Word Monger: Words Normal People Don’t Use

I’ve been playing scrabble against a computer lately.

I’ll pause here while you laugh at me or shake your head and wonder what kind of nerd I must be to enjoy that.

Image from icis.com

As you might imagine, I don’t often win. But when I do, I feel terribly clever. I mean, the computer uses words like watape, anion, ea, and zed—and it always seems to know how to place them on the ‘triple word’ square!

Victory is a serious accomplishment.

Plus, I acquire new vocabulary. There is a ‘define word’ option available when the computer plays a word I am not familiar with. I love learning new words (I’ve been known to read the dictionary for fun), but sometimes they are fairly useless. What good is a freshly looked-up word that can’t ever be pulled off well in conversation? Other ‘normal’ people don’t know that word either, and it isn’t likely that many of them would share my compulsion to look it up. People really aren’t impressed, and might even be a little annoyed with pedantic vocabulary.

Ah, but I have a blog! And since that is the case, I’d like to share with you just a few of my favorite novelty words. If you already know them, please enjoy this opportunity to feel superior. (Or perhaps to consider taking up computer scrabble.)

The first one, I actually learned a couple years ago. My husband was considering seminary at the time, so we visited Multnomah University and sat in on a theology class. Several times over the course of the hour, the professor used a word I had never heard before—profundity. It seemed to be a favorite. It was easy enough to determine it’s root, and consequently, it’s meaning. It was just funny to me because I had no idea that the adjective profound even had a noun form, much less that there were folks who used it on a routine basis.

The second word I’d like to share was sent to me recently by way of challenge from my daughter—who is aware of my word-mongering tendencies. Vitriolic. I had no idea on this one. I had to look it up cold turkey. Turns out vitriol is another name for sulfuric acid. Vitriolic, then, describes the properties of sulfuric acid. It is primarily used in the figurative sense of caustic, bitter, or cruel remarks. I’m just waiting for an opportunity to use this one…

The final bit of vocabulary is one I picked up over at Faith in Ireland the other day. The author, Patrick Mitchel—with sincerity and conviction—dropped vapidity in the middle of a sentence and casually moved on as though everyone uses that word every day. And even though the point of the sentence was easy enough to understand without that little word, it taunted me…so I looked it up.

Vapid, sharing roots with vapor, describes something that has lost it’s steam or vapor. Here’s what I found out at Yourdictionary.com.

va·pid·ity (va pidə tē)


  1. the state or quality of being vapid; flatness; dullness; insipidity
  2. pl. vapidities  a dull or uninteresting remark, idea, etc.

So now you can see why the profundity of vitriolic vapidity never ceases to amaze me!

5 thoughts on “Word Monger: Words Normal People Don’t Use”

  1. I find myself using scientific vocabulary a lot in everyday conversation. I use it all day at work, and after a few years it is making its way into my daily vocab. I can’t think of an example off hand, but when I do I will try to post back with it.

  2. As a funny follow-up note to this, Patrick Mitchel’s vapidity post was reposted at Scot Mcknight’s Patheos.com Jesus Creed blog and one of the commentors used the word vitriol. 🙂

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