Hey, SE Readers. Joan with you on this hot July day. Hey, we’ve made it halfway through 2020! That’s an accomplishment. But I prefer not to write about the year some people refer to as the twilight zone.

Honestly, I have a couple of topics for future posts, but I haven’t put them together. So, today I thought I’d write a lighthearted post about something near and dear to all authors.


A few weeks ago, the SE authors were chatting about words that aren’t often used these days. Dastardly, meaning wicked and cruel, is one of my favorites. Can’t help but think of Dick Dastardly and Mutley. (I love to hear Mutley laugh.)

The English language is forever changing. Words that once were common are now almost obscure, while others are used regionally.

  • Skedaddle – to flee; run away hurriedly
  • Rapscallion – a mischievous person
  • Gobsmacked – astonished; utterly astounded
  • Confuzzled – simultaneously confused and puzzled
  • Thunderation – an exclamation of surprise or petulance
  • Shenanigans – mischief or prankishness
  • Balderdash – senseless or exaggerated talk
  • Persnickety – fussy or overparticular
  • Lambasted – harsh criticism
  • Catty Wampus – askew or awry (actual spelling is catawampus)

Contronyms are single words that have two opposite meanings. They are rare. I’ve used many of them without giving a second thought to the opposite meanings.

  • Apology – a statement of contrition for an action or a defense of one
  • Bolt – to secure or to flee
  • Bound – heading to a destination or restrained from movement
  • Cleave – to adhere or to separate
  • Dust – to add fine particles or to remove them
  • Fast – quick or stuck, made stable
  • Left – remained or departed
  • Buckle – to fasten/secure or to bend or collapse under pressure
  • Overlook – to monitor/inspect or failure to notice
  • Sanction – to approve or to boycott
  • Weather – to withstand or to wear away
  • Screen – to protect/conceal or to show/broadcast

Oxymorons are figures of speech containing words that seem to contradict each other. For example:

  • Act naturally (I’m not talking about the song made popular by Buck Owns and Ringo Starr)
  • Alone together
  • Bittersweet
  • Clearly confused
  • Deafening silence
  • Jumbo shrimp
  • Growing smaller
  • Original copy
  • Random order
  • Small crowd
  • True myth

That’s it for today. My next post will be a little more serious and educational, but I figure we can all use a little lightheartedness this year.

Now, to wrap this up, I declare a pox on 2020.

71 thoughts on “Words

  1. Reblogged this on Archer's Aim and commented:

    Nice post by Joan Hall on Story Empire with words you don’t think about often and how they are used. I have one I like: blickered. As in blinked or flickered. There are all kinds of word usages we writers should understand for excellent context.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed this post and loved seeing some obscure words, I still use a couple like shenanigans:) I never think of the other meaning when using contronyms, I will have to next time. I get a kick out of oxymorons! Thanks Joan.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This post is perfect! I still use skedaddle, lambasted, and shenanigans. Lol! I guess I grew up hearing my mom saying them, and they stuck with me. The contronyms had me pausing the putting the word in each scenario. And I’m a big fan of oxymorons. They are my favorite kind of morons. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Excellent, Joan. I can still remember my relatives saying “skedaddle.” Mom and dad were more direct. 🙂 Your contronyms brought more than a smile or two, while the oxymorons make me pause and think. English is quite the language! Thank you for this. ♥

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It is amazing how our language has evolved over the past century. The English language is an oxymoron in and of itself. I don’t think there is any other language on the planet with more contradictory words spelled the same yet have different meanings. Thanks for sharing and we needed a lighthearted post about now! And, by the way, I think someone already beat you to declaring a pox on 2020. 🙂 Now we need to figure out how to undo it. Have a great day, Joan!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve always heard it’s the hardest language to learn. Having said that, I decided a few months ago I’d learn Spanish. While their words have precise meanings, I get confused about the sentence structure. And some objects are masculine and others feminine. Can’t figure that one!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Like most writers, I love old words. I still use gobsmacked on occasion. It’s just so colorful and there’s no mistaking what it means, LOL.
    The term contronyms was a new one on me, as was the term “confuzzled.” And now, I’ve just found a new word I love!
    A fun post, Joan. Thanks for the lightheartedness today. We can all use some 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    Words! As writers, surely we all love them them, so I highly recommend you stop by Story Empire today to take a look at Joan Hall’s post. It’s fun, interesting, and educational, all at once. While you’re there, please consider passing it along on social media so others can enjoy it too. Thanks, and thanks to Joan for a fun look at language! Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I love old words, Joan, and use many of them regularly. Some of them are still kinda common around here, like persnickety, for “picky,” and skedaddle, for “scat” or “gotta jet,” and “shenanigans” for “mischief.”

    Personally, I love balderdash, dastardly, tomfoolery, tommyrot, gumption, and lots of others. (Yes, smiting–not to be confused with smitten–and pox, too.) 😀 And I think this post was perfect for today. Lighthearted, but containing a wealth of interesting words, plus I learned something from it, also. I’ve never heard the term “contronyms” before, so there’s the educational aspect, at least for me. You hit them all, and I’m sharing this one on TWS, for sure.

    Great post!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Great post, Joan. When I first traveled into the great midwest I heard a word that I had never heard outside of Kansas City. The word was “flustrated.” A combo of flustered and frustrated. I never heard it anywhere else. This was a fun time here at the SE place. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I still use most of those words in the first section – but, then, I am an old biddy! Contronyms were a new one on me until four days ago when they appeared in a cryptic crossword I was doing. Generally, if something new turns up it keeps on turning up for a while and so I fully expect to come across contronyms again in the very near future!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I love the older words and wish we saw their use more often. I know what you mean about how something new keeps turning up. I’d not heard the word before and never given a second thought to the opposite meaning. Thanks for visiting today, Alex.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Great post, Joan. I’m always fascinated to see the origins and current state/meaning/usage of words. Like ‘Alone’ takes its root from ‘All One’ … puts a different slant on it! Tee he hee.
    Thanks for the fun and bit of light-heartedness today 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Ha now I have always used pernickerty rather than persnickerty and looking at Google i find my version has Scottish origins whereas yours has English. Who knew a dyed in the wool Englishman would prefer the Scottish version!!

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Happy to say your first list of words no longer commonly used today, have almost all featured in my recent debut novel! Only because it’s set in the late 1800s though 😉 – cheating? Yeah, kinda.

    Great post, Joan 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

We'd love to know what you think. Comment below.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s