ThinkStock
ThinkStock

11 Words That Don't Mean What They Sound Like

ThinkStock
ThinkStock

1. Bodkin must mean "little body." Didn’t Hamlet say something about a “bare bodkin”? He did. But he was talking about taking the “not to be” option, ending his suffering with a bodkin, or dagger. (Origin unknown.)

2. Crapulous sounds cruddy. After all if Bart Simpson uses craptastic to mean the opposite of fantastic, crapulous must be the opposite of fabulous; right? Wrong. It means "characterized by gross excess in drinking or eating" or "hung over." (From Latin crapula, "inebriation," and Greek kraipalē, "drunken headache.")

3. Crepuscular refers not to an oozing skin ailment but to twilight or to creatures active at twilight, like bats, mosquitoes, and vampires. (Mid 17th cent.: from Latin crepusculum, meaning "twilight.")

4. Formication may sound sexy, but it means "an abnormal sensation as of ants creeping over the skin." (From Latin formīcāre, meaning "to crawl like ants.")

5. Funambulist sounds like it should be the driver of an ambulance decorated with happy faces, but it’s actually a tightrope walker. (From Latin fūnambul-us—fūn-is, "rope," plus ambul-āre, "to walk’" plus the -ist suffix, "designating a person who practices some art or method.")

6. Fungible sounds like it describes a squishy, spongy fungus, but it’s a legal term describing goods or money that can replace or be replaced by equivalent items. (From medieval Latin fungibilis; from fungi, meaning "perform, enjoy," with the same sense as fungi vice, "serve in place of." It’s not related to fungus, which is related to sponge.)

7. Noisome doesn’t mean noisy, but stinky or otherwise disagreeable or offensive. (From the obsolete late Middle English word noy, a shortened form of annoy, plus -some, an adjective-forming suffix.)

8. Nugatory sounds creamy and delicious but it means unimportant, of no value or useless; futile. (From Latin nugatorius; from nugari "to trifle"; from nugae, or "jests.")

9. Pulchritude sounds like the ineptness exhibited by a lurching klutz, but it’s a highfalutin word for "beauty." (From Latin pulchritūdō, "beauty" by way of Middle French.)

10. Plethora may sound like an ancient Greek musical instrument, but it means an excess of something. When it entered English in the mid 16th century, it was a medical term for an excess of a bodily fluid, particularly blood. Although modern medicos have given up leech therapy, plethora is still used to mean an excessive volume of blood. (Via late Latin from Greek plēthōrē, and from plēthein, meaning "be full.")

11. Callipygian sounds like a bird with a suntan and a laid-back attitude, but it means "having shapely buttocks." (From Greek kallipūgos, which was used to describe a famous statue of Venus, and from kallos, or "beauty," and pūgē, or "buttocks," plus -ian.)

Sources: Oxford English Dictionary Online, New Oxford American Dictionary (Second Ed.), The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Fifth ed.)

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
From Snoopy to Shark Bait: The Top Slang Word in Each State
iStock
iStock

There’s a minute, and then there’s a hot minute. Defined as “a longish amount of time,” this unit of time is familiar to Alabamians but may stir up confusion beyond the state’s borders.

It’s Louisianans, though, who feel the “most misunderstood,” according to the results of a survey regarding regional slang by PlayNJ. Of the Louisiana residents surveyed, 72 percent said their fellow Americans from other states—even neighboring ones—have a hard time grasping their lingo. Some learned the hard way that ordering a burger “dressed” (with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo) isn’t universally understood, nor is the phrase “to pass a good time” (instead of “to have” a good time).

After surveying 2000 people (with proportional numbers from each state), PlayNJ created a map showing the top slang word in each state. Many are words that are unlikely to be understood beyond state lines, but others—like California’s bomb (something you really like) and New York’s deadass (to be completely serious)—have spread well beyond their respective borders thanks to memes and internet culture.

Hawaiians are also known for their distinctive slang words, with 71 percent reporting that words like shaka (hello) and poho (waste of time) are frequently misunderstood. Shark bait, one of the state’s more colorful terms, refers to tourists who are so pale that they attract sharks.

Check out the full list below and test your knowledge of regional slang words with PlayNJ’s online quiz.

A chart showing the top slang words in each state
PlayNJ
nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
20 States With the Highest Rates of Skin Cancer
iStock
iStock

They don’t call it the Sunshine State for nothing. Floridians get to soak up the sun year-round, but that exposure to harmful UV rays also comes with consequences. Prevention magazine reported that Florida has the highest rate of skin cancer in the U.S., according to a survey by Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS).

BCBS surveyed 9 million of its insured members who had been diagnosed with skin cancer between 2014 and 2016 and found that Florida had the highest rate of skin cancer at 7.1 percent. People living in eastern states tend to be more prone to skin cancer, and diagnoses are more common among women.

Here are the 20 states with the highest rates of skin cancer:

1. Florida: 7.1 percent
2. Washington, D.C.: 5.8 percent
3. Connecticut: 5.6 percent
4. Maryland: 5.3 percent
5. Rhode Island: 5.3 percent
6. Vermont: 5.3 percent
7. North Carolina: 5.2 percent
8. New York: 5 percent
9. Massachusetts: 5 percent
10. Colorado: 5 percent
11. Arizona: 5 percent
12. Virginia: 5 percent
13. Delaware: 4.8 percent
14. Kentucky: 4.7 percent
15. Alabama: 4.7 percent
16. New Jersey: 4.7 percent
17. Georgia: 4.7 percent
18. West Virginia: 4.5 percent
19. Tennessee: 4.5 percent
20. South Carolina: 4.4 percent

It may come as a surprise that sunny California doesn’t make the top 20, and Hawaii is the state with the lowest rate of skin cancer at 1.8 percent. Prevention magazine explains that this could be due to the large population of senior citizens in Florida and the fact that the risk of melanoma, a rare but deadly type of skin cancer, increases with age. People living in regions with higher altitudes also face a greater risk of skin cancer due to the thinner atmosphere and greater exposure to UV radiation, which explains why Colorado is in the top 10.

The good news is that the technology used to detect skin cancer is improving, and researchers hope that AI can soon be incorporated into more skin cancer screenings. To reduce your risk, be sure to wear SPF 30+ sunscreen when you know you’ll be spending time outside, and don’t forget to reapply it every two hours. 

[h/t Prevention]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios