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19 Outstanding Words You Should Be Working Into Conversation

There are some of our favorite words that appeared in mental_floss stories in 2011. Some are foreign words. Others come from medical dictionaries. And there's a surprising amount of hobo slang. Have fun working these into conversation this holiday season!

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1. Kummerspeck (German): Excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon.

2. Paper-belly: A person unable to drink liquor straight, or one who grimaces after drinking.

3. Petrichor: The clean, pleasant smell that accompanies rain falling on dry ground. It's from the Greek petra (stone) and ichor (the blood of Greek gods and goddesses). The term was coined by two Australian researchers in 1964.

4. milliHelen: The quantity of beauty required to launch just one ship.

5. Dysania: Having difficulty getting out of bed in the morning.

6. Karoshi (Japanese): Death from being overworked.

7. Lawn Mullet: A neatly manicured front yard and an unmowed mess in the back.

8. Koi No Yokan (Japanese): The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you will fall in love.

© Joe Giron/Corbis

9. The Wheaton: The delightfully geeky Wil Wheaton was one of the first celebs to attract a massive number of followers. When half a million people subscribed to his Tweets, that number was dubbed a Wheaton by John Kovalic. Today, Wil Wheaton actually has about 3.8 Wheatons.

10. Oldfangled: Old fashioned.

11. Bakku-shan (Japanese): The experience of seeing a woman who appears pretty from behind but not from the front.

12. Zeg (Georgian): The day after tomorrow. Why don't we have a word for the day after tomorrow?

13. Crwth: An ancient Celtic musical instrument. Comes in handy when you've got no vowels in Words With Friends.

14. Punk Day: A day when children are admitted to a carnival or circus free.

15. Badinage: Playful, joking banter.

16. Pretzel-bender: 1. A peculiar person; an eccentric; one who thinks in a round-about manner. 2. A player of the French horn. 3. A wrestler. 4. A heavy drinker; one who frequents bars.

17. Glabella: The space between the eyebrows.

18. Tsktsks: Who knows? But it's the longest vowel-free word you can play in Words With Friends (however, its play in WWF is only possible should you elect to use a blank tile as the second ‘K,’ since there is only one ‘K’ tile per game).

19. Gay-cat: A hobo not wise to the ways of hobo life; a hobo who is considered unacceptable by his fellows.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Adrienne Crezo, Bill DeMain, Haley Sweetland Edwards, Jamie Spatola, Ethan Trex and a reader named John.

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15 Ways to Avoid Saying 'Death'

People make up ridiculous, circuitous, preposterous terms when they’re afraid to discuss something—and death is near the top of anyone’s list of fears. Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf’s Spinglish: The Definitive Dictionary of Deliberately Deceitful Language is a terrific new dictionary of verbal evasions covering many subjects, including dozens of ways to avoid saying reaper-related words. As Beard and Cerf show, sometimes we’ll say anything to avoid the d-word.

1. arbitrary deprivation of life

This whopper comes from the State Department in 1984. It buries assassination—specifically assassination by so-called friendly governments—in jargon. The lifelessness of the phrasing is unintentionally appropriate.

2. terminal episode

This one is kinda sorta honest: the word terminal is at least in the ballpark of death. But there’s still something antiseptic about terminal episode, a term for death, especially one in a hospital. I’m reminded of another great death-related idiom that’s half-euphemistic: terminate with extreme prejudice. That’s a strongly worded assassination order that you might remember from Apocalypse Now.

3. attrit

To attrit is to kill. The Oxford English Dictionary traces this back to 1915 and a Daily Mail use: “Our Ministers talk of ending this war by ‘attrition.’ Who is being ‘attrited’ by these slovenly methods?” On the other hand, if you’ve been attritioned, you’re a bit better off: you’ve only been fired, a topic that is another lightning rod for euphemisms.

4. dynamically address

This term comes from the U.S. Army’s Task Force ODIN, who struggled with insurgents for control of Iraq’s roads. Needless to say, when ODIN dynamically addressed a situation, it resulted in casualties on the other side.

5. expectant

An earlier U.S. war gave us this term: in the Vietnam era, expectants were civilians expected to die.

6. sent on a trip to Belize

On a much lighter note, this term was used on Breaking Bad by the character Saul Goodman, who was trying to find a polite way to ask meth cooker Walter White if Walt’s brother-in-law Hank needed to be whacked. (Ah, whacked. Of course that’s also a euphemism for killing—one popularized by mob movies and The Sopranos.)

7. immediate permanent incapacitation

This term for death has a rather specific use: it appeared in a U.S. Army document about the impact and use of nuclear weapons. Whatever the cause, immediate permanent incapacitation is not recommended by doctors, with the exception of Dr. Doom.

8. game management

This sounds like the kind of careful supervision any game, contest, or sport requires. Nope. It’s a term for the mass killing of animals, either through hunting (itself a euphemism) or other slaughter.

