November 12, 2013

If you’ve just opened an article about linguistic trivia (which would be difficult to deny), you’re likely to fall into one of two categories. You are either a) bored or b) secretly hoping to prove you do in fact know at least seven of the eight words that the ordinary English-speaking human does not.

If you’re biting your lip as you weigh your motives, your teeth might be touching your philtrum, that groove between your nose and mouth. 

“That is a weird one,” you might be thinking, reaching for your coffee mug. That skin between your thumb and forefinger you just stretched out, now pressed against the warm ceramic? That’s called a purlicue! Purlicue rhymes with curlicue and also refers to “any trifle or oddity”...

Now take those odd, trifling hands of yours and press them against your eyes. Bet you didn’t know that the lights you’re seeing are called phosphenes!

Has all this learning made you hungry?—I think I hear borborygmi. If your stomach is wambling, you should get a snack.

“Good idea,” you think. “These words are annoying me.” But when you try to get up from your chair to get to the kitchen, you experience paresthesia so strongly in your leg that the painful, prickly feeling forces you to sit back down.

Annoyed at both your leg and my eerily prophetic powers, you take your frustration out on an innocent coworker via a text message sprinkled with expletives. But not wanting to offend your friend, you use symbols to represent swearwords. You’ve just texted a grawlix!

Now hungry, impatient, and tired of all this Internet trivia, you close the computer and try to calm yourself by organizing your desk. But when you catch sight of the metal rings around your pencils, you’re going to remember learning that those metal rings are called ferrules, and that ferrules comes from the Latin words for bracelet (viriola) and iron (ferrum). 

Or perhaps you will forget the word itself, but the image of pencils wearing iron bracelets will never leave you. Nor will the thrill of knowing there is always unfamiliar language to discover and new perspectives to obtain!

How have you increased your vocabulary lately?

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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