The English language is full of surprises. There are twists and tricks wherever you look – which is why it is a particularly difficult language to learn as a foreign speaker.
The language is also constantly evolving. It's influenced by foreign words and cultures, as well as shifts in society and technological advancements.
Some words, however, are just plain weird. Here, we’re going to take a look at some of the strangest, funniest and most bizarre words out there.
Lollygag first appeared as lallygag as far back as 1862. Its exact origins are unknown, but it’s possible it came from merging the colloquial lolly – “tongue” + gag – “trick."]
Another one from the 1800s, collywobbles has been in use since 1823. It’s most likely a fun mash up between the not-so-fun colic (a medical condition involving severe abdominal pain) and slightly-more-fun wobble.
No, this type of thong has nothing to do with ladies underwear; it is simply a feature of certain words. Some prime examples of diphthongs in action are sound, noise and annoy. People have been interested in diphthongs at least since the 15th century, as this is when the word first appeared.
Gubbins is a word that might be more familiar to the British English speakers among us. For example, across the pond, it would not be uncommon for someone with a fancy new car to describe it as having “all the gubbins.” That mystery drawer in the kitchen could also be “full of gubbins.”
Another digestion-related word has made its way onto the list. Everyone has experienced borborygmus, but who knew there was a word for it? Let’s just hope your next borborygmus doesn’t lead to collywobbles.
Widdershins came from an old Scottish word in the 1510s, which meant “contrary to the course of the sun or the clock.” This means it’s the original way of saying counterclockwise, or in the wrong direction. Next time you see someone make the wrong turn don’t forget to warn them that they’re going widdershins.
There must have been a fair few stumbling teenagers in the 1530s; so many, in fact, that they decided they needed a term to describe them. At least now when you see a teenager fall over, you can console them with the knowledge that they’re not the only hobbledehoy out there.
Originally appearing in the early 1800s and meaning an “important person,” mugwump’s definition has been a bit of a rollercoaster. It became an insult, for someone who considers themselves very important. This slight was then used against independents in politics in the 1880s, but those independents embraced it and claimed it as their own.
A particularly amusing term for being drunk, crapulent has been around since the 1650s. Perhaps it should be embraced in a slogan by a cheap beer company: “It tastes like crap, but you’ll be too crapulent to care.”
If there were any cavemen around, we could ask them how they feel about being called troglodytes — is it a term of endearment or an insult? We may never know. Luckily, we’re unlikely to upset too many people in the cave-dwelling community when we casually throw the word around. It may be applicable to the hobbledehoys who rarely leave their rooms, though.