A writer’s list of marvellous English words for your language exchange


Being a writer, creative individual, reader of a multitude of books and viewer of many dense TV series, I pick up a lot of vocabulary along my way. Most people with whom I have the pleasure of speaking have told me that my lexicon is quite varied compared with the average individual.

As much as I take that as a compliment, my extensive vocabulary is thanks to the many forms of media which I view, read or listen to each day. In writing, I like to use these words to pad out my stories, poetry or scripts, but it is in everyday use where I find these words most exciting and flexible.

Now, I’m not one of those people that take pleasure in getting one over on others, or who thinks that they are of a higher status than anyone else they may walk past on the street, but there is a certain gratification in using lesser-known words to bamboozle an individual who has irritated or disrespected you.

With all this in mind, I thought it would be interesting for both you and I if I put forward a list of my favourite English words and where I first heard them. Not only will this be a fun and rewarding exercise for me to revisit vocabulary that is meaningful and important in my world, but it’s also a chance for you to realise some unusual or less common words that you may not encounter in regular life and that you can utilise in your future language exchange.

So, here’s how it’s going to work. I’m going to put the word first, followed by the definition and after that a little anecdote about why that word is so important to myself as an individual, a writer and an English speaker.

EXTEMPORANEOUS – (Definition: Spoken or done without preparation)
This is one of the more recent additions to my vocabulary, but no less important. If you know me then you’ll likely say that I have a few obsessions, including flags, writing, American literature and politics and animated comedy shows for adults, the latter of which is where I first encountered this word.

I’ve been a fan of BoJack Horseman since the very first episode, although I don’t want to say too much because I’d love to write another piece on learning English through the show. It’s filled with unforgettable characters, wonderful, harrowing stories and a plethora of animal puns or just puns in general.

I came across this word in the fifth episode of the sixth series during which the titular character finds out that he’s being kicked out of rehab to make room for celebrity guest; Joey Pogo.

The exchange is something like this:
{Bojack barges in over fence trying to talk}
Random Client: What’s he trying to do?
Dr Champ: I believe he’s trying to get out a zinger.
BoJack: You have to imagine that I just said it, it’s only funny if it feels extemporaneous.
BoJack (panting): BoHo go bye-bye for JoJo Pogo, that’s a no go, bro!

It seems silly, and you’d expect a show about a horse to have limited lexical complexity, but it’s got a lot more depth than most comedies I’ve seen.

NEPOTISM – (Definition: the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs)
This word I came across in a song by a musical comedian from Australia named Sammy J. He’s extremely popular in Australia thanks largely to his comedy duo act with purple puppet Randy Feltface, but Sammy sees his share of success through the musical comedy market by himself too. His most recent album Symphony in J Minor released in 2019 begins with the track Tuscan Villa.

The song compares various extremes of life, such as a couple being intimate in a beautiful Tuscan Villa whilst his audience is stuck there watching him perform and a New York performer being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars while he’s performing late at night in Melbourne, leading to the line:

“That New York performer must know someone in the industry, nepotism I assume is why they’re there instead of me”.

It makes me laugh for several reasons but none more so than the absurdity of reality in show business. It seems truer than ever now that our lives and careers are determined not by what we know but by who we know. It’s a little bit sickening if you one day want to work in show business, however, one must find humour or life becomes rather bleak.

CAUCUS – (Definition: (in some US states) a meeting at which local members of a political party register their preference among candidates running for office or select delegates to attend a convention)
I mentioned before that I’m somewhat a fan of American politics, at least watching how things unfold and finding some solace in the fact that there are people out there who believe in the best for everyone and not just themselves. I do believe in self-preservation but not so much that you’re destroying the health and well-being of others. In the United States, the two major parties which are the Democrats and the Republicans must first decide their nominees for their respective parties before that candidate contests the election in November. Caucuses are typically closed and demand your registration to the party whereas primaries are open and usually don’t require membership.

