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12 Words For The Insufferably Vain

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Vanity is more visible than ever in these selfie-saturated days, but being a preening peacock or conceited coxcomb has never been out of style. There are many older, out-of-use words for people who can only be pried away from a mirror with the jaws of life. So please use these words next time you have to describe a self-obsessed huff-snuff.

1. HUFF-SNUFF

The Oxford English Dictionary defines this rhyming word as “a conceited fellow who gives himself airs and is quick to take offence; a braggart, hector.” The idea is that the person is huffing and snuffing in an exaggerated fashion with their nose in the air, outraged by any affront to their precious person. Like all reduplicative words—including namby-pamby and higgledy-piggledyhuff-snuff is awesome.

2. GLASS-GAZING

A glass-gazing ninnyhammer is always looking in a mirror. Shakespeare used the term in damning fashion in King Lear, describing: “A whorson glassegazing superfinicall rogue.” Ouch.

3. AIRISH

This word has had several meanings, mostly related to the weather, but in the late 1800s airish joined words such as blowhard and bloviate in the gaseous lexicon of invective. Mark Twain used the term in an 1874 letter, writing “I shall be as uppish & airish as any third-rate actor whose name is not made loud enough in the bills.” That’s about as uppy and airy as it gets.

4. NOSE-WISE

The image of a nose in the air is hard to beat when it comes conceit, but this type of conceit is specific: It has to do with an overestimation of one’s intelligence. But this word has some other meanings that are less insulting. A nose-wise person sometimes simply has a quick wit. Other times they have a superior sense of smell.

5. PAJOCK

No less than Shakespeare used this term—in Hamlet—via the memorable noun phrase “a very very pajock.” This word for a peacock or popinjay isn’t used much, but it’s usually an allusion to Shakespeare. Back in 1954, C. S. Lewis asked a very good question: “Have we no more gravity among us than to be so chafed by the taunt of a pajock?”

6. VAUNTY

A Scottish word, the jaunty term vaunty has been around since the 1700s, describing vain varlets and boastful buffoons. Vaunty springs from an out-of-use sense of vaunt as a verb meaning to brag, and it’s related to vaunted.

7. AND 8. SKIPJACK AND PUPPYISH

Though skipjack sounds like an unreliable lumberjack, it has a slightly less rugged meaning that is worth quoting the OED in full: “A pert shallow-brained fellow; a puppy, a whipper-snapper; a conceited fop or dandy.” (Fun fact: Puppy has sometimes been a word for an attention hog. Novelist Frances Burney used the term in a 1775 letter: “He is conceited, self-sufficient, and puppyish.”)

9. BIGGITY

This is a term from the U.S. south for someone who has gotten not only too big for their britches, but too big for the whole britches store, figuratively. The biggity are big-headed.

10. GET ONE'S SKULL SWELLED

Speaking of major-league melons, Green’s Dictionary of Slang lists this vivid variation of the idiom “have a big head.” This massive slang dictionary includes an 1886 use in The Policeman’s Lantern by James Greenwood: “Strange how some men get their skulls swelled when they get on the force.”

11. SIDEY

This term plays on older meaning of side as referring to arrogance and general full-of-yourself-ness. People would say an arrogant jerk was putting on side. From there, you could say the vain or puffed-up are sidey.

12. SNIPPER-SNAPPER

This sibling of whipper-snapper has a slightly different sense. Both words are dismissive of youths, but snipper-snapper also has a suggestion of conceitedness, as seen in a definition in an 1854 glossary compiled by A.E. Baker: “Snipper-snapper, a small, insignificant, effeminate, self-conceited young man.” This term is apparently a little older than whipper-snapper, but it hasn’t fared as well in the Darwinian lexical race.

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23 Slang Terms You Only Understand if You Work in Antarctica
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Thanks to extreme conditions, a small research population, close quarters, and the unique experience of life there, Antarctica has developed a lingo all of its own. Yes, even freezing, remote Antarctica has slang. Here is a sample of some, er, cooler terms, which come from the many English-speaking nationalities, from Canada to New Zealand, that have stepped foot on its ice.

1. BIG EYE

In winter, Antarctica is covered in perpetual darkness; in summer, sunlight. The continent can certainly put a wrench in one’s circadian rhythms, as this slang for light-related insomnia makes plain.

2. TOASTY

Antarctica’s climate also puts a wrench in one’s mental faculties. Crew stationed there often experience a loss of words, forgetfulness, irascibility, and “brain fog” brought on by the dark, cold, and altitude. Toasty is also used for other general misdemeanors committed around the camp.

3. ICE SHOCK

Antarctica’s shell shock. As one Antarctica-based worker blogged about it, ice shock is “when you get back to the rest of the world and realize that no matter how insane Antarctica is, the real world is FAR nuttier, and that you can no longer function in it.”

4. GREENOUT

A riff on whiteout. As The Antarctic Dictionary defines it, greenout is “the overwhelming sensation induced by seeing and smelling trees and other plants spending some time in antarctic regions.”

5. THE ICE

Speaking of the ice, this is how Antarcticans refer to the whole ice-covered continent.

6. CHEECH

Not the counterpart of Chong, but a play on consonant clusters in the name of the place from which many researchers jump off to Antarctica: Christchurch, New Zealand.

7. MACTOWN

McMurdo Station, the U.S. research hub and largest Antarctic community, which can host around 1250 residents in summer.

8. CITY MICE

These are personnel who work at the main research stations.

9. COUNTRY MICE

These are crew who move among different camps on the continent.

10. ICE-HUSBAND/ICE-WIFE

When the cat's away, the mice will play. One’s ice-husband or ice-wife is like a fling for crew down in Antarctica for the season.

11. ICE-WIDOW/ICE-WIDOWER

Meanwhile, one’s spouse or significant other is stuck all alone back home as their loved one is working at the South Pole.

12. FINGY

This pejorative term for a newbie apparently derives from “f—king new guy,” or FNG.

13. BEAKER

An epithet for “scientist.” Some specialist personnel also have nicknames, like fuelie (responsible for fueling various equipment) and wastie (who deal with refuse).

14. WINTER-OVER

When crew, bravely, stay in Antarctica over the entire brutal winter.

15. TURDSICLE

It gets cold down at the southern end of the world. The average—yes, average—temperature is -52ºF. The excrement freezeth, shall we say.

16. SNOTSICLE

So too do boogers freeze in this blend of snot and icicle.

17. DEGOMBLE

“To disencumber of snow,” as The Antarctic Dictionary explains, especially before coming back inside shelter. The origin of gomble is obscure, possibly a term for little balls of snow stuck to the fur of sled dogs.

18. SKUA

Named for the predatory, scavenging skua birds found in Antarctica, a skua pile or bin is a sort of rummage bin. Crew can leave and pick over unwanted items there. Also used as a verb.

19. OFFENSIVE POTATOES

British speakers apparently did not take a liking to canned potatoes they had to eat ...

20. SAWDUST

... nor the dried cabbage.

21. FRESHIES

Shipments of these fresh fruits and vegetables are quite welcome to the cuisine-deprived Antarctica researchers and personnel.

22. POPPY

Alcohol served over Antarctica ice, which makes a pop sound as it releases the gas long pressurized into it.

23. CARROTS

Not that much of the food sounds terribly edible, if slang is any measure, but these carrots aren’t to be munched on. They refer to ice cores, ‘uprooted’ samples whose cylindrical shape resemble the vegetable.

This slang is only the tip of the, um, iceberg. For more, see Bernadette Hince’s The Antarctica Dictionary, the Cool Antarctica website, and The Allusionist podcast, which has explored linguistic life on the ice in its episode, “Getting Toasty.”

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What's the Longest Word in the World? Here are 12 of Them, By Category
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Rebecca O'Connell

Antidisestablishmentarianism, everyone’s favorite agglutinative, entered the pop culture lexicon on August 17, 1955, when Gloria Lockerman, a 12-year-old girl from Baltimore, correctly spelled it on The $64,000 Question as millions of people watched from their living rooms. At 28 letters, the word—which is defined as a 19th-century British political movement that opposes proposals for the disestablishment of the Church of England—is still regarded as the longest non-medical, non-coined, nontechnical word in the English language, yet it keeps some robust company. Here are some examples of the longest words by category.

1. METHIONYLTHREONYLTHREONYGLUTAMINYLARGINYL … ISOLEUCINE 

Note the ellipses. All told, the full chemical name for the human protein titin is 189,819 letters, and takes about three-and-a-half hours to pronounce. The problem with including chemical names is that there’s essentially no limit to how long they can be. For example, naming a single strand of DNA, with its millions and millions of repeating base pairs, could eventually tab out at well over 1 billion letters.

2. LOPADOTEMACHOSELACHOGALEOKRANIOLEIPSAN …P TERYGON

The longest word ever to appear in literature comes from Aristophanes’ play, Assemblywomen, published in 391 BC. The Greek word tallies 171 letters, but translates to 183 in English. This mouthful refers to a fictional fricassee comprised of rotted dogfish head, wrasse, wood pigeon, and the roasted head of a dabchick, among other culinary morsels. 

3. PNEUMONOULTRAMICROSCOPICSILICOVOLCANOCONIOSIS

At 45 letters, this is the longest word you’ll find in a major dictionary. An inflated version of silicosis, this is the full scientific name for a disease that causes inflammation in the lungs owing to the inhalation of very fine silica dust. Despite its inclusion in the dictionary, it’s generally considered superfluous, having been coined simply to claim the title of the longest English word.

4. PARASTRATIOSPHECOMYIA STRATIOSPHECOMYIOIDES 

The longest accepted binomial construction, at 42 letters, is a species of soldier fly native to Thailand. With a lifespan of five to eight days, it’s unlikely one has ever survived long enough to hear it pronounced correctly.

5. PSEUDOPSEUDOHYPOPARATHYROIDISM

This 30-letter thyroid disorder is the longest non-coined word to appear in a major dictionary.

6. FLOCCINAUCINIHILIPILIFICATION

By virtue of having one more letter than antidisestablishmentarianism, this is the longest non-technical English word. A mash-up of five Latin roots, it refers to the act of describing something as having little or no value. While it made the cut in the Oxford English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster volumes refuse to recognize it, chalking up its existence to little more than linguistic ephemera.

7. SUBDERMATOGLYPHIC

At 17 characters, this is the longest accepted isogram, a word in which every letter is used only once, and refers to the underlying dermal matrix that determines the pattern formed by the whorls, arches, and ridges of our fingerprints. 

8. SQUIRRELLED

Though the more commonly accepted American English version carries only one L, both Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries recognize this alternate spelling and condone its one syllable pronunciation (think “world”), making it the longest non-coined monosyllabic English word at 11 letters.

9. ABSTENTIOUS

One who doesn’t indulge in excesses, especially food and drink; at 11 letters this is the longest word to use all five vowels in order exactly once.

10. ROTAVATOR 

A type of soil tiller, the longest non-coined palindromic word included in an English dictionary tallies nine letters. Detartrated, 11 letters, appears in some chemical glossaries, but is generally considered too arcane to qualify.

11. and 12. CWTCH, EUOUAE

The longest words to appear in a major dictionary comprised entirely of either vowels or consonants. A Cwtch, or crwth, is from the Welsh word for a hiding place. Euouae, a medieval musical term, is technically a mnemonic, but has been accepted as a word in itself. 

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