I've been going over Wayne State University's new list of words that should be used more frequently. I thoroughly enjoyed the last two lists they put out, but this one is giving me some trouble. See what you think.
• Buncombe---"Rubbish; nonsense; empty or misleading talk.
What a relief to have the election over — that great festival of buncombe that so distracted the nation for months."
All right, I've heard the word frequently but I've never seen it with this spelling. I always thought it was "bunkum," giving rise to the more pointed and descriptive "bunk!" The only dictionary I have at hand gives my spelling as the first alternative; is the second the British version, or is it just an attempt to make the word more respectable?
• Cerulean--- The blue of the sky.
Her eyes were a clear, deep cerulean blue, like no eyes Trevor had ever seen, and looking into them made him feel lighter than air, as though he could fly, but even if he could have flown he would have stayed where he was, content just to look.
Blue is a really tricky color. My dictionary provides "azure" as its definition, and then describes azure as a light purplish blue. My Microsoft Word dictionary suggests several synonyms, like navy, sapphire, indigo, or cobalt. So what color's your sky? (And yes, I know that today it's all gray and you'd settle for any shade of blue.) I doubt I'll be using this one in my next book.
• Chelonian---Like a turtle (and who doesn’t like turtles?).
Weighed down by bickering and blather, the farm bill crept through Congress at a chelonian pace.
Actually chelonian is a reference to a species that includes 224 different turtles, tortoises, and terrapins. Don't know the difference? Neither do I, but when I think of Congress's forward progress, I don't see it as very turtle-like, unless that turtle is moving backwards!
• Dragoon---To compel by coercion; to force someone to do something they’d rather not.
After working in the yard all day, Michael was dragooned into going to the ballet instead of flopping down to watch the Red Wings on TV.
They have defined this as a verb, but the word that sprang to my mind was a noun -- technically a heavily-armed mounted soldier of the 17th and 18th century. The Confederate army stole the term during the Civil War to name their cavalry units (like the Charleston Light Dragoons, of the 4th South Carolina Cavalry Regiment), who, if truth be told, were not very forceful all all.
• Fantods---Extreme anxiety, distress, nervousness or irritability.
Jeremy’s love of islands was tempered by the fact that driving over high bridges always gave him the raging fantods.
Ever heard of this one? Me neither. According to my dictionaries, the definition is accurate, but in this age of pop stars with fandoms, and pop psychology with its plethora of neuroses, I doubt that it would prove useful -- unless, of course, you could accompany it with a great deal of hand waving and hand-wringing as illustrations.
And therein lies my problem with the new list. I'm all in favor of the discovery of great new words, but when I use a word I want it to be vividly descriptive, not so vague that the reader has to run to a dictionary to figure out what I'm talking about. Perhaps the next group of words will be better. We'll see about them tomorrow