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Five great words I can never remember when I need to.

By Edited Jun 20, 2016 1 3

There's a few words out there that are both interesting and understated. Although they have a way of being absent from the brain when they are most needed, I wonder if you'll have better luck.

1. Precipitate.

Problems begin just trying to pronounce this excellent word; Well, I think he's pretty touchy about it. I mean, if you brought it up, you'd just precipit..precipitation...precurse...precarious...Damn!

If you're wondering why you always mix this one up with something you hear in a weather forecast, it's because the route meaning of both precipitate and precipitation is  the Latin praecipitat- "Thrown headlong...or thrown violently". Although nowadays, precipitate is the kind of event that would cause someone to get thrown around. Here's a story to help you remember it with: I was patrolling a paved park when my prickly pal precipitated a row by pronouncing a passing pulley-pushing proletariat a pansy. My pal then proceeded to get praecipitated down a precipitous... Actually, maybe you should forget that story. Precipitate, start problems. Done. 

2. Germane.

This word sounds pretty cold and impersonal...like the kind of word a German librarian would use. Although I get sidetracked from what I'm trying to say a lot of the time, I'm lucky to have this word here to reign me in. All it takes is for someone to raise their eyebrow and say that's not germane to the discussion, and I'll nod my head and be silent for a while..while I think up fancy words for my verbal revenge.

3. Truculent.

This word makes me think of both a three year old stomping on other kid's toys and a fat Texan in a cowboy tuxedo entering a cocktail party...loudly. It sounds like someone ready for a regular hoedown. Actually, it sounds like someone ready to be escorted from a hoedown, (hoedowns are apparently very classsy...Ho-downs are what sorority girls in Texas do...Sorry, this isn't germane is it? Another mid 16th century word, truculent means 'fierce.' It also means someone who uses the word "tarnation" a lot... and is liable to fire a six shooter in the air for fun when fireworks go off.

4. Picayune.

If people are trying to get something done, and your task is stalled by a petty argument, picayune might be a pretty useful word. From the French picaillion, meaning a Piedmontese copper coin, the word today means petty and worthless... The best part is that it actually sounds like a term of respect! However, if you were talking to a large person who also had a large vocabulary...tell him his argument was picayune, and you might just pick-a-fight. Arguing with me over how unfunny that last sentence was can also get kinda picayune, and I'm liable to get mighty Truculent...

5. Pedantic

If Picayune is the first year college twerp who's being a bummer at a house party, Pedantic is the guy who made him that way. Slowly shambling through hours of minor footnotes and rambling nothings until the point is gradually delivered, the pedantic professors of today are forming the picayune punks of tomorrow.



May 6, 2012 7:29am
Five great words! But (LOL) aren't your instructions about the usage a little "Pedantic"?
May 6, 2012 4:56pm
The one word I've never used from your list is "Picayune." Good info, it's always good to learn a new word.
May 7, 2012 11:55am
I've heard "Picayune" from this New Yorker comments podcast, describing the reasons Rick Perry vetoed a bunch of bills...I thought it was the most pretentious yet coolest word ever. Thanks.

And, Askformore...I'm just a fan of knowing where words come from. It's like checking the ingredients on the back of a can of tuna to see if there's any delicious dolph--I mean, to make sure there's no dolphins.
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