Hard Words

My husband informs me that studies show the internet and tv are dumbing down the language–by which his source means simplifying or, as I read between the lines, dropping little-used words and adding new ones that the source doesn’t know. –Woah, how snotty was that?

Anyway, I am nothing if not helpful, so I hereby present this first short list of an occasionally appearing series of lists I will present, if I don’t forget all about it with my sad little monkey brain, of what my husband’s source calls “hard words”. The definitions come from the 1965 edition of The Everyday Encyclopedic Edition of Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, the first book I ever bought for myself and still use, because it has all the hard words in it. Here are some of my favorites:

perspicacious: Having keen judgment or understanding. EX: If my uncle had been as perspicacious as he thought he was, he wouldn’t have bought a truckload of empty boxes when he thought he was getting a deal on hot goods.

admonitory: Warning, cautioning. EX: You wave an admonitory finger under my nose once more, and I’m liable to bite it off.

badinage: Playful, teasing talk; banter. EX: Be sure the other guy understands that your insults are meant as badinage, or you may end up in a bandage.

disingenuous: Not straightforward; not candid; insincere. EX: When someone looks like a big-eyed child painted on black velvet, it would be perspicacious to consider that he or she just might be disingenuous.

moribund: Dying; coming to an end. EX: My husband’s source claims that hard words are moribund and will soon be extinct.

eschew: Gesundheit. To keep away from (something harmful or bad); shun. EX: My husband’s source feels we should eschew simplification, as the gain in clarity is offset by a loss of depth.

plethora: The state of being too full; overabundance. EX: There is a plethora of people eager to tell you horror stories about any medical condition you may have.

aversion: Intense or definite dislike; antipathy; repugnance. Reluctance. EX: The zombie was moribund, due to his aversion to eating brains.

twaddle: Foolish, empty talk or writing; nonsense. EX: Although there is a lot of twaddle on the internet and television, my mother always says, “Paper will let you write anything on it,” so there.

impecunious: Having no money; poor. EX: The writer was so impecunious, she couldn’t afford to use the word impecunious but was too proud to simply use poor, so she compromised on penniless.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this sojourn with elevated vocabulary, and will eschew obfuscation masquerading as simplification.

What are some of your favorite “hard words”?

WRITING PROMPT: Look up a word in a thesaurus and pick five words the thesaurus says are equivalents. Then look each one up in a dictionary. Do they mean the exact same thing? Write a sentence or paragraph in which each word–and no other–is perfect.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Hard Words

  1. The Yard Bard

    July 30, 2010 at 5:19pm

    “Gesundheit.” *snicker* Hey, wanna play 18-letter Scrabble with me some time?

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      July 30, 2010 at 6:23pm

      Oh, I hate Scrabble! You’d think I’d love it, the way I am about words, but I guess it’s a control thing: I want to pick out my OWN letters, and I want to put them ANYWHERE I WANT TO! LOL

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  2. Alan Chin

    August 10, 2010 at 7:36pm

    I hate Scrabble too. I just can’t think that fast any more. I have to mull over every word at my own slow pace.


    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      August 10, 2010 at 7:40pm

      That’s my trouble, too. I want to pick my own letters, and I want to put them where I want to put them, dammit! lol

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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