CLOSE
Original image
iStock

40 Peculiar P-Words To Pep Up Your Vocabulary

Original image
iStock

As well as being used an abbreviation of post, pulse, page, pence and (in some countries at least) peso, the letter P is also the chemical symbol for phosphorus, a symbol representing pressure, poise, power and momentum in different branches of science, a particular branch of the Celtic languages in a linguistics, an indication to play softly in a piece of classical music, a function in statistical mathematics, and a designation of the clarity of a video or television screen (in which case—as in the p of 1080p—it stands for “progressive scan”). Despite all of these uses, however, P is on average one of the least-used letters of the alphabet, accounting for roughly two percent of any page of English text. So why not push P’s profile, by partaking in a few of these perfectly passable P words?

1. PABULUM

Pabulum is a Latin word meaning “fodder” or “nourishment,” which can be used in English to refer to any foodstuff that supports or nourishes. Derived from the same root, pabulation is the proper name for the process of feeding yourself, and if something is pabular or pabulous, then it’s nourishing or wholesome.

2. PACATION

The act of soothing or calming something, derived from the Latin word for “peace,” pax.

3. PACTOLIAN

The Pactolus is a river in western Turkey that was renowned throughout Ancient Greece and Lydia for its supposedly gold-rich waters and golden sands. Derived from that, the adjective Pactolian can be used either to describe somewhere covered in rich, golden sands, or else something notably lavish or lucrative.

4. PADDYNODDY

An old Yorkshire dialect word for a lengthy and long-winded story that goes nowhere and might not even be true.

5. PAEDONYMIC

If something is paedonymic, then it’s named after your child.

6. PAILLETTE

Derived from paille, a French word for a husk or piece of grain, a paillette is a single decorative piece of reflective foil or glitter.

7. PALPABRIZE

To palpabrize someone is to flatter them. It comes from a 16th century word, palp, meaning “to caress.”

8. PANCHRESTON

Derived from the Greek for “useful for everything,” a panchreston is a cure-all or panacea. Likewise, a panpharmacon is a universal medicine or remedy.

9. PANDATION

When something shrinks, stretches, or bends under a heavy weight, that’s called pandation. Whereas…

10. PANDICULATION

…is the proper word for stretching and yawning when you wake up in the morning.

11. PANIFICATION

A formal name for the process of making bread.

12. PANOMPHEAN

Panomphaeus is an old Latin epithet for the Roman god Jupiter, which essentially means “the entire voice of a god.” The corresponding adjective panomphean can be used just to mean “Jupiter-like” or “jovial,” but more specifically describes either someone who appears to hear everything, or else any word that appears universally understood by speakers of different languages.

13. PANTAGRUELIAN

Derived from Pantagruel, the name of an insatiable giant in the title of a work by François Rabelais, if something is pantagruelian, then it’s exceptionally large or has a voracious appetite.

14. PANTOGLOT

A pantoglot is someone who can speak all languages. We’re looking at you, C3P0.

15. PANTOMNESIC

If you’re pantomnesic, then you seem to remember everything.

16. PARBREAKING

A 16th century word for belching or vomiting.

17. PASTE-AND-SCISSORS

Victorian journalists’ slang for throwaway, filler material.

18. PAUCILOQUY

Derived from paucus, a Latin word meaning “few”; if you’re pauciloquent, then you use very few words. Similarly, if you’re paucidentate then you don’t have many teeth.

19. PEDIPULATE

To pedipulate something is to move or knead it with your feet.

20. PEELIE-WALLY

A Scots dialect word meaning “sickly-looking” or “weak and feeble.” Peelie is probably derived from “pale,” while the wally is thought to come from an old exclamation of sorrow or woe.

21. PENSICULATIVE

A 17th century adjective meaning “in deep consideration of something.”

22. PERFABRICATE

In some contexts (like pervade or perforate) the prefix per– is used to mean “entirely,” “thoroughly,” or “all the way.” Consequently, to perfabricate something is to see its construction through to completion—while to permute something is to change it completely, and to pervigilate something is to watch it diligently.

