Green River Star -

By David Martin

Funny words can make a day fun


November 20, 2019

It’s been said that a person needs to know 2,000 words to be fluent in a language. This is deceptive because I’ve also read a person needs about 4,000 works to have some freedom of expression in a language. Between 2,000 and 4,000 or even more, that’s a daunting number to know and memorize.

But, there are quite a few words that are simply fun to know. Sure they’ll never come up in casual conversation and if you can use one -- bonus points for you. Some sound absolutely silly, like the term “hurkle-durkle.” This is a Scottish term, which means to lounge around in bed long after it’s time to get up or go to work. Essentially, it’s the urge a lot of us fight on Monday mornings.

There’s also the term “cattywampus,” which was a word I heard a lot as a kid describing the state of my bedroom. While it can be used to describe disarray, it can also be used when giving directions and describing a location not directly across from another location. For example, Flaming Gorge Harley-Davidson is catawampus from the Green River Star’s office on Uinta Drive. That’s not a typo, there are two accepted spellings for the word. It’s no wonder why English is such a difficult language to learn.

There’s also some words that will likely raise a few eyebrows when they really shouldn’t. One term that falls into this category is “tittynope,” which refers to a small amount of food or drink left over after a meal. In an attempt to head off any angry emails that might be sent my way after this column is printed, I looked into the origin of the word. While I couldn’t find anything concrete, there is speculation the word comes from “tittle,” which describes a small amount or piece of something.

One final word I was recently exposed to and enjoy is “lickpenny.” According to British lexicographer Susie Dent, the word dates back to the 15th century and refers to an enterprise so costly that it licks up all of a person’s money. It’s so ravenous, I guess it wouldn’t leave a few cents as a tittynope.


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