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Picture of jerry thomas
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Unusual Words

A by-no-means-exhaustive list of rare, obscure, strange and sometimes funny words and their meanings that only seem to crop up in crosswords and dictionaries. Words that are used so seldom, you wonder who invented them and why.
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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Jerry, that is just great! Big Grin I love "gowpen," a double handful.
 
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"decubitus" ?

"defenestrate" ?

"dehisce" ?

I think I have a good vocabulary, but not an outstanding one, and I wouldn't consider those particularly obscure. Ever see a wound dehisce? Ever see a decubitus ulcer? (Trust me, you didn't want to.) Ever hear of Jan Masaryk (sp>Wink, victim of the "defenestration of Prague" in 1947-ish?

Jargon, maybe, but not all that obscure.
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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quote:
but not an outstanding one
Ah, I don't believe that for a moment!

Besides, even the best of the obscure dictionaries at some point has easier words. While it wasn't easy, I even found one in the Grandiloquent online dictionary: "asthenic." Even our esteemed tsuwm sometimes has something mundane, such as one week I remember "moot point."

Now, when looking in the Grandiloquent online dictionary for an easy word, I found "letholagia," or the inability to recall the precise word about something. I vaguely remember asking here once if anyone knew a word for that. Now I know! Big Grin [I often have letholagia. Roll Eyes]
 
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Originally posted by haberdasher:
"decubitus" ? "defenestrate" ? "dehisce" ?

I think I have a good vocabulary, but not an outstanding one, and I wouldn't consider those particularly obscure. Ever hear of Jan Masaryk (sp), victim of the "defenestration of Prague" in 1947-ish?


You're thinking of the Defenestration of Prague in 1618, which touched off the Thirty Years War. Since we all had to hear about that war in our high school days, we've all heard the word "defenestration" in the dim past.

I recall that some word-book or other said that for that reason, if a person only knows one obscure word, that word is very likely to be "defenestration".
 
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Originally posted by haberdasher:
Jargon, maybe, but not all that obscure.


But "jargon" means precisely specialist technical terminology, or by extension anything sounding particularly incomprehensible (except to insiders). (Wikipedia)

I'll admit that I didn't know dehisce or decubitus.
 
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What wordnerd said. Big Grin

"Defenestration" is a very commonly known "uncommon" word. I'd never heard of "dehisce" or "decubitis" before.
 
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I knew "dehisce" and "decubitus" because of my nursing background. I can understand people not knowing "dehisce" (when a wound splits open), though I thought "decubitus" might be known (bed sore.)

BTW, "asthenia" is also a fairly common nursing term, meaning thin and frail, such as happens with cancer patients or AIDS patients. Is that a commonly known word among non-medical people?
 
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Is that a commonly known word among non-medical people?
Not to this non-medical person it isn't.

By the way, is it "decubitis", as originally posted, or "decubitus"?
 
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I wasn't familiar with asthenia. A related word: asthenosphere "A zone of the earth's mantle that lies beneath the lithosphere and consists of several hundred kilometers of deformable rock." [A-H]

It's decubitus, and it lead me to the perfectly wonderful adjective decumbent 'lying down' which reminds me that I still have to read Goncharov's Oblomov.
 
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So... it is obviously related to recumbent (also meaning lying down). There's a word for the addition of an extra letter although it escapes me for now. I know we mentioned it in a thread a while back. Is that the case with the "m" in decumbent and recumbent?
 
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Yes, it is decubitus. As a medical word, it means either a "bed sore" or a position, as described. In looking in my medical dictionary, I now remember that it is also a radiographical procedure.

Interesting that a dictionary would misspell a word! Wink

quote:
There's a word for the addition of an extra letter although it escapes me for now.

arnie, I don't remember that word.
 
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Originally posted by Kalleh: "asthenia" is also a fairly common nursing term, meaning thin and frail

Originally posted by wordcrafter: darker greek-myth words (antaean, cyclopean, sop to cerebus, gorgon, harpy, hydra, medusa, lamia, nemesis, sphinx, sthenia, tartarean)
 
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Originally posted by arnie: There's a word for the addition of an extra letter although it escapes me for now. I know we mentioned it in a thread a while back. Is that the case with the "m" in decumbent and recumbent?
The word you want is epenthesis, and you raise a darned interesting question. AHD traces "recumbent" to Latin recumbere to lie down and cumbere to lie. So these already have the "m" -- but the "m" may have gotten into those Latin words (and from there to us) by an earlier epenthesis. etymology-online says that the latin terms are related to the m-less cubare "be lying."
 
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The -m- is there in the reconstructed PIE forms that Pokorny gives: *k'eu- 'to bend, curve, bow' (two further amplifications: *k'eu-bh- (whence L. cubo 'to lie down', Gk kuphos 'hump') and *k'um-b(h)- (L. recumbo 'to lie down, recline at a table' & decumbo 'to lie down'). [IEW pp. 588-92]
 
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Originally posted by jheem: L. cubo 'to lie down', Gk kuphos 'hump'


How does "lie down" connect with "hump"? (Yes, I know the slang meaning in English, but it's hard to believe that ancient Greek had the parallel slang.)
 
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How does "lie down" connect with "hump"?


Hump as in what the hunchback of Notre Dame had. It's not a verb in Greek. (It's also an adjective meaning 'crooked, curved, stooping, hunchbacked'.) Lying down, folks tend to bend slightly into an S shape. The root *k'eu- has a meaning 'bend, curve, bow'. English hump in fact may be from the second augmented root that I cited. Welsh cwm 'valley' also.
 
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OK, you potty-mouths! Knock it off or we'll never get KHC back!
 
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This discussion has made me realize that "decubitus" is really an adjective, describing a type of bedsore (decubitus ulcer) or a type of position (lying down.) My Tabor's Medical Dictionary doesn't give word etymology nor parts of speech, though it did say that "decubital" was adjectival. However, so is "decubitus."

Now I realize that we call bedsores "decubiti" because we have dropped the "ulcer" part. They are really decubitus ulcers, meaning that they developed because the patient was lying down and the bony prominences caused decreased bloodflow to the tissue, so a "decubitus ulcer" developed. I probably should have realized that before.
 
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Is that a commonly known word among non-medical people?


I'm familiar with the word 'asthenia' but only because it's the Greek word for illness. I've sometimes thought I would really have a headstart on non-Greek speaking medical students if I ever decided to study medicine...
 
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My Tabor's Medical Dictionary doesn't give word etymology nor parts of speech, though it did say that "decubital" was adjectival. However, so is "decubitus."


Well, in Latin there was a part of speech called nomen (pl. nomina) 'name, noun' that was further subdivided into nomina substantiva and nomina adjectiva, which correspond to our English nouns and adjectives. This is because morphologically nouns and adjectives had the same form (i.e., declension), and adjectives could be used by themselves as nouns. Participles (future, present, and perfect), in Latin, are verbal adjectives, and gerunds (along with the distinct gerundives) are verbal nouns.
 
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