fauxcabulary (fō kăb′-ū lâr-rē) noun. Words and terms coined to be amusing or satirical and not found in a dictionary.
Word play is a favorite pastime of wags and gagsters, pundits and punsters, and boys and girls of all ages. One word playtime activity is making up new words. When such neologisms are just for fun, they’re fauxcabulary words. Or at least they are here since I made up the word.
One method of coining fauxcabulary words takes the form of combining two words creating a portmanteau word taking on the meaning of both. Like Fauxcabulary, a combination of faux and vocabulary. A fauxcabulary word can also be created by changing a syllable in the middle of the word…
claustrofauxbia, the fear of getting trapped in an imaginary box, or maybe the fear of mimes.
On the web a favorite trick is using proper names in such combinations for satirical purposes. It shouldn’t be hard finding any number of combinations containing Obama and Limbaugh around the political part of the blogosphere. Obamanation and Lamebaugh are only the beginning. As you will see if you just scroll down the page.
functionary (fŭnk′-shən ê-rē) noun. A person who has to perform official functions or duties.
perfunctory (pər fŭnk′ tə-rē) adj. Done or acting routinely and with little thought or care.
Seems to us there is a natural convergence of the two to add to our fauxcabulary. To wit…
perfunctionary (pər fŭnk′-shən ê-rē) noun. A person who performs official functions or duties routinely and with little thought or care.
In so many words, a government bureaucrat. Though we might be too generous here. Some do very little work at all, perfunctorily or otherwise. Which in some cases is a good thing. The more a perfunctionary’s work interferes with people actually trying to get something useful done, well, the less they do they better.
Which brings to mind a contronym, a word with two contrary meanings. Oversight. Which is an unintentional failure to notice or do something. Or it means the job of overseeing, to notice so things get done. So, you can have an oversight due to lack of oversight.
Esprit de l’escalier is French for “wit of the staircase.” This refers to coming up with a snappy comeback way, way, way too late. As the phrase has it, as you climb the stairs on your way to bed. Trompe l’oeil is French for “deceives the eye” which refers to ultra realistic still life paintings with things like a fly on them a viewer is tempted to try shooing as it looks so real. Now for the fauxcabulary part:
goofstep (gōōf′ stĕp) verb. To stumble at the top of a staircase from treading on an anticipated top step that isn’t there.
ghost step (gōst stĕp) noun. The expected but nonexistent top step of a flight of stairs that causes you to goofstep.
trompe l’oof (trömp lōōf) noun. The momentary sensation of falling one has when goofstepping on a ghost step.
In animated cartoons a character can continue walking up a flight of stairs after it ends as long as they don’t look down and see there’s no stairs there. This never happens in everyday life as reality doesn’t buy into the notion of “Ignore it it’ll go away.” That’s Looney Tunes physics, the laws of nature according to Wile E. Coyote. Which doesn’t seem to deter some philosophers proposing reality is all a state of mind and nothing is really real. Which there’s no other words for except looney tunes.
futilize (fū′ tĭl īz) verb. To inadvertently do, or start to do, something with the wrong implement or item; i.e., picking up the wrong tool and starting using it before noticing it’s the wrong tool. [As per Clyde Crashcup, that’s futi as in futile plus lize as in utilize: futilize]
In my case, futilize is like trying to draw with the X-acto knife I grabbed instead of the pencil. Or flicking my cigarette ashes in the coffee cup instead of the ashtray. In the movies this would be someone trying to light something they stuck in their mouth thinking it were a cigar, but it wasn’t. (Hilarity ensues.)
For Curly Howard that would be making pancakes out of plaster instead of flour then pouring glue instead of syrup over them. Though why anyone would keep plaster and glue with the foodstuffs is something of a mystery. But then, thinking and watching the Stooges don’t really go together.
Futilize is basically a typo for everything else in life away from the keyboard. You simply hit the wrong button, grabbed the wrong thing, or whatnot. It’s an un-d’oh moment. Hey, we’ve all done it. Now you have a word to describe it.
