Posted by: Jack Henry | November 1, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Long Words

I know, we spend a lot of time telling you to use basic English to get your ideas across in a technical environment. Today, however, I have a list of longer, fancier, unusual words for you from Tom Sterns (at I know there are a lot of creative writers and word lovers out there in the audience. This one’s for you!

Pareidolia You know how every so often you read about people who see Jesus Christ in a tree trunk? Or some woman in Ohio who keeps a swirl of moldy Cheez Whiz in a vault because she sees the visage of Elvis? That’s pareidolia: the phenomenon of finding the familiar in an improbable place.

Misology This is a word for our times. It means hatred of reason, logic, enlightenment. People who oppose higher learning and progress used to be dismissed as fools. Now a potential voter’s misology is something many politicians pander to.

Billingsgate Foul or abusive language. It derives from a rowdy fish market in seventeenth century London. It’s innocuous-sounding and obscure enough to work to your advantage if you’re ever sitting with your family near a foul-mouthed sot who won’t shut up. “Please, dude, go easy on the billingsgate, huh?” OK, that probably wouldn’t work, but you tried, and let’s hope it sounded mild enough to avoid a drubbing.

Prelapsarian If you describe a garden as prelapsarian, you’re praising its unspoiled loveliness, not criticizing it for being dated or out of fashion. We get this word from theology. It’s meant to evoke the state of innocence before the Fall of Man.

Paraprosdokian One or more sentences that end in an unexpected way. Here’s a fine example: “The car stopped on a dime—which unfortunately was in a pedestrian’s pocket.” Bet you never saw that coming. (Neither did the pedestrian.)

Orthoepy It’s supposed to be or-THO-a-pee, and by telling you that, I sort of defined the word: it’s the study of proper pronunciation.

Callipygian Here’s a strikingly euphonious alternative to leering-frat-boy language. It means “having shapely buttocks.” I think I prefer it to badonkadonk.

And here’s a fantastic photo from Frank W., via Facebook. It’s about time someone trained us to act like the 16th century Welsh and English!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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