Maybe to confuse us.
Apr. 26th, 2007 11:27 am (UTC)
Historically, apparently, it's a movement to keep the Church of England an official state church rather than independent. But it's a good word, whatever its original meaning. And yeah, as with any phrase featuring a double negation, it's deliciously confusing.
Apr. 27th, 2007 09:53 pm (UTC)
The great thing about double negatives is that you can insult someone and be out of range by the time they figure it out.
Apr. 26th, 2007 10:52 am (UTC)
my favorites
"ladle" - Because it's fun to say.

"cumquat" - another of the all-time greats

"gazebo" and "pagoda" - pretty words for pretty buildings. There's also something about "architecture" I like.

"dancing" - more for the meaning, but also because it looks graceful on paper.
Apr. 27th, 2007 09:48 pm (UTC)
Re: my favorites
ladle. Laaaddddlllleeee.... Say, you're right.

Dancing is a good looking word, just as others are not. Rudabaga, for instance. Some words sound good, some look good, and I think dancing accomplishes both.
Apr. 26th, 2007 12:46 pm (UTC)
I like the word 'feisty' which is great. I also like 'bollocks' as a swear word because you can shout it so effectively.... *g8
Apr. 27th, 2007 10:02 pm (UTC)
Feisty's good -- it sounds like what it describes. Bollocks too, come to think of it! I'm surprised I've never used that when I've written Spike.
Apr. 26th, 2007 05:35 pm (UTC)
Defenestrating for fun and profit
Did you know there was a Defenestration of Prague? What is more, they liked it so much they had a second one two centuries later.

No, I have no idea what the Czech is for defenestration. But it seems to me to be a good thing to remind our politicians of from time to time.

So sad am I that I use onomatopoeia very frequently - several times a week. I like "litotes" too.

And I rather like "pillicock". And "bollocks" as a way of describing well, total bollocks. Another word for politicians, really.
Apr. 27th, 2007 10:09 pm (UTC)
that's a defenestration of a different color
Okay, I'm not sure if it's appropriate to say this, but the second defenestration of Prague was hilarious. Saved by act of God -- or horse dung???

Total bollocks should be defenestrated. Yup. And so few people know the actual definitions that you can get away with using them wrongly, and still looking wise.
Apr. 26th, 2007 11:46 pm (UTC)
xander quotes are fun :)
Defenestration sounds like a combo of defecation and menstruation. Blech.

On the subject of words, I can say pretty much any sexual word loudly and without context. Except penis. I have never succesfully said "penis" aloud without giggling. It's just a ridiculous sounding word. Which does nothing to add dignity to the organ itself, in my opinian.

As far as favorite words, I like: sage, sitar, vulva, baby, haiku, symbiotic, purple, drunkard, orangutan, womb, pariah, and touch simply because of the way they sound. Also banana and garage, but only with a British accent.

Favorite name: Hatsumomo. Say that 10 times fast.
Apr. 27th, 2007 10:13 pm (UTC)
Um -- does that organ ever have dignity?

I *love* hearing British people say garage! hilarious. As for sexual words, well, other than penis they don't usually make me think "funny". I'm a male -- linoleum turns me on, let alone vulva. Although clitoris is a bit unhandy.
Apr. 27th, 2007 10:36 pm (UTC)
Re: xander quotes are fun :)
Say, where is Hatsumomo from? It looks familiar, but I can't place it.
May. 18th, 2007 03:57 am (UTC)
“Uhuru”, which means either freedom or nice legs in a short skirt

Oh, very good!

I think "fisticuffs" is funny, especially when Xander uses it. "Apple" and "pants" just sound funny when you say them. (Or not - again, I'm weird! *g*) Right now I can't think of any favorite words - probably since it's nearly midnight. The first time I ever heard the word "callipygian" was in connection with Hutch (as in Starsky and...).
May. 19th, 2007 02:27 am (UTC)
They used callipygian with Hutch? :-)

Some words are funny only to some people, I suppose -- a lot of things Xander says are funny because it's him saying them. Although fisticuffs is a good one!
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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