Weekend Word Wrap: obscure and obsolete words

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Though today's Word Wrap is on obscure or obsolete words, I have to start by sending you over to a related site called WordCount.org, created by Jonathan Harris in conjunction with the FABRICA studio of Italy.

If you love words like I do, and if you're a regular reader of the Word Wrap, I assume you must, you have to check it out. They visually rank the top 86,800 most commonly used words in the English language from "the" (most common) to "conquistador" (least common) and give you two different ways to search: by word or ranking.

Of course there are way more than 86,800 words in our language. In fact, there are more than five times that number listed in the OED. Compare that to German, which has only about 185,000 or French with less than 100,000 (including Franglais like le snacque-barre and un parking), and you begin to see how rich our language actually is.

Sadly, most of us only use somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 words. (Shakespeare is said to have used 27,505 unique words in his works, btw.) So it shouldn't come as a surprise that there are hundreds of thousands of obscure or obsolete words. As always, we'd love to hear some of your favorites. Meanwhile, after the jump, you'll find a long list of mine...

For the most part, these come from a new edition of a nearly three decade old book called, The Book of Lists (the one by David Wallechinsky and Amy Wallace):

BOANTHROPY - A type of insanity in which a man thinks he is an ox.

FINDIBLE - Able to be cleft or split

CHANTEPLEURE - To sing and weep at the same time.

DIBBLE - To drink like a duck, lifting up the head after each sip.

EOSOPHOBIA - Fear of dawn.

EUGERIA - Normal and happy old age.

GYNOTIKOLOBOMASSOPHILE - One who likes to nibble on a woman's earlobes.

HEBEPHRENIC - A condition of adolescent silliness.

IATROGENIC - Illness or disease caused by doctors or by prescribed treatment.

LAPLING - Someone who enjoys resting in women's laps.

EUNEIROPHRENIA - Peace of mind after a pleasant dream.

EYESERVICE - Work done only when the boss is watching.

FELLOWFEEL - To crawl into the skin of another person so as to share his feelings, to empathize with.

GROAK - To watch people silently while they are eating, hoping they will ask you to join them.

LIBBERWORT - Food or drink that makes one idle and stupid, food of no nutritional value, `junk food'.

MEUPAREUNIA - A sexual act gratifying to only one participant.

NEANIMORPHIC - Looking younger than one's years.
ONIOCHALASIA - Buying as a means of mental relaxation.

PARNEL - A priest's mistress.

PERISTEROPHOBIA - Fear of pigeons.

SUPPEDANEUM - A foot support for those on a crucifix.

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October 13, 2006 - 3:45am
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