Get to know your inner word nerd

Published 10:48 am Thursday, May 26, 2011

When it comes to words, I’m a bit of a word nerd.

I love learning different words, their definitions and how they originated and eventually became a part of the English language. I’m such a word nerd that I even subscribe to an email service that sends a “Word of the Day.”

There’s a lot to be said about the English language now days with slang constantly assimilating into everyday conversations and even the dictionary.

While I understand language is ever evolving and the inclusion of slang is included, it’s always good to push yourself to learn different words and expand your knowledge. Listed below are some oldies, but goodies.

Sojourn (SOH-juhrn; so-JURN) is a intransitive verb and a noun meaning to stay as a temporary resident; to dwell for a time; (noun) a temporary stay.

Sojourn comes from Old French sojorner, from (assumed) Vulgar Latin subdiurnare, from Latin sub-, “under, a little over” + Late Latin diurnus, “lasting for a day,” from Latin dies, “day.”

Prink (PRINGK) is a transitive and intransitive verb meaning to dress up; to deck for show; to dress or arrange oneself for show; to primp.

Prink is probably an alteration of prank, from Middle English pranken, “to show off,” perhaps from Middle Dutch pronken, “to adorn oneself,” and from Middle Low German prunken (from prank, “display”).

Longueur (long-GUR) is a noun meaning a dull and tedious passage in a book, play, musical composition, or the like.

Longueur is from French (where it means “length”), ultimately deriving from Latin longus, “long,” which is also the source of English long.

Foofaraw (FOO-fuh-raw) is a noun meaning excessive or flashy ornamentation or decoration; a fuss over a matter of little importance.

Foofaraw is perhaps from Spanish fanfarrón, “a braggart.”

Iota (eye-OH-tuh) is a noun meaning the ninth letter of the Greek alphabet, corresponding to the English “i”; a very small quantity or degree; a jot; a bit.

Iota is the smallest letter in the Greek alphabet. The word jot also derives from iota.

Nonplus (non-PLUHS) is a transitive verb meaning to cause to be at a loss as to what to think, say, or do; to confound; to perplex; to bewilder.

Nonplus is from the Latin non plus, “no more.” To be nonplussed is to be at a point where “no more” can be said or done.

Misnomer (mis-NO-muhr) is a noun meaning the misnaming of a person in a legal instrument, as in a complaint or indictment; any misnaming of a person or thing; also, a wrong or inapplicable name or designation.

Misnomer is from Medieval French mesnommer, “to misname,” from mes-, “wrongly” + nommer, “to name,” from Latin nominare, “to name,” from nomen, “a name.”

Zeitgeist (TSYT-guyst; ZYT-guyst) is a noun, often capitalized, meaning the spirit of the time; the general intellectual and moral state or temper characteristic of any period of time.

Zeitgeist is from the German: Zeit, “time” + Geist, “spirit.”

Dandle (DAN-dl) is a verb meaning to move (a baby, child, etc.) lightly up and down, as on one’s knee or in one’s arms; to pet; pamper.

Dandle is first recorded in the 1500s, but is of unknown origin.

Balderdash (BAWL-der-dash) is a noun with the definition of senseless, stupid, or exaggerated talk or writing; nonsense; (Archaic) a muddled mixture of liquors.

Balderdash has a mysterious origin, but originally meant a muddled mixture of liquors.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: or call (252) 332-7209.