Try Saying These 9 Words Without Giggling

Wednesday, May 12 min read

The English language is full of twists and tricks wherever you look. Sometimes the quirks make sense. English is influenced by foreign words and cultures, as well as shifts in society and technological advancements. Some words, however, are just plain silly. Let's take a look at some of the strangest, funniest, and most bizarre English words out there.

Lollygag: to fool around, dawdle, or procrastinate

"Lollygag" first appeared as "lallygag" as far back as 1862. The exact origins are unknown, but it’s possible it came from merging the colloquial "lolly," or tongue, and "gag," or trick.

Collywobbles: stomachache, nausea

Another one from the 1800s, "collywobbles" is most likely a mashup of the not-so-fun "colic" (a medical condition involving severe abdominal pain) and the slightly-more-fun "wobble." It's basically the old-fashioned version of a tummy ache.

Diphthong: a linguistic phenomenon when two vowels work together in a word to produce a sound that neither of them make on their own

Linguists started talking about diphthongs in the 15th century, when this word popped up. Some prime examples of diphthongs in action are in the shifting vowel sounds of "sound," "noise," and "annoy."

Gubbins: gadgets or any bits and pieces

"Gubbins" (both singular and plural) is a word that might be more familiar to British English speakers. 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.” The word, meaning "fragments" or "gadgets," has been in use since the 16th century, but the definition of miscellany dates to the early 20th century.

Borborygmus: the sound of a stomach rumbling

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: counterclockwise, a contrary direction

This 16th century Scottish slang meant “a direction contrary to the sun's course, considered as unlucky.” It’s basically the original way of saying counterclockwise, or in the wrong direction. Next time you see someone make a wrong turn, you can warn them that they’re going widdershins.

Hobbledehoy: a clumsy or awkward young person

The mid-16th century was a tough time. There was no running water, wars and religious disputes were breaking out all over Europe, and even tomatoes were thought to be poisonous. But times must have been particularly tough for teenagers — so much so that a new word was coined to describe the clumsiest of the bunch. Today, even if you're going through an awkward phase, at least you won't be called a "hobbledehoy."

Mugwump: a person who is independent on the political spectrum

This term was adopted from the Algonguin word for great chief, "mugquomp," but mugwump’s definition has been a bit of a rollercoaster. It became an insult, for someone who considers themself to be 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.

Troglodyte: a person who lived in a cave

In the prehistoric context, a troglodyte was someone who lived in a cave. The term can still be applied to a modern hermit; they don't have to reside in a cave. Additionally, you can probably imagine this being used as an insult in an '80s comedy flick — "What a troglodyte!" In that usage, you're calling someone deliberately ignorant or old-fashioned. It's a fun word to say, but we're of the opinion that if you can't say anything nice, well, you know.

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