LINGUISTIC LANGOUR PLAGUES THE PRESS
Endangered Words Scurryfunge Pamphagous Pulchritudinous Slubberdegullion Phlyarologist Squizzle Plebicolar Lugubrious Tallywhacker Flippercanorious Jirging Winklepickers
Hey Guys, Dear Sir/Madam Dear Journalist, Here’s what you’re going to do...
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Linguistic languor plagues the press? Ok so maybe not – you guys are doing an alright job really, but I hope you of all people can forgive me the sensationalism. I’d like to propose you a challenge; because being challenged is apparently healthy for creativity after all. So what’s the challenge? Refer back to the list of ‘endangered words’ on the front page. Some sound pretty funny, yeah? Should you choose to accept it, your challenge is to use as many of these words in your newspaper articles as you can. It’d be very reasonable to question why on earth you’d possibly want to go along with this challenge. For that reason, I’ve composed this insightful, profound and sometimes poignant guide, explaining exactly why each word should be used. An unnamed journalism-guru tells me my results are “reasonably compelling.” Many of these words still serve actual functions that other words don’t, and some just sound funny, all I ask is that you take the time to read on, and make your mind up for yourself.
On the opposite page are two headlines with a simple difference in wording. Oneâ€™s a dull bit of celebrity gossip, the other captures the imagination. This is just an example of how a word like pamphagous could easily be slipped into use.
adj.: to eat or to consume everything
USE-A-WORD CHALLENGE: PAMPHAGOUS
YOUR HEADLINE: RIHANNA REVEALS HER ATTRACTION TO MEN WHO EAT EVERYTHING It’s easy to see why Ben here looks so bored, more celebrity dross written in the least inspiring of prose. All Ben wanted was a bit of Cricket.
THE ALTERNATIVE: RIHANNA REVEALS HER ATTRACTION TO PAMPHAGOUS MEN Ben has to hand it to the journalist that wrote this headline, he was just trying to find the Cricket, but pamphagous, now that’s a good word. So why is Ben laughing? Well Ben thinks pamphagous means ‘resemblant of a pink, flamboyant weetabix.’ Clever Ben. You can see how this makes for a much more successful headline.
Whether it’s a pamphagous labrador found to have eaten a kilogram of concrete , or you’re writing about your teenagers for a lifestyle article, using this word shouldn’t prove too hard.
PAMPHAGOUS: BUT WHAT DO THE PUBLIC THINK IT MEANS? This page is where I address your concerns that perhaps your newspaper’s audience won’t have a clue what pamphagous means....
BEN: Sounds like something that’s fabulous… but kind of... wheaty. ME: Kind of wheaty? TARO: Yeah yeah yeah, like a flamboyant wheetabix… if they ever made a pink, milkshake flavoured wheetabix, that’d be called pamphagous, because it’s something that’s quite dry, but also… you know BEN: Yeah there’s not a lot of bounce… TARO: Bodacious. BEN: …well there’s some bounce. But not a lot. TARO: There’s a lack of moisture. LUKE: That’s another dragon ain’t it? ...Nah it’s a.. mathmatical kind of thing. BEN: Yeah like pythagoras an that LUKE: Yeah a bit like that, mathmatical BEN: Or a person’s name... an ancient greek - d’you know what I mean? CELIA: I bet it means... like a... I’ve absolutely no idea. NICOLE: Pamfaggus. CELIA: I bet it’s not obvious. NICOLE: Pamfaggus... Pam. Faggus. NICOLE: Cats that like dogs. ME: It’s actually the act of eating everything. CELIA: Is it!? NICOLE: Aahhh. Cat’s that EAT dogs. So basically I got it then. FREDDIE: Pamphaguous? ME: Yeah pamphaguous. FREDDIE. Pamphaguos. ELANOR: Pam... fag. Pamfagwich. It’s a kind of sandwich. FREDDIE: Pam. Pam fag. Spam. Is it anything to do with the production of Spamalot? ELANOR: Sounds like something you might say instead of fabulous - pamfabulous. Oh that’s pamfabulous. FREDDIE: Does it mean that you’re smart, but you know it? ME: No. FREDDIE: ...Does it mean that you’re good looking but you know it? ME: It involves food. FREDDIE: You’re greedy! ...You eat other people’s food? FAHUD: A gay boy! ZACHARIAS: Pamphaguos yeah that’s someone who’s a bit feminine. FAHUD: Someone a bit camp.
