The Superfluous Lexicon is a weekly series where I, Zack S. West, list eight words that I think are delightful, but are far from necessary for every day life. So, without further adieu…
It is to my chagrin that people can’t tell what this word means instantly. It’s practically an onomatopoeia. It’s that feeling you get the moment before you grimace or frown. That disappointment, discomfort or disillusionment that grabs the sides of your mouth and yanks them down with a force that no amount of tickling can reverse. It’s a big bummer. A downer. It’s the only thing Charlie Brown and Fantastic Four’s The Thing ever feel.
Example Sentence: Tonight I discovered, much to my chagrin, that my wife’s tennis coach taught her a number of things that had absolutely nothing to do with tennis.
The term voracious is often uses in the context of food, like a voracious appetite, but I feel like that’s the least interesting way to use the word. It means to desperately crave a large amount of something. One could voraciously acquire new technologies, or voraciously read the new George R.R. Martin book. In other words, it’s my personal favorite way to say you want something just that bad.
Example Sentence: After three days stuck on the mountain, his friend’s leg barely appeased his voracious appetite.
Often used as a put down by extremely douchey people, the term Plebeian originates from Ancient Rome, where the Plebes were civilians and serfs of the Roman Empire. Nowadays, it usually refers to someone who is uncultured, or a member of the lower class. I feel like it’s a very condescending term to use for poor people, so I rarely do that, but when you use it on someone because they’re not the type of person to know the word Plebeian, it’s like a double-burn.
Example Sentence: I write this article every week partially to improve the vocabulary of the Plebeian community.
This is another one of those words that has a lot of close synonyms, but nothing that quite means exactly the same thing. Words like ambiguous, mysterious and secret are all considered synonyms, but it’s closer to incomprehensible or unexplainable. Inscrutable means you can not scrute it. No, wait, scrute is not a word. Inscrutable means that you do not have the tools to find the answer. It’s how many licks does it take to get the center of a tootsie pop. It’s the real identity of Jack the Ripper. It’s everything women say.
Example Sentence: I tried to put my IKEA bed together, but the instructions were down right inscrutable.
A haberdasher is an individual who sells trinkets that relate to clothing. To clarify, one who sells zippers and buttons and things of the like is involved in ‘haberdashery’. Now, I understand that this might be tough to work into a conversation, but say it a few times. Haberdasher. Haberdashery. I want to do that job just so I can say it all the time. So my tip is this- visit New York and go to the Garment District (mostly 37th and 38th, if I remember correctly). Suddenly, you’ll have more opportunities to say Haberdasher than you know what to do with. Alternatively, I’ve heard that actual haberdashers use the word like Smurfs use smurf, so feel free to try that.
Example Sentence: I lost a button on my coat, so I went to the Haberdasher and asked him to haberdash my haberdashery, but he haberdashed! I hope he haberdashes in a haberdasherer.
Wow, I just looked up the dictionary definition, and it is the driest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. “Of or pertaining to a system.” Yes. That is what the suffix ‘ic’ does. While that is what systemic means, that’s not really how it’s used. When something is systemic of something else, it is intrinsic to the way it functions. It spreads and infects it, to the point where you can no longer tell the two apart. With regards to the political process, lying is systemic. In the art of sitcom, poorly laid out plots are systemic. It’s used often by critics and political pundits, clearly, but it has many other uses too.
Example Sentence: In your digestive tract, your voracious appetites for burritos is systemic.
I know you know this word. I’m not dumb. But many people only know it as it relates to relationships or nations. Fortunately, I am here to show you the beauty of the word. Reconcile means to coexist peacefully. That applies to anything. You now have a word that allows you accept that you like both Star Wars and Star Trek. A word that permits you be happy with the fact you lost, because you played really well. A word that helps you accept that neither Heath Ledger nor Mark Hammil were a better joker, just different and equally fantastic. Those are things you must reconcile.
Example Sentence: The idea that we used to be monkeys, but aren’t allowed to have sex with them, is something I just can’t reconcile.
Invented in the 15th century, the Arquebus is an early firearm, predecessor to the rifle and musket. It’s completely obsolete today, obviously, but at the time, the science was revolutionary. It had a long, smooth barrel for better accuracy and power, and used a matchlock trigger system which, when you pulled the trigger, struck a match across a rough surface and placed it and the flame in the bed of gunpowder. At short range, it could punch through most armor. The most accurate weapon in the world during the Age of Discovery, this is the gun that conquered the world. If you ever wondered why people stopped wearing full plate mail like the knights of yore, you now have your answer. And that makes it a word worth knowing.
Example Sentence: Holy shit. You know what’s an awesome thing to know about? The Arquebus.