9. go to Switzerland

There are plenty of reasons to literally go to Switzerland—but this sense is more metaphorical, as it involves seeking assisted suicide. The term is derived from the fact that it’s easier to get such end-of-life help in Switzerland.

10. self-injurious behavior incident

The Jargon Gods smiled and perhaps shuddered when the U.S Department of Defense came up with this term for suicide attempts at Guantanamo.

11. depopulation

When seven million chickens were euthanized in 1983 to prevent the spread of disease, the U.S. government needed a word to make this chicken-pocalypse sound less awful. So they settled on depopulation, a sterile term with a long history. Depopulation has referred to, as the OED puts it, “laying waste, devastation, ravaging, pillaging” since the 1400s.

12. diagnostic misadventure of high magnitude

Here’s another one from the medical world. While this sounds a little like hype for the latest summer movie—Diagnostic Misadventure of High Magnitude! Starring The Rock!—it actually applies to a specific sort of demise: when a patient dies during an exam due to malpractice. If the death occurred during treatment, it would be a therapeutic misadventure.

13. neutralize

This OED shows this term going back to at least 1937, in a (London) Times article: “A mechanized advance-guard battery was shown going into action in support of attacking infantry and attempting to neutralize an area.” If the meaning isn’t exactly clear, a 1970 report about Vietnam is more explicit: “The Phoenix program had resulted in some 15,000 VCI, meaning Vietcong infrastructure, or cadre, being ‘neutralized’ in 1968.” Neutralized = killed.

14. sacrificed

Lab rats—and lab monkeys, lab cats, and other lab critters—who die while being experimented on are said to be sacrificed. I guess this one isn’t totally deceitful. A scientist sacrificing a macaque for knowledge and a Satanist sacrificing a goat for the lord of the underworld are, in a way, doing the same thing.

15. health alteration

Here’s a euphemistic wonder. Technically, a health alternation could be almost anything, from catching a cold to dropping a few pounds. Alas, this is actually another term for assassination coined in the 1960s by the CIA. Let’s just say you wanted to stay off the radar of the health alteration committee.

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27 Cowboy Slang Terms for Things You Eat and Drink
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Getty Images

If your bread wallet is empty and you need to line the flue, knight the ribbons and mosey to a beanery. Your cookie-pusher will know what you mean when you order any of these 27 cowboy food and drink items.

1. Bear Sign: Doughnuts
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2. Overland trout: Bacon
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3. Blue John: Skimmed milk
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4. Boggy-top: A pie with no top crust
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5. Cackleberries: Eggs
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6. Charlie Taylor: A butter substitute made of sorghum or syrup mixed with fat. It wasn't good, and apparently neither was Charlie Taylor, who was terrible enough to lend his name to the unpopular trail staple.

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7. Hen-fruit Stir and Long Sweetenin': Pancakes and molasses
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8. Horse Thief Special / Spotted Pup: Rice or tapioca pudding with raisins
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9. Hot Rock / Sinker / Doughgods: Biscuits
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10. Huckdummy: Biscuits with raisins
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11. Love Apples: Canned tomatoes
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12. Music Roots: Sweet potatoes
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13. Mysteries: Sausage of any variety, so-called because that's what they're made of
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14. Bee-sweetenin’: Honey
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15. Pecos Strawberries / Mexican Strawberries / Whistle Berries: Beans
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16. Roastineer: To "roast an ear" of corn over the fire while still in its husk
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17. Salt Horse: Corned beef
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18. Saltwater Vegetables: Oysters or clams
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19. Sipper / Texas Butter: Gravy
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20. Skunk eggs: Onion
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21. Son-of-a-gun Stew (or if there are no womenfolk present, Son-of-a-bitch Stew): Stew made of whatever is available and the organs of a recently-slaughtered calf. So-called because the son-of-a-gun young cattle can't keep up on the trail.
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22. Wasp Nest: Bread

And don’t forget to order a drink!

23. Six-shooter Skink / Float a Horseshoe / Arbuckle's / Brown Gargle / Jamoka: Coffee
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24. Belly Wash / Soda Pop / Black Water: Really weak coffee
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25. John Barleycorn / Purge / Hop Juice: Beer
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26. Nose Paint / Pop Skull / Prairie Dew / Rebel Soldier / Red Eye / Snake Pizen / Tarantula Juice / Tongue Oil / Tonsil Paint / Tornado Juice / Busthead / Bottled Courage / Family Disturbance / Gut Warmer / Kansas Sheep Dip: Whiskey
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27. And a shot of whiskey with a beer chaser is a boilermaker and his helper.

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We'd need a book to list them all -- what's your favorite cowboy food slang?

Collected from Legends of America's Old West Slang Dictionary and Westopedia: The Language and Lore of Real America by Win Blevins

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