A few fauxcabulary (made up) words from the world of computers:
iconundrum: A strange or confusing symbol or icon nobody but the designer of the thing knows the meaning of.
incorrection: A typo created by auto spellcheck that doesn’t understand you were using slang, jargon or coining a gag word.
qwert dirt: The filth that builds up between the keys on your computer keyboard.
tyupio: A typo resulting from your fat fingers hitting more than one key at a time.
Iconundrums often use that blocky, stick figure generic human doing something, with something, in something, or whatever. You know the dude I mean, the one identifying the men’s room. In graphic design circles its called Helvetica Man.
Now that computers and online self-publishing have conquered the world and everyone knows about typefaces, or fonts, the Helvetica reference is probably understood by all and sundry. Not so back when I started in the business a few decades ago. Anyway, I suppose folks think Helvetica is boring, plain, humdrum, or whatever, which was sort-of the original intent.
Helvetica comes from the Swiss school of typeface design, along with Univers. It was designed without quirks or embellishments to color up well at any size and so be easy to read. It was supposed to be the universal, standard, highly legible sans-serif font. Which it pretty much is.
Click pic to play animation
gawkward (gawk′ wərd) adj. Causing when-the-stranger-you’re-looking-at-looks-back-at-you-then-you-look-away-briefly-and-look-again-and-they-notice-that-too embarrassment.
When a gawkward moment crops up invariably, one guesses, the looker imagines what the lookee supposes the looker is thinking about the lookee. Depending on the looker and lookee this could be real or imagined ogling, morbid curiosity, wonder, or, as the case seems often enough, just plain absence of mind. Whatever the case one hardly knows whether to smile meekly, nod slightly, or pretend you were actually peering at some endlessly fascinating whatever just over the lookee’s shoulder. All in all it’s a bit of an ‘oops-err-heh-heh moment’ society has neglected to provide a clear rule of etiquette for.
emblemish (əm blĕm′-ĭsh) verb. To embellish with symbols, logos, slogans or decorations making something plain, or even nice, look cheesy instead.
Half the T-shirts, baseball caps, and sweats in America have been emblemished in some way. Some folks just can’t get tacky enough and so enhance their emblemishments so they sparkle or even light up. The hardcore aren’t satisfied with merely emblemishing their clothes, hence tattoos and piercing.
One imagines these are supposed to be fashion statements. While they’re rarely very fashionable, they are statements. They mostly say, “Look at me. I have no taste or sense.”
If you’ve visited terrycolon.com before you may notice things are a little different. The navigation matrix has been redone. But still with all the fun, or annoying, bells and whistles you’ve come to enjoy, or bemoan, as before. Whether this improves your interweb browsing experience or not is debatable. I just hope the change is not a…
dimprovement (dĭm prōōv′-mənt) noun. An improvement that makes something worse.
I have heard the Germans already have a word for a bad improvement, schlimmerverbesserung. Though some say it’s not a real word. Whether my made-up word is an improvement over the possibly made-up schlimmerverbesserung is another question. Maybe one not worth answering.
Here’s how to know your mindset has been taken over by the computer age. You’re doing something away from your computer, and you make a mistake, and the first thing that comes to mind is “hit command undo.” Needless to say there is no command undo when you spill your drink or say something really stupid. Be nice if there were. Anyway, there’s a word for that. Or at least I’m coining one right here, right now.
und’oh (ŭn d-ō′) noun, The impulse to hit command undo whenever you make a mistake, then realizing you’re not working on your computer and that won’t work.
addage (ăd′-əj) noun. The ten pounds of fat you put on at the start of winter.
Yes, another word I made up. Not to be confused with adage, an old saying, which I didn’t make up. Now, some may blame holiday feasting for the added pounds, but I suggest there’s more to the story. Call it winterizing yourself with an on-board emergency larder of lard for the cold and food scarce days of winter.
Bears and squirrels fatten up for winter, why not people? We’re mammals just like them. Not exactly like them, people don’t have fur. On the other hand bears don’t have grocery stores. Though grocery stores have dumpsters and bears are inveterate dumpster divers. And why not. I’ve heard about half the fresh produce offered by grocery stores doesn’t sell and gets tossed into dumpsters. I imagine for a bear a dumpster is one great big pic-a-nic basket.
duhjustment (də jŭst′ mənt) noun. The act of altering, repairing, or replacing the wrong part of a system which wasn’t the problem in an attempted repair.
Like replacing a perfectly good car battery when the alternator was the problem. Or repacking the bearings when it was the brakes that were squeaking. Or replacing the light bulb and then finding the reason there was no light was the lamp wasn’t plugged in. Or cutting down the already too short leg of a wobbly table.
Which reminds me of what my dad would say, “No matter how many times I cut it down, it’s still too short.”
It’s related to proper diagnostics. If you don’t know what’s wrong you can’t fix it. Moreover, if you don’t know how it works at all you have a hard time trying to figure out what’s wrong with it.
It’s the downside of modern technology and modern life. I mean, how many of us really know how all the hi-tech stuff we use works? Like a computer, for instance. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had problems with mine before. And have made many a duhjustment trying to get it to work properly again.
Should all else fail I resort to the old standby remedy employed on all misbehaving machinery. I bang on it. Of course, like the old gag goes, you have to know where to hit it.
predundant (prē dŭn′ dənt) adj. When a prefix which should change a word’s meaning doesn’t change the meaning at all.
You’ve likely gotten junk mail from a bank saying you’ve been pre-approved for a credit card. What exactly does pre-approved mean? The prefix “pre” means prior to or not yet. So pre-approved means not yet approved. Notice the word not. Which would make it not approved rather than already approved. Wouldn’t approved before applying simply be approved, not pre-approved?
Which leads us to another confusing term, pre-fabricated. Seems to me something fabricated is already built. So what is pre-fabricated? Wouldn’t something pre being fabricated be not yet fabricated, in other words unfabricated? I mean, built is built and done is done. Then there’s flammable and inflammable which mean the same thing, combustible.
This mightn’t apply to flooring where finish has another meaning, a protective coating. In which case pre-finished is meaningful as it is customary to apply the finish after the floor is laid. So then pre-finished is flooring finished prior to laying. Though really if you just called it finished it would mean the same thing. After all, furniture without a finish is called unfinished. Furniture with a finish isn’t called pre-finished, just finished. Or actually it’s usually not mentioned at all, it’s simply furniture.
blurd (blərd) noun. A word which means one thing to the English and another to Americans.
The word pissed is a blurd. To a Brit it means drunk and to a Yank it means mad. Then again, mad to an American often means angry and to the English means insane. Which is how you can be mad with rage while being angry with rage is redundant. Now I suppose “raving mad” would work in both senses of mad, though usually it means wildly insane on both sides of the pond. People rarely call you raving angry, though they might speak of angry raving.
Then there’s jumper. Stateside that’d be some suicidal sort on a building ledge. In merry old England it’s a knitted top, called a sweater in the US. What I don’t know is what an Englishman might bring an American who asked for jumper cables. Bungee cords?
The Brit’s biscuit is the Yank’s cookie. I think what Yanks call a biscuit is called a scone on the right side of the Atlantic. Then again, U.S. corn is maize in the UK where wheat is corn. Though if the main grain of the land were rye or millet, then they would be corn. So a corn biscuit… I give up.
As Winston Churchill famously said, England and America are “two nations divided by a common language.”
People generally speak differently depending who they talk to. At work you use industry jargon. At the bar with your buds you curse like a sailor. At a family gathering you don’t curse like a sailor. Unless maybe you come from a family of salty-talking sailors. The point is, our speech is flexible, we adjust for who, when and where. For this I have coined some bits of fauxcabulary…
flexicon: words one uses tailored to the audience or social setting.
