Word facts that make you scratch your head

Published 5:02 pm Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

It’s easy to peer inside the pages of a dictionary to learn the definition of a word.

Old man Webster is indeed a good source of information when it comes to words. But what if there was such a book that took a light-hearted look at certain words, ones where the definition is best interpreted when applying real life situations.

The following are such words:

Gravity – it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law!

Gross ignorance is 144 times worse than normal ignorance.

A clock is a small mechanical device to wake up people without children.

Karaoke: A Japanese word meaning “tone deaf.”

Opera is where a guy gets stabbed in the back and then sings about it. (Note: that’s what I imagine as the real meaning of the word….I’ve never attended an opera.)

“Normal”: A setting on a washing machine.

Health is the slowest possible rate of dying.

Boy: A noise with dirt on it.

Sleep is that fleeting moment just before the alarm goes off.

Cynic: Someone who smells the flowers and looks for the casket.

Witlag: The delay between delivery and comprehension of a joke.

A skier is a person who pays an arm and a leg to break either one (or both) of them.

Coffee can be a delightful eye-opening beverage, but in whacky terms it’s a person who is coughed upon. I guess that means a coffette is a female that has been coughed upon.

Ever felt flabbergasted? That means you’re appalled over how much weight you have gained.

Flatulence is the emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller. And there you go thinking it meant something entirely different.

Balderdash is a rapidly receding hairline. That word exits my mouth every morning when that person stares back at me in the bathroom mirror.

Pokemon is a Jamaican proctologist.

An oyster is a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddish expressions.

Abdicate: to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

Esplanade: to attempt an explanation while drunk.

Negligent describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightie.

Gargoyle is an olive-flavored mouthwash.

Rectitude is the formal, dignified demeanor assumed by a proctologist immediately before he examines you.

Circumvent is the opening in the front of boxer shorts.

Frisbeetarianism is a belief that, when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck there.

An arbitrator is a cook that leaves Arby’s to work at McDonalds.

Do you know what a bull fighter tries to do…..avoidable (hopefully you’ll figure it out after repeating that word a couple of times).

Counterfeiters are workers who put together kitchen cabinets.

Eyedropper: A clumsy ophthalmologist.

Heroes: What a guy in a boat does.

Paradox: Two physicians.

Pharmacist: A helper on the farm.

Relief: What trees do in the Spring.

Selfish: What the owner of a seafood store does.

Rubberneck: What you do to relax your wife.

Now that we’ve had fun with the preceding definitions, let’s switch gears and study word pronunciation and double meanings.

Take for example the states of Kansas and Arkansas. Does it trouble you, like me, that Kansas is pronounced “Can-Sis” but yet Arkansas is pronounced “Ark-Can-Saw.”

Here are some other interesting word facts to ponder.

You can drink a drink, but you cannot food a food.

Why are the names Zoey and Zoe pronounced the same, but Joey and Joe are not?

Why does fridge contain a “d” but refrigerator does not?

Queue is perhaps the strangest word of all. It’s just the letter “Q” followed by four silent letters.

If you really want to understand how different pronunciation is for certain words, repeat these that end in “ough”….cough, rough, bough, dough, through, and though.

Then there are words that sound the same but have totally different meanings:

Peer and pier

Wait and weight

Bridal and bridle

Higher and hire

Plain and plane

Throne and thrown

Waive and wave

Real and reel

Canvas and canvass

Weather and whether

Knot and not

Peal and peel

Flea and flee

Some and sum

Pole and poll

Council and counsel

Dear and deer

Crews and cruise

Ceiling and sealing

Sail and sale

Waist and waste.

There are even multiple listings of homophones such as right, rite, wright and write; and sent, scent, and sent.

And while we’re on the word – scent – which is silent…the s or the c?

How ‘bout words that are spelled the exact same way, but have totally different meanings. Here’s a few examples:

Bark (noun) is found on a tree; bark (verb) is the sound made your neighbor’s dog that keeps you awake at night.

At the end of your fingers and toes are nails. Nails are also small pieces of metal that are hammered into wood.

Bolt is another multi-use word. It’s a metal fastener; a single ray of lightning; and also means to run extremely fast.

Season (noun) is a period of the year. Season (verb) is to apply spices to food.

Hatch (verb) means a baby bird emerging from the egg. Hatch (noun) is an opening you’ll find in a ship or airplane.

If you wear a belt with your pants, it probably has a buckle. But if you suffer a lot of stress at your job, you may buckle emotionally.

A racket is a piece of sporting equipment used in tennis and badminton. It also means a loud, chaotic noise.

Squash is a vegetable, a game played indoors, and to crush something. “I wanted to squash the spider that was crawling on my plate of squash while I watched two competitors playing squash.”

Are these strange but true word facts restricted only to English or do other languages have the same twists? Wish I was able to answer the latter portion of the above sentence, but I struggle enough with English.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Reach him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal