The Most Fun You Can Have With Your Speech

Thursday, October 32 min read

English has been blessed with contributions from hundreds of languages. Even if some of these languages are no longer spoken, they have given us some truly excellent words to say out loud. Below are 10 such words that you'll definitely want to say out loud.


"Catawampus" (sometimes spelled "cattywampus") is related to the phrase "catty-corner," and it can mean out of alignment or disordered. Some etymologists have connected it to the Scottish word wampish, meaning to wriggle or twist. Have some fun and sound it out: "kat-uh-WAHM-pus."


"Bumfuzzle" means "to deceive, confuse, or astound." This silly word was born in Kansas in the late 19th century and has been confusing and delighting speakers ever since.


Like "catawampus," "widdershins" (sometimes spelled "withershins") comes from Scotland, by way of Germany. It means to turn counterclockwise; the opposite is deisul, or clockwise. In Middle High German, wider means against and sin means direction. But say "widdershins" in a Scottish brogue and you'll be pronouncing it correctly.


If you’ve ever been with a child who doesn’t want to go somewhere, you inherently understand this word. "Lollygag" means to idle and spend time aimlessly, often in the sense of wandering behind someone who’s trying to make progress.


"Malarkey" comes straight from 1920s gangster vocabulary, but it’s so much fun to say, it deserves to be brought into the 21st century. "Malarkey" refers to meaningless nonsense — usually something foolish someone has said. It’s best said in the strongest New York accent possible.


Pumpernickel is a dense, dark German bread. Fun to say, but even more fun to eat!


Everyone knows someone who falls into this category. "Nincompoop" is essentially a more polite and refined way of calling someone an idiot. It’s fun to pronounce, but it’s a definite insult — so make sure to think before you say it to someone.


This words trips right off the tongue. A "soliloquy" is a monologue said aloud to oneself, regardless of anyone who is listening. It’s most common in the theater; Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech is a famous soliloquy, said out loud while he is the only one on the stage.


"Quagmire" can mean two different things, both of which signify something unpleasant. A quagmire can be soft, boggy land where things may get stuck and sucked in, or it can refer to a tense and awkward situation. Both should be avoided if at all possible — but that doesn't mean you have to avoid saying the actual word.


A "scalawag" is a rake, a rascal, a trickster — someone who causes trouble, but in a mischievous rather than harmful way. Though the term originated during the post-Civil War political arena, it eventually found its way into pirate lingo. These days it tends to refer to mischievous children rather than tricky adults.

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