LIZ: It sounds like a magical land! Like Pans Labyrinth. ANNA: Sounds like something to do with your throat. LIZ: Say it again. ANNA: Yeah it’s a disease to do with your throat. ME: Pamphagous. LIZ: Pancakes in Vegas!
A DIFFERENT CHALLENGE - DON’T USE:
AUSTERE It is with incresing regularity my morning train journey is accompanied by several doses of this rather grating word. It’s a word that’s used with increasing frequency by everyone from charity shop managers to French Presidents and as I look at google news, it’s been used 6 times in the last hour.
Adj.: Severe or strict in manner, attitude, or appearance. Having no comforts or luxuries; harsh or ascetic.
An article on the BBC even said that in Spain 72,000 people have even marched in an ‘antiausterity’ protest. Essentially, I’m challenging you to find a new word to imply counting your pennies - use a thesaurus or something, it can’t be that hard.
USE-A-WORD CHALLENGE: SCURRYFUNGE verb: A hasty tidying of the house between the time you see a neighbor and the time he/she knocks on the door.
Despite how regular an occurence having a scurryfunge is, not many people seem to be aware of the best solutions and tools for a quick clean up. For this reason Iâ€™ve included a quick pictoral guide of the fastest technique, with none of the hazards of hiding all your loose paperwork in the oven (a rookie error). After all, less time tidying means more time working out how you could adopt this very word in an article.
YOUR HEADLINE: CAMERON FOUND HASTILY TIDYING HOUSE BY NEIGHBOUR Not very interesting is it? And you know it could be so much better.... just look at my proposed alternative headline below.
THE ALTERNATIVE: CAMERON CAUGHT HAVING A SCURRYFUNGE BY NEIGHBOUR Scurryfunge. Yes, having a scurryfunge is a very normal thing to do. Once the meaning of the word is established, this article takes on a charming tone that presents our PM as a human like the rest of us. Not only that, but it suggests he’s too busy rapid-firing policies everywhere to have a proper tidy. Without ‘scurryfunge’ what would this article be? Boring, yet I bet it’d still be found in the middle of most national newspapers.
I’m fairly sure scurryfunge could be used to brighten up a dreary article on the financial crisis, but I haven’t quite worked out how yet...
SCURRYFUNGE: BUT WHAT DO THE PUBLIC THINK IT MEANS? Disclaimer: it wouldn’t be a challenge if every single member of the public knew what it meant would it?
TARO: This, to me, suggests the frantic scrubbing of the groinal region… upon exiting the shower. BEN: You have a fixation for abrasion, as the song goes. TARO: It’s definitely a spiritual thing. BEN: *laughs* TARO: Matthew 32: And so he went into the bush, and funged his scurry. His followers were about him, and they saw too that it was good… and went forth, and funged their own scurries. NICOLE: Funge sounds like clunge. Scurrying in… clunge? CELIA: A sponge! It’s a sponge! ME: A scurrying sponge? NICOLE: Yeah that’s it. CELIA: What does it mean? ME: It’s the hasty tidying of a house inbetween the time you spot your neighbour walking down the road and the time they get to the door. CELIA: What?! Hahaha why did you pick that out? ME: It’s a great word! NICOLE: Oh I’m just going to have a scurryfunge, Celia’s coming. Hahaha. Oh I did yesterday! I had a scurryfunge yesterday. CELIA: Did you? …Ok anyway next one! FAHUD: ScurryFUNGE? ME: Yeah, scurryfunge. ZACHARIAS: Something furry. FAHUD: Searching for something, scurrying about. ZACHARIAS. Something furry. FAHUD: Compromise – searching for fur. ZACHARIAS: Finding fur!
LIZ: Sounds like sponge! ANNA: A rough… a rough sponge. LIZ: A scourer! ANNA: Yeah a scouring sponge. LIZ: Yeah!
A DIFFERENT CHALLENGE - DON’T USE:
‘UNDER FIRE’ Under fire is a phrase so ubiquitous it is now near devoid of any of the drama it’s intended to imply. It doesn’t take an MA in English to proffer some valid alternatives. My English is bad enough that at GCSE my English teacher desperately suggested that perhaps I was just dyslexic. Nevertheless, I’ll attempt to provide a few new phrases to get the ball rolling:
Sorry guys, it’s time to let go:. ‘under fire’ was once an exciting phrase, but now it’s a done to death cliche.