23. PERHIEMATE

The perfect word for January—to perhiemate is to spend the winter somewhere.

24. PERVOO

Derived from an old Scots word referring to a bird that deserts its nest, to pervoo is to abandon a group of friends or to stop socializing with someone.

25. PHEESE

An old American slang word for any fretful, unsettled, irritable feeling.

26. PILCROW

That paragraph sign, ¶, that looks like a reverse P? That’s a pilcrow.

27. PINACIPHOBIA

If you have this, then this probably isn’t the right place to find out—also called katastichophobia, pinaciphobia is the fear of lists. Other P phobias include pteronophobia (feathers), phasmophobia (ghosts), pyrophobia (fire), pediculophobia (lice and mites), and photophobia, which is used to refer to the dislike some creatures, like cockroaches, have for light. Panophobia or pantophobia, incidentally, is the fear of everything; phobophobia is the fear of fear itself.

28. PITCHERINGS

According to one local English dialect dictionary, if a young man who’s just started a new relationship happens to bump into one of his friends while he’s out with his new girlfriend, the friend can ask for pitcherings—a small sum of money, intended to be spent on drink for himself to toast the couple’s new relationship.

29. PITCHPOLE

As well as meaning “to turn head over heels” or “to somersault,” to pitchpole is to sell something for twice its cost.

30. PITT’S-PICTURE

An attempt to raise tax revenues based on the relative value of a home—and, ultimately, the prosperity of the homeowner—the Window Tax was a tax levied on homes in England from 1696 until it was finally repealed in 1851. Initially, a flat fee of 2 shillings (£12/$17) per house was applied to all homes across England, but that rose to 4 shillings (£24/$35) if the house had between 10-20 windows, and 8 shillings (£48/$70) if there were more than 20. When these already controversial prices were increased by Prime Minister Pitt the Elder in 1784 (to offset a vast loss in national income caused by a massive reduction of the tax on tea), many homeowners drastically opted to remove the windows in their properties to dodge the fee; a Pitt’s-picture, in 18th-19th century slang, is simply a bricked-up window.

31. PIZZLO

Probably derived from an old Scandinavian word for a knot in a sheep’s fleece, a pizzlo is a tangled confusion or muddle.

32. POGONOPHOBIA

If you’re pogonophobic, then you hate beards. The process of growing or shaving a beard is called pogonotrophy or pogonotomy, while a pogonology is a written treatise or description of a beard.

33. POKER-TALK

19th century slang for gossip. Literally, it refers to a gossiping conversation had by a fireplace (i.e. where the poker is kept).

34. POOSK

An old Scots word, variously meaning “to hunt for something” or “to pick through something looking for something else,” or else “to fidget” or “to potter about doing odd jobs.”

35. POT-OF-WINE

An old euphemistic nickname for a bribe.

36. PRICK-ME-DAINTY

As a verb, prick has been used since the Middle English period to mean “to dress in fine clothes,” or “to be showily overdressed.” Presumably derived from that, prick-me-dainty is a 16th century word—possibly originally from Scots English—for a particularly fussy or affectedly prim and proper person.

37. PUGGLED

As well as meaning “slightly drunk,” puggled can also mean “astounded” or “utterly confused.” In both cases, it’s perhaps derived via English military slang from pagal, a Hindustani word meaning “furious.”

38. PULPIT-THUMPER

A 17th century word for a particularly enthusiastic clergyman or preacher.

39. PURWHEEGNAL

An old Scots dialect word for a stench.

40. PYSMA

In Ancient Greek, a pysma was any question that required a detailed explanation rather than a straightforward yes/no answer. The term is still used in rhetoric today to refer to a figure of speech in which someone asks a chain of difficult questions, typically with the intention of belittling or picking holes in someone else’s idea or suggestion.