Within our flexicon there are any number of subsets. Following my usual formula of combining two words into a single portmanteau word, here are a few more using synonyms for lexicon like lingo, argot, and patios. Here are but a few.
gobble-degeek: tech terms you sort-of know used to impress people who don’t know.
Texicon: words used to sound like a Texan, y’all.
ar-r-rgot: words used to sound like a pirate, ye matie.
phatois: words used to sound like a gansta, dog.
badda-balingo: words used to sound like an Italian gangster, capice?
libberish: politically correct terms used in politically correct society.
bluephemism: substitute term for a sexual act or naughty bit. Sometimes more polite versions, sometimes more raunchy. “Naughty bit” is an example of the former, an example of the latter I leave to your imagination.
brocabulary: words used among male friends. Often as not a lot of bluephemisms and no libberish.
hocabulary: female version of brocabulary.
That’s all I got. Yar, I’m out, y’all fuggitabouddit.
My theory is people basically have five vocabularies. The biggest one you might call…
Know-cabulary –the words you know when you hear or read them, but don’t necessarily use them. You don’t use your entire know-cabulary when you ad lib, speak off the cuff, wing it, extemporate. In other words, talk. For that there’s…
Yo-cabulary –The words one uses in conversation. The ability to speak in coherent sentences seems somewhat amazing. You have an idea you want to convey and you’re able to retrieve words and string them together with the proper syntax on the fly. Sometimes you start a sentence without knowing how it will end, but you get there. Well, most of the time. On the other hand, five year-olds can do it so maybe it’s not all that amazing.
Show-cabulary –the words you write with. This is bigger than your yo-cabulary because when writing you can pause without an er-r-r, uh-h-h, or um-m-m, while you search for just the right word. Nobody can tell if it took ten seconds or two minutes to write a sentence. Or even that you changed it a month later.
No-cabulary –the words one simply has wrong, and words that don’t really exist. Like thinking enormity means really big, when it actually means a great evil. Or like thinking supposibly mean anything at all. A no-cabulary word is like a two-way malapropism. You use the word incorrectly and glom the wrong meaning when someone else uses it correctly.
D’oh-cabulary –the words one simply can’t pronounce correctly. These words simply refuse to roll off the tongue. You even know you’re saying them wrong yet just can’t seem to get them out without mangling them.
This theory has no name. Mostly because it’s absolutely worthless. I mean, what can you do with it? What can you learn from it? Other than I have too much spare time to write fluff.
cutieful (kū′ tē fŭl) adj. Characterized by being both cute and beautiful.
OK, I might have made that up. Actually I heard it used on sports radio. At least I may have heard it. That’s what is sounded like at any rate. Though I’ve not heard it again. Perhaps it was an unintentional spoonerism on the speaker’s part. Still, I think the coinage might be useful.
For instance, puppies are cute, not beautiful. Sophia Loren in her heyday was beautiful, but not what I’d characterize as cute. I would say Marylin Monroe was the quintessential example of cutieful. Now-a-days I might offer Cote de Pablo as an example of cutieful.
Of course, this is a subjective matter of taste or perception. Some folks think pugs are cute, I think they’re pug-ugly. That’s why they’re called pugs after all.
zzyzzyzee (zĭz′-ə zē) noun. One of a series of letter zees indicating snoring in a cartoon.
Admittedly, you won’t find this word in a standard dictionary, or a non-standard one either. I made it up out of thin air as it were. For no good reason other than to coin the last word listed in an English language dictionary. Why not? Somebody has to do it. Not that I expect it will ever make it into standard usage. But a guy can dream. And dreaming and zzyzzyzees just rather go together.
By the by, outside the US they say zed and not zee for the 26th letter of the alphabet, so it would be a zzyzzyzed.
Filed long ago