• taking flack • dodging bullets • wrists’ slapped • stabbed in the back by political underling • lambasted • flogged
A lot of people struggle with the question: what features distinguish a pair of winklepickers from a pair of regular shoes? Hereâ€™s a simple guide to successful shoe spotting:
adj.: Long pointy shoes
USE-A-WORD CHALLENGE: WINKLEPICKERS
YOUR HEADLINE: NOEL GALLAGHER SICK OF MEN WEARING STUPID POINTY SHOES Ouch, Taro here owns some pointy shoes. It’s all very well to have an opinion, but shared in such a blunt way this is one opinion that’s garuanteed to get many an artists’ blood boiling.
THE ALTERNATIVE: NOEL GALLAGHER SICK OF MEN WEARING WINKLEPICKERS It’s the same headline, but somehow it seems much less offensive this way, were you somebody who was stylistically inclined to wear pointy shoes. Admittedly constructing entire articles around stupid things Noel Gallagher has said is more the NME’s forte, but the celebrity gossip sections of most newspapers are still guilty of entertaining the odd bit of Gallagherrelated nonsense. ‘Winklepickers’ makes it fractionally more acceptable.
All I’m going to say is the Royal wedding would’ve been a lot more entertaining if we could hear commentators making prolific use of the word winklepickers....
WHAT WORDS DO OTHER MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC THINK YOU SHOULD USE? Taken from a very balanced demographic of people, if you use every single one of these words in every article you write, logically it should appeal to everyone.
Nicole Awkward Sick Hulabaloo Ono
Ben Obvious Nuances Moist Poppinjay
Matt Bazinga Flute Wonder
Isaac Conquistador Dingus Baboon Inherent Regicide
Anna Orderly Neat Composed Considered Crisp
Seth Baffled Swing-me-dat Wasteman Jah
Joanna Chimmy changa(?) Dinosaurs Grass
Grace Humpty Dumpty Underground Snorkle
Taro Vicarious Ravishing Euphoria Mildrat
Andy Liverpool Lunch Chocolate Family Design
Becca Mad Brilliant Chilled Buddy
Luke Humble Deja vu Chilled Bizzo
Joss Yes Buzzing Remorse Communicate
Diane Obnoxious Plangtagenet Hallowed
Ivan Egregious Mollusc Mellifluous Fishfingers
Tano Grand coquin Gigantic Petit filous
Celia Boggart Georgian Decongestant
Simon Pulchritudinous Cheeky Lugubrious Rat
Charlie Seriously Extravagant Break
It turns out â€˜lugubrious,â€™ despite meaning excessively melancholy, can be used in the context of an A-Level Geography essay and even get a mark. Cheers Miss Chater.
USE-A-WORD CHALLENGE: SOUIZZLE
verb: To fire a gun, e.g. In an act of extreme malice Simon raised his BB gun and squizzled at the lego Harry Potter figure.
YOUR HEADLINE: ANDREW LANSLEY UNDER FIRE OVER NHS RISK REGISTER FOI VETO Not naming names but a quick google would reveal this headline is written by every newspaper’s least favourite unbiased news source. Aside from the fact it’s an absolute mouthful, it also transgresses on the cliche front - we’ve already discussed ‘under fire.’
THE ALTERNATIVE: ANDREW LANSLEY SOUIZZLED AT OVER RISK REGISTER VETO
As an alternative to the phrase ‘under fire,’ I think squizzle is wonderful - containing a fun sparkle with serious, gritty undertones - this word is a nice way to sugar-coat another story about somebody recieving a bollocking.
Since being invented in the 1800’s, squizzle has had a few alternative definitions, including: ‘A loving hug, somewhere in between a glomp and a squish.’ and ‘To urinate, only a little, while laughing really hard.’
adj.: A filthy, slobbering person; a sloven, a villain, a fiend, a louse; A worthless person; A drunk, and/or an alcoholic.
USE-A-WORD CHALLENGE: SLUBBERDEGULLION
YOUR HEADLINE: BINGE DRINKING RISES AMONGST ADULTS The flat headline suggests flatter content - the same recited facts about the effects of heavy drinking, the reccomended number of units per week, a picture of a drunk person spewing their guts in a gutter.
THE ALTERNATIVE: INCREASE IN NUMBER OF ADULT SLUBBERDEGULLIONS Slubberdegullion. A word that suggests both dragons, pirate ships and inebriation in equal measure. How could such a word fail to improve even the most tedious of alcoholrelated articles? Using slubberdegullion is a sure-fire route to journalistic success.
Slubberdegullion is also a good thing to call your friends - thereâ€™s no coming back from that one.
SLUBBERDEGULLION: BUT WHAT DO THE PUBLIC THINK IT MEANS?
TARO: I actually know this one… It’s the err… you know when a dog’s jowl… the flesh on the inside of a dog’s jowl… BEN: When it’s cheeks are so close together and it make’s that kind of face… *squishes face together with hands* It’s like a baby throwing up. CELIA: Sounds like some sort of squid. NICOLE: Slubber. CELIA: A slubbering whale… *makes jellyfish swimming gesture.* TANO: Dev answer? DEV: Fat and slimey. TANO: It makes me think of a word in Harry Potter. LUKE: Seriously where do you get these words from? LUKE: Sounds like something from Lord of the Rings doesn’t it? BEN: Sounds like a pirate ship. FAHUD: Slubberde-what?! ME: Gullion. FAHUD: That’s a sex move. ZACHARIAS: Hahaha nah it’s someone who’s lazy! FAHUD: Sluggish! Someone who’s sluggish. ZACHARIAS: Lazy.
ANNA: I dunno if that’s an adjective or… ME: It’s an adjective… I can confirm that. LIZ: But how does it work as an adjective? LIZ: … someone who’s drunk. ANNA: I’d say it’s something that’s revolting. LIZ: Sounds pretty gross. ANNA: Sounds pretty gross, yeah.
A DIFFERENT CHALLENGE - PLEASE DON’T USE:
CHEEKY Cheeky, the linguistic swiss army knife. Name a situation, cheeky is probably, just about, a valid response. e.g.:
Adj.: Impudent or irreverent, typically in an endearing or amusing way.
“I’m pregnant.” “Cheeky!” “We’re in Room 13.” “Cheeky.” “How’re you?” “Cheeky.” “What do you want for dinner?” “Hmm... something cheeky.” Cheeky seems to have experienced a surge in popularity recently, and while I’m happy for cheeky’s much deserved success, I’m worried that it might reach a saturation point where the word loses it’s charm. Nowadays, misusing cheeky is as common as the misuse of irony. I plead that you give using the word ‘cheeky’ a break, in order that it enjoy a long and happy life.
USE-A-WORD CHALLENGE: PULCHRITUDINOUS
The image of a ham sandwich should be fairly self-explanatory.
YOUR HEADLINE: THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE INVADE CANNES This was indeed a real article and surprisingly no, not for the Daily Mail, but the Vancouver Sun.
Unfortunately further reading of the article revealed the usage of ‘beautiful people’ wasn’t sarcastic, but in-fact deadly serious. Wow.
THE ALTERNATIVE: THE PULCHRITUDINOUS PEOPLE INVADE CANNES
Alliteration? Thinly veiled mockery of a vacuous cliche? This headline ticks all of Luke here’s boxes. Pulchritudinous is probably best used in this kind of lightly mocking sense, as demonstrated by what people thought it meant on the next page.
Kudos to the Evening Standard reporter who used pulchritudinous in an article a while back, fear not - at least one person understood what it meant. Keep fighting the good fight.
PULCHRITUDINOUS: BUT WHAT DO THE PUBLIC THINK IT MEANS?
BEN: Something to do with birds? The flight of vultures. TARO: It’s definitely angrier sounding than any word we’ve encountered thus far… BEN: It is… I feel there’s definitely a question of class about this word. DEV: Dinoasaurs! TANO: Erm… I think it’s Steve Jobs. FREDDIE: You don’t like the pulp in orange juice? ELANOR: Velcro? ELANOR: Is this some biological human word? ME: It’s descriptive. FREDDIE: It sounds like something that protrudes out of something. ELANOR: A spikey thing. FREDDIE: Is it a really outgoing person who will tell you what they think of you to their face? NICOLE: Sounds like pompous doesn’t it? A twat. CELIA: Yeah like pompous, definitely pompous. NICOLE: Tudinous sounds like opportunities CELIA: It’s not opportunities…you definitely told me this. NICOLE: Pulchritudinous…. It’s like pompous though. CELIA: But I bet it’s not! It probably isn’t. ME: It actually means beautiful. CELIA: Does it?! JORDAN: Sounds like something you’d do to a… food. FAHUD: Yeah it’s like a diet or something… like a disorder. JORDAN: Food-related for sure.
SETH: A big hairy tortoise... that’s lost. BEN: With some groovy, groovy monkeys. SETH: Yeah. In the shoe-rack.
A WORD THE PUBLIC MAY WELL TELL YOU NOT TO USE, BUT YOU REALLY SHOULD (TRUST ME):
MOIST Not a forgotten word, no, but what a word nonetheless. You have to hand it to moist for managing to be so divisive in the reaction it causes among English speaking people. Despite such a mundane meaning, moist has still managed to spawn numerous internet hate groups.
Adj.: 1. Slightly wet. 2. (of a climate) Rainy.
On Facebook, ‘Saying the word “moist” to make others uncomfortable’ is a page that currently has 64,627 likes, and their are dozens of other pages both for and against the word. To use ‘moist’ is to court controversy, to look adversity in the eyes and give it a big ol’ grin. Use moist.
You got me, this image was just a self-depreciating joke used in a flimsy ploy to make my writing style appear more likeable.
verb: The study of nonsense.
USE-A-WORD CHALLENGE: PHLYAROLOGIST
YOUR HEADLINE: HIRST OPENS BLOCKBUSTER EXHIBITION AT TATE What’s the problem with this headline? Blockbuster. Lacking opinion and full of hype, this is a rising star in the world of bad art journalism. The exhibition has made a lot of money, great. Is it good?
THE ALTERNATIVE: HIRST EXHIBTION MAKES FINE EXAMPLE OF PHLYAROLOGY “Shit.” - That was Seth’s reply when we asked him what he thought of Damien Hirst’s exhibition at Tate Modern. “As a businessman, good. As an artist... not so much.” Most of us more or less agree, his art process must be the following: • Think of something that looks cool. • Make it. • Invent an idea to make it seem like there was an intelligent reason for creating it. Phlyarology is therefore quite an apt description.
Phylarology has so many applications in journalism, but the most obvious use seems to be the majority of political news.
USE-A-WORD CHALLENGE: JIRGING
adj.: The noise too dry shoes make when walked with.
I often find myself being asked, “Simon , how is it that I may stop the sqeuaking noise my shoes are making.” My reply? They aren’t moist enough. Whenever this happens I always reccomend a bath of cool water. An hour does the trick, and if you live in area of hard water make sure you filter it first. A further two hours left in a freezer ‘locks-in’ the moisture. Why am I telling you this? Well if the ‘The Hour’ was anything to go by, you journalists are sneaky types, so noisy shoes just won’t do.
YOUR HEADLINE: RURAL LIBRARY BANS SHOES THAT ARE TOO DRY AND THEREFORE MAKE A SOUEAKY NOISE I think perhaps the journalist that wrote this headline could have done with knowing a certain word.... jirging. Entertaining article but no editor would approve a headline that long.
THE ALTERNATIVE: LIBRARIAN PROCLAIMS: STOP THE JIRGING
This headline is dramatic and concise, while still being entirely informative. A perfect piece of journalism? Perhaps not but it’d certainly make page 3 of the Metro, a true test of an article’s quality and relevance.
I’ve decided that it is not in my interest to publish what the public think jirging means, but rest assured it’s a great word to use.
WHAT IT BOILS DOWN TO - WHICH WOULD YOU PREFER?
You can carry on in your usual manner, using your usual words and your usual phrases.
Or you can embrace the challenges proposed here, and open the door to a world of exciting journalistic possibilities.
Cheers for reading! Please pop me in the next envelope and put me in the post. If you’re feeling kind enough to email me and let me know you’ve sent my paper on it’s way, it would be much appreciated! firstname.lastname@example.org If you don’t, well... I’m afraid to inform you we can’t be friends.