Original image
iStock
arrow
language
5 Quick Facts About the Hashtag
Original image
iStock

The use of the hashtag as a Twitter tool to denote a specific topic in order for the masses to follow along turns 10 years old today, having first been suggested (in a Tweet, naturally) by Silicon Valley regular and early adopter Chris Messina back in 2007. Here’s a little history on its evolution from the humble numerical sign to the social media giant it is today.

1. IT COMES FROM THE LATIN TERM FOR “POUND WEIGHT.”

There’s no definitive origin story for the hash (or pound) symbol, but one belief is that when 14th-century Latin began to abbreviate the term for pound weight—libra pondo—to “lb,” a horizontal slash was added to denote the letters were connected. (The bar was called a tittle.) As people began to write more quickly, the letters and the tittle became amalgamated, eventually morphing into the symbol we see today.

2. IT SHOULD ACTUALLY BE CALLED AN OCTOTHORPETAG.

The symbol portion of the hashtag eventually made its way to dial-button telephones, the result of AT&T looking forward to phones interacting with computers. In order to complete a square keypad with 10 digits (including 0), they added the numerical sign and an asterisk. AT&T employee Don MacPherson thought they sign needed a more official name, so he chose Octothorpe—“octo” because it has eight points, and “thorpe” because he was a fan of football hero Jim Thorpe.

3. TWITTER WASN’T BIG ON THE IDEA AT FIRST.

When web marketer Messina had the notion to add hashtags to keep track of conversations, he stopped by Twitter’s offices to make an informal pitch. He came at a bad time: co-founder Biz Stone was trying to get the software back online after a crash and dismissed the idea with a “Sure, we’ll get right on that” burn. Undeterred, Messina started using them and the habit caught on.

4. IT’S IN THE OXFORD DICTIONARY.

By 2014, respect for the hashtag had grown to the point where the venerable Oxford English Dictionary gave the word its stamp of approval. Their entry: "hashtag n. (on social media web sites and applications) a word or phrase preceded by a hash and used to identify messages relating to a specific topic; (also) the hash symbol itself, when used in this way."

5. THERE ARE SOME HASHTAG ALL-TIMERS.

Hashtags can highlight interest in everything from political movements to breaking news stories, but the frequency of their use is often tied into popular culture. The most popular TV-related tag has been #TheWalkingDead; #StarWars sees a lot of action; and #NFL dominates sports-related Tweets.  

Original image
iStock // Lucy Quintanilla
arrow
Words
35 Words for Hiccups from Around the World
Original image
iStock // Lucy Quintanilla

Hiccup is a perfect specimen of onomatopoeia, a word that sounds like the noise it represents: It echoes that sudden breath (hick-) and spasm (-up) of the diaphragm when, say, we’ve gobbled down food too quickly. But English is far from unique here. If we listen across the globe, we’ll hear all sorts of gasping h’s and gulping k’s, so much so that it almost seems like there’s a universal word for hiccup. Except there are some surprising, er, hiccups along the way. Get that spoonful of sugar, salt, or peanut butter ready, for here are 35 hiccup words in other languages.

1., 2., 3., 4., AND 5. DANISH, NORWEGIAN, SWEDISH, ICELANDIC, AND FINNISH

The English word hiccup (later spelled hiccough) is first recorded in 1580, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. A few decades earlier, English was using the word hicket. This word is a near mirror of the word in Scandinavian languages. Danish and Norwegian have hikke. The Swedish hicka is essentially the same. Up in Iceland, it’s hiksti. And over in Finland—neighbor in geography, though not tongue—it’s hikka.

6. FRENCH

If the French have had too much wine, they might hoquet. The -et, a diminutive ending found in English words like gullet, likely influenced the earlier English hicket.

7. SPANISH

In Spain, you get a bad case of the hipos.

8. AND 9. PORTUGUESE AND LATIN

You’d expect Spanish’s neighbor and Romance-language cousin, Portuguese, to have a nearly identical way of hiccuping, right? Think again. In Portugal, a hiccup is called a soluço, which may sound more like a sneeze to some ears. Soluço appears to derive from a Latin word for the bodily function: singultus, whose g brings back the hiccup’s characteristic gulp.

