Top 10 bizarre words in the English language

Times-Herald Staff
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The english language is always evolving and expanding and you have the words selfie and gaydar to prove that.

Top 10

It's estimated there are nearly one million words in the english language and counting. 

This week we take a look at some of the most bizarre, obscure or forgotten words out there and how they came to be. 

Gonzo - of or associated with journalistic writing of an exaggerated, subjective and fictionalized style. 

The word was first used in 1970 by the Boston Globe magazine editor Bill Cardoso when he described Thompson's piece, The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved in Scanlan's Monthly. According to Cardoso, Gonzo was Boston slang to describe a last man standing after a drinking marathon.  

Doodlesack - another word for bagpipe

German dudelsack, from dudel bagpipe + sack bag, from Old High German sac

Oxter - outdated word meaning armpit. Not a creature that is half ox and half otter. 

Originated from old english. The word is still used in certain parts of the world, like Scotland, Ireland and Northern England. 

Panjandrum - A person who has or claims to be a great deal or influence

The word was invented by Samuel Foote, a playwright and actor, who made the word up one day in a nonsense verse he wrote sometime around 1856. 

Kakorrhaphiophobia - abnormal fear of failure 

The Greek word kakorrhaphia means a clever or devious plan. The word is derived from kakos, meaning bad or evil. 

Poltophagy - thoroughly chewing food until it becomes like porridge. 

It originated in the Victorian era and was associated with nutritionist Horace Fletcher who promoted chewing over 30 times before swallowing to maximize health benefits.

Quire - 25 (formerly 24) sheets of paper. The term originated to describe four sheets of paper or parchment folded to form eight leaves, as in medieval manuscripts. 

Mytacism - excessive or wrong use of the sound of the letter m

Roman grammarians wanted to call out people who made errors in language so they borrowed this term from the Greek mytakismos, which refers to the letter mu. 

Cattywampus - askew, awry, kitty-corner 

English gamblers used to call the four dotted side of a die, carter (from the French word quatre, meaning four) because the word carter meant to place, move, or cut across diagonally. That's when catercorner (later kitty-corner) was invented which led to caterwampus, which led to cattywampus. 

Battledore and Shuttlecock - a game that is similar to badminton and which badminton later was developed from. The game has been played since ancient times in Indian and other parts of Asia.


Organizations: Boston Globe magazine

Geographic location: Boston, Scotland, Ireland Northern England Asia

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