EXISTENTIALISM – (Definition: a philosophical theory or approach which emphasises the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will)
Funnily enough, it was through putting meaning to my favourite animated shows, including BoJack Horseman, Rick and Morty and Final Space, amongst many others, that I found this term. I’d struggled for a while to find out about my own feelings regarding this so the fact that there were various videos and essays explaining them through some of my favourite shows was great. This is a philosophical theory more than it is anything else, but it’s something that sticks by me a lot throughout my writing and developing process.

Existentialism is when we try to understand why we are here on Earth or why we are alive by looking at various factors around the world and determining whether they are coincidental or affected by our actions. It’s a huge philosophical debate which also covers Nihilism and Absurdism, but I won’t waste too much time on those here because I’d really like to sink my teeth into these theories and write a few articles regarding them.

ANTIDISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM – (Definition: opposition to the disestablishment of the Church of England)
I first remember this being said to me when I was quite young. My father stated that it was one of the longest words in the English language. This is true if you take away medical and scientific jargon such as pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (a lung disease) or hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (the fear of long words, ironically). Antidisestablishmentarianism in context is someone who directly opposes the dissolution of the Church of England.

Of course, Queen Elizabeth II is head of the Church of England, so does that make her the ultimate antidisestablishmentarianism?

VIRAGO – (Definition: A domineering, violent or bad-tempered woman)
I’ve recently finished writing my first novel, currently awaiting publication should the right publisher become attached. During that process, I was looking for ways to better name a town for the purpose of foreshadowing. Eventually, this word came up after trawling the internet for a while and at first, I hated it, but the more and more I thought about the word and its intensity, the more it grew on me until I finally included it in the novel itself. I also really like the idea of using virago in an argument, you’d confuse the other person to no end. There’s an image in my mind while I’m typing this of an argument being stopped so the other person can look up what virago means!

SQUIRRELLED – (Definition: hide money or something of value in a safe place/move inquisitively and restlessly)
The verb to squirrel has two meanings and it’s often thought that the past tense squirrelled is the longest single-syllable word in the English language. There’s a funny story to this in that it was first taught to me by my high school history teacher, whose name was hilarious, Miss Squirrel. I wonder if she went on to marry a partner with the surname chipmunk and they made it double barrel, that would be awesome.

TRISKAIDEKAPHOBIA – (Definition: Fear of superstitious feelings toward the number 13)
When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with finding out the weirdest information I could. It started with a book my parents bought one Christmas explaining various psychological oddities, paraphilias and phobias. One of the first things I remembered was the fear of the number thirteen. Perhaps it was my young morbid mind which was enamoured with horror stories and novella or maybe it’s just the way it rolls of the tongue and changes pitch halfway through the word. I’d have found it more chilling if there were thirteen letters in the word, but we can’t have everything!

SLAUGHTER – (Definition: to kill – usually animals for food)
It might sound a little strange that this is on my list of favourite words, but as with most of these, there is a little bit of a story behind it. At university, I had to study a lot of books, when I say a lot, I mean at least two a week, sometimes more. It was around March, so my young brain was frazzled from the exhaustion of completing a thousand essays already, reading over fifty books and pretending that drinking was a social activity and not something which suppressed anxiety and a growing hatred toward academia.

I was already struggling to keep my attention in lectures at that point, but other matters in my personal life left me in a whirlpool of disorganisation, my body was there but my brain wasn’t. The lecturer concluded the class on The Bell Jar, thank goodness I wouldn’t be writing my essays on that novel, and told us the next assignment was Kurt Vonnegut’s classic book Slaughterhouse-Five. In my sleep-deprived state, I took the notes down incorrectly and spent the next week searching bookstores for “laughter house five”. When I eventually came to and regained a conscientious state, I remember thinking how cool it was that one letter can change the entire meaning of a word.

ULOTRICHOUS – (Definition: Having curly hair).
I learnt this word during my time in Spain. I don’t want to go into a great amount of detail since it’s a personal and extremely long story. Basically, I got tired of saying that I like girls with curly hair and started to find different ways to say curly. Eventually, I came across ulotrichous, which is a word I’d forgotten until I dug it up to write this list, but I must still I’m still extremely fond.

There you have my list of ten marvellous words that you can use in your language exchange. Keep up to date with our blog so that you can check out a series of other articles coming soon.

Written by: Jordan Benyon, Staff Writer


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