10. AND 11. ITALIAN AND ROMANIAN

Latin’s singultus also coughs up hiccup in Italian, singhiozzo—proving, yet again, that everything is more fun to say in Italian. Nearby in Romania, it’s sughiț, with that final ț pronounced like the ts in fits.

12. AND 13. WELSH AND IRISH

The Welsh have ig and the Irish snag, which happens to look like that metaphorical hiccup in English, or a “minor difficulty or setback.”

14. AND 15. DUTCH AND GERMAN

Dutch has the straightforward sound of hik, but German has to be different with Schluckauf, literally a “swallow up.” German, though, also has the onomatopoeic Hecker (noun) and hicksen (verb) for these belly bumps.

16., 17., 18., 19., AND 20. RUSSIAN, UKRAINIAN, POLISH, CZECH, AND BULGARIAN

Like the Scandinavian languages, Slavic hiccupingsounds like hiccuping, just more Slavic-y. Russia gets an attack of the ikotas (икота), Ukraine the hykavkas (гикавка), Polish the czkawkas, Czech the škytavkas, and Bulgarian the khulstane’s (хълцане), to let out a few examples from this language family.

21. ALBANIAN

Hiccuping in Albanian, which boasts its own branch in the Indo-European languages, is a bit softer, but it does still feature something of a hiccupy bounce: lemzë (pronounced like lemzuh).

22. GREEK

Before we leave Europe, the diaphragm reflex in Greece can take the form of λόξιγκας, which roughly transliterates to loxigkas.

23. ARABIC

You try to get rid of your حازوقة (hazuqa) or فُواق (fuwaq) in Arabic ...

24. TURKISH

… or hıçkırık (which sounds like hichkerek) in Turkish ...

25. SWAHILI

…or kwikwi around parts of southeastern Africa.

26. YORUBA

Saying you have the hiccups in Yoruba, spoken widely in Western Africa, might actually give you the hiccups: òsúkèsúkèsúkè.

27. ZULU

In South Africa, where the Zulu language is prominent, you might call a hiccup an ingwici—with the letter c representing a click sound.

28. CHINESE

The Mandarin word for hiccup gets right to the back of the throat: , , voiced with a rising tone. The left part of the character, which looks like a squished box, is 口 (kǒu), meaning “mouth.”

29. JAPANESE

Like English, the Japanese for hiccup features a hard k-sound smack dab in the middle of the word: shakkuri (or しゃっくり in kana).

30. KOREAN

The Korean for hiccup is a three-part affair: 딸꾹질, roughly tal-kuk-jil.

31. VIETNAMESE

Slurp down your pho too fast? The basic word for hiccup in Vietnamese is nấc.

32. AND 33. HINDI AND BENGALI

Hundreds of millions of speakers of Hindi in India say हिचकी (hichakee, pronounced a bit like hitch-key). The word is similar in other closely related Indian languages in the region, such as Bengali হিক্কা(hikka).

34. BAHASA INDONESIAN

You might say “Excuse me” throughout Indonesia for your kecegukan, the word for hiccup in Bahasa Indonesian, the Malay-based official language and lingua franca of Indonesia.

35. OLD ENGLISH

A word Old English had for hiccup is ælfsogoða, literally a kind of “elves’ heartburn.” Apparently, Anglo-Saxons believed hiccups were caused by, yep, elves. It turns out that it isn’t just cures for the hiccups that are old wives’ tales.

BONUS: KLINGON

The fictional language of Star Trek’s Klingon is a notoriously guttural language. Most of the words we’ve seen for hiccup across the globe indeed feature such back-of-the-throat g’s and k’s. Yet the Klingon word for hiccup is bur. Let’s chalk that up to biological differences: Klingons are extraterrestrial beings, after all.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios