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12 Old Words for the Huge, Mammoth, and Gargantuan

When something—say, a canyon or mistake—is truly enormous, the same old small time words like colossal and massive don’t always get the job done. Fortunately, there are plenty of older, rarer words for the gargantuan and elephantine just waiting to make your vocabulary immensive. Use these words the next time you see something hugy.

1. UNMEET

As far back as Old English, unmeet has been a word for the immense. This played off a sense of meet meaning the Goldilocks size: just right and proper, or at least not freakishly big or small. Unless you’re a basketball player, 7-foot-tall is an unmeet height.

2. HIDEOUS

These days, hideous is only a word for the ugly, defined by the OED with words like “Frightful, dreadful, terrible, horrible.” But hideous has also been a word associated with size since the early 1300s, which makes sense, since nothing is as frightful, dreadful, terrible, and horrible as a giant monster. Poet Edmund Spenser used the term in this sense back in 1596: “Of stature huge and hideous he was, Like to a Giant for his monstrous hight.” The size-centric meaning is even clearer in an example from Jedidiah Morse’s 1796 book The American Universal Geography: “The great precipice below, which hangs over the sea, is so hideous.” With this meaning in play, even the Grand Canyon is hideous.

3. AND 4. HUGY AND HUGEOUS

The -y suffix was surprisingly productive back in days of yore, and it still is today, when you can’t even find yore on the internet. Here and there since the 1400s, the handy -y suffix could be found modifying huge. In 1728’s The Comedy of the Provok'd Husband; Or A Journey to London by Sir John Vanbrugh & C. Cibber, the odd phrase “hugey business” appears. Since the 1500s, another redundancy has been hugeous.

5. BROBDINGNAG

In Gulliver’s Travels, this was the name of a country where King Kong would feel at home, maybe not in terms of being a gorilla, but because everything was gigantic. This literary use led to the noun becoming an adjective, as shown in OED examples mentioning “Brobdingnag beehives” and “Brobdingnag genius.” Presumably, the latter would be smart enough to avoid the former.

6. HONKING

Green’s Dictionary of Slang (GDoS) traces honking back at least to the late 1980s, where it seems to have been part of college slang, turning up in references to “a honking textbook” from 1989 and a “honkin’ amount of homework” from 1992. The OED has an older example, but it feels like more of an intensifier (and euphemism for the f-word) than a size-related word. Here’s the usage from the Salisbury Times in 1943: “Great honking hornets, you creep, why don't you..get hep to the fact there's bloodshed going on!”

7. MASTEROUS

The always terrific Dictionary of Regional English (DARE) records this term for the massive and unwieldy with examples from the early 1900s of “a mastrous large school for this district” and a “masterous price.” Godzilla, you could say, was a masterous lizard.

8. DIMENSIONLESS

This is a contronym. Dimensionless has, at times, referred to stuff so tiny that it’s impossible to measure. But it’s also referred to things so hugy that they’re also impossible to measure. An 1813 use in New Monthly Magazine makes the mega meaning clear: “Here, in these almost dimensionless regions, nature is seen on a large scale.”

9. AND 10. IMMENSIVE AND GIGANTINE

Words usually have siblings, and immensive—a near-identical twin of immense—is quite obscure but means the same: immeasurable. Similarly, gigantine is a variation of gigantic, and a great word to use when describing the pyramids or frost giants.

11. PYTHONIC

This adjective has conveyed many senses of the Python from Greek mythology—a serpent-type monster which was killed by Apollo—as well as the snake with the same name. One quality all pythons (real or mythic) have is size, and so pythonic has sometimes described ginormousness. A 1903 issue of Blackwood’s Edinborough Magazine refers to “Huge wooden sheds and pythonic iron pipes.”

12. FATTENING HOG

Fairly or unfairly, the pig is the patron farm animal of hugeness. So it’s no surprise this doubly bulky term refers to the biggish. DARE records a 1954 example from Tennessee of “Fattening hog post card” referring to “A jumbo-sized post card.” What a useful term. There could be fattening hog meals, fattening hog buildings, fattening hog paperwork, and fattening hog offensive linemen. I hope to one day read about a humanitarian with a heart as big as the fattening hog outdoors.

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13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.

1. NINA SIMONE WAS HER STAGE NAME.

The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2. SHE HAD HUMBLE BEGINNINGS.


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There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.

3. SHE WAS BOOK SMART...

Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.

4. ... WITH DEGREES TO PROVE IT.

Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

5. HER CAREER WAS ROOTED IN ACTIVISM.

A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

6. ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUS SONGS WAS BANNED.

Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.

7. SHE NEVER HAD A NUMBER ONE HIT.

Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.

8. SHE USED HER STYLE TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”

9. SHE HAD MANY HOMES.

New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.

10. SHE HAD A FAMOUS INNER CIRCLE.

During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

11. YOU CAN STILL VISIT SIMONE IN HER HOMETOWN.

Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.

12. YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HER MUSIC IN RECENT HITS.

Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.

13. HER MUSIC IS STILL BEING PERFORMED.

Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

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Animals
Watch the First-Ever Footage of a Baby Dumbo Octopus
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dumbo octopuses are named for the elephant-ear-like fins they use to navigate the deep sea, but until recently, when and how they developed those floppy appendages were a mystery. Now, for the first time, researchers have caught a newborn Dumbo octopus on tape. As reported in the journal Current Biology, they discovered that the creatures are equipped with the fins from the moment they hatch.

Study co-author Tim Shank, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, spotted the octopus in 2005. During a research expedition in the North Atlantic, one of the remotely operated vehicles he was working with collected several coral branches with something strange attached to them. It looked like a bunch of sandy-colored golf balls at first, but then he realized it was an egg sac.

He and his fellow researchers eventually classified the hatchling that emerged as a member of the genus Grimpoteuthis. In other words, it was a Dumbo octopus, though they couldn't determine the exact species. But you wouldn't need a biology degree to spot its resemblance to Disney's famous elephant, as you can see in the video below.

The octopus hatched with a set of functional fins that allowed it to swim around and hunt right away, and an MRI scan revealed fully-developed internal organs and a complex nervous system. As the researchers wrote in their study, Dumbo octopuses enter the world as "competent juveniles" ready to jump straight into adult life.

Grimpoteuthis spends its life in the deep ocean, which makes it difficult to study. Scientists hope the newly-reported findings will make it easier to identify Grimpoteuthis eggs and hatchlings for future research.

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