Wordy Words to Talk About Language

2 min read

There are words for everything — even words about words. Whether it's committing catachresis (using a word incorrectly) or delivering a luculent (clear and convincing) argument, words are powerful. Any logophile (lover of words) should add these terms to their vocabulary.  


Derived from ancient Greek, logo means "word" and makhia means "fighting." Arguments about words are common, from disagreements about the wording on a wedding invitation, to debates over whether it's appropriate to discuss politics at the dinner table. Language lovers have probably had more than one lengthy logomachy.


"Sesquipedalian" couldn’t be a more fitting word for its meaning. From Latin, sesquipedalis means "a foot and a half long." It's a teasing jab at someone who tends to use long, clunky words, perhaps trying to impress. The polysyllabic words used by these folks are also called sesquipedalian. More colloquial (ordinary and familiar) language will clear things up.


The word "paranomasia" is straightforward. In Greek, para means "beside" and onomasia means "naming." Skip the Greek and just call it a pun. "Paronomasia," a play on words, covers all your punny needs.


Turn on the TV and catch a "blatherskite" — a person who talks at great length without making much sense. The rambling speech could also be called a "blatherskite." This useful jab comes from Scots, adopted into North American English during the Revolutionary War.


Coprolalia, the involuntary and repetitive use of obscene language, has been portrayed in some movies and TV as a funny gag, but it’s often the result of certain mental illnesses or brain disease. It’s not a universal symptom of any specific condition, but it is commonly associated with Tourette’s syndrome.


While some people may run red-faced from an awkward conversation, luculent people do the exact opposite. They’re clear, eloquent, and well spoken. They make great public speakers and would be welcome narrators of a podcast or audiobook.


A deceptive word that has nothing to do with amphibians, "amphibology" refers to a grammatically unclear or ambiguous phrase. In Greek, amphibolos means "ambiguous." It can happen when an Oxford comma is left out, or metaphors are mixed.


A "largiloquent," or "grandiloquent," person may also be a blatherskite, but not always. They just talk all the time. Contrast that with "pauciloquent," or using few words and speaking little.


With complex words, or words only read in books, it’s easy to commit "catachresis," or to use a word incorrectly. But don’t worry — that’s all part of the language experience. Correct the error and expand your vocabulary.


When reading an unfamiliar sesquipedalian word, it’s easy to stumble over it. Added syllables turn "nuclear" into “nuculear.” The tongue might inadvertently omit a vowel as the brain tries to process what it’s reading. Adding syllables is "epenthesis," and omitting them is "ecthlipsis" — as if that one doesn’t make you want to take out a few letters.

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