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Annoying and Pretentious Terms & Figures of Speech

Annoying and Pretentious Terms

[See also Favorite Pretentious Terms of the Slate Podcast Literati] [Althouse liked my list]

  • cutty sark
  • “speaks to”
  • “put paid to”
  • troops as plural for trooper (even though troop also means a group).
  • chowder (some Yankee wannabe-gumbo dish apparently)
  • sue for peace (negotiate, ask, for peace?)
  • hangdog (as in the “hangdog” looks (sad, dejected, sheepish) of Ross Geller’s character on Friends)
  • laureate (as in Nobel laureate)
  • hoi polloi (the general populace; the masses)
  • hoity-toity (marked by an air of assumed importance: HIGHFALUTIN)
  • beg to differ (“beg”? Isn’t that a little strong?)
  • “in the event”-as prepositional phrase, instead of “in any event” or “as it turned out”
  • must needs (as in, “I must needs do this”)
  • should instead of would (as in “I should think that you would want to go to the theater”)
  • mortar-board (as in the top part of a graduation cap, like I’m supposed to know that)
  • unawares (without warning: suddenly, unexpectedly. “It caught me unawares.”)
  • man of letters (“Edmund Wilson was a man of letters.” First, who the hell was Edmund Wilson? Second, what the hell is a man of letters?)
  • stay tuned (who even knows anymore that a TV has a tuner?)
  • gaol (the British English spelling of “jail”)
  • vouchsafe (to give by way of reply )
  • alarum (a call to arms
  • cohort (a group of individuals having a statistical factor (as age or class membership) in common in a demographic study )
  • pyjamas (instead of pajamas)
  • catsup (instead of ketchup)
  • waldo (as in a “doo-hickey” or “thingamabob”)
  • broker a deal/honest broker
  • ballyhooed; much-ballyhooed; long-ballyhooed
  • vaunted or much-vaunted
  • wag (noun: as in a commentator or pundit or gossip: “As one wag put it recently, …”)
  • writ large
  • nod (as in, give a nod to…)
  • shuffle off this mortal coil (i.e., die)
  • worry a bone (a dog chewing/playing with a bone)
  • let slip the dogs of war (“slip”?)
  • familiar (noun: as in, companion, or member of household of a high official)
  • own, used to mean “acknowledge”, as in, “I own I did not know that”
  • in fine, meaning, “in short”
  • weapon for gun
  • trope
  • re-furbish
  • bids fair (“seems likely”, as in, “Kenneth Starr’s report bids fair to become a classic, bawdy epic.”)
  • “It is meet that…”
  • apparatchik (a member of a Communist apparat; an official blindly devoted to superiors or to the organization. What the hell is an apparat? Why are we presumed to know Russian terms now?)
  • pleonastic (redundant; pleonasm: the use of more words than those necessary to denote mere sense (as in “the man he said”) : redundancy
  • antinomy (1: a contradiction between two apparently equally valid principles or between inferences correctly drawn from such principles; 2 : a fundamental and apparently unresolvable conflict or contradiction “antinomies of beauty and evil, freedom and slavery”)
  • photomicrograph (instead of: microphotograph)
  • piping hot
  • strapping (as in strapping young man)
  • jejune (whatever it means)
  • manque

Cool Terms

  • hapless (also: witless, and half-wit)
  • shrapnel
  • morsel
  • cellar door
  • scatterbrained
  • copasetic
  • epistemology
  • orangutan
  • What up?
  • ergonomic
  • “walking papers”–as in when your wife tells you if you screw up again she will sign your walking papers
  • dint, as in by dint of his effort he succeeded
  • high dudgeon (this is a really cool one!)
  • red-ass; I’ve got a case of the red-ass; open up a can of whup-ass (as in, “If you don’t stop it I’m gonna open up a can of whup-ass on ya'”).
  • screed
  • frenetic
  • nodule
  • laconic; bucolic
  • epiphany; sublime; sanguine; sensual
  • anvil; mortar & pestle; cordite (i.e., smell of gunpowder)
  • apocalyptic; ragnarok; armageddon; gotterdammerung (all synonyms for the apocolypse)
  • abomination; doppelganger (double, twin); atavistic (primal, primitive)
  • spreadable; splayed; splendid; scrumptious; resplendant
  • stolid
  • plug; lump
  • vainglory
  • idiot savant
  • hirsute (hairy)
  • truth be told; in truth
  • upshot
  • stillborn/stillbirth (it’s just so descriptive!)
  • malevolent (you got your “mal” in there for “evil”, you got your “vol” in there for voluntary action or intentionality, you got it all!)
  • baleful (mean, yellow eyes), doleful (sad doelike eyes)
  • putter (as in puttering around the house)
  • slake, quench (slake or quench your thirst)
  • nit pick
  • sabre-rattling
  • well-nigh (The grass needed mowing as it was well-nigh up to my knees.)
  • swash-buckling (but what is a swash, and why would you buckle it?)
  • cunning (as in, you’re a cunning linguist; or, better yet, Hegel’s “the cunning of reason”)
  • brisance (the shattering effect of an explosion)
  • frisson (a brief moment of emotional excitement; shudder, thrill)
  • cavil (“beyond cavil”; cavil = a trivial and frivolous objection, or to raise a trivial objection)
  • purport, purportedly
  • terra cotta. Terra firma.
  • cul-de-sac
  • wainscoting (wood or stuff on bottom part of walls)
  • crimson; scarlet
  • nudge
  • hustle & bustle
  • cogitate
  • ennui (noun: a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction; boredom)
  • Molten
  • smelted
  • clack
  • clamber
  • trenchant
  • toddle
  • toddy

Miscellaneous

  • You can re-group, but can you group?
  • Re-furbish, and re-vamp; but furbish? vamp?
  • Nonplussed; plussed
  • ruthless; ruth…ful?
  • commonplace: noun or adjective?
  • You can be disgruntled, but can you be gruntled?

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