Weird Words 5

The fifth in a series of posts about words, taking a lighthearted look at some of the most troublesome, overused, misused, comical, or downright peculiar words in the English language.

All suggestions for words to include in future instalments are welcome—simply comment with your suggestion.

On with this week’s words…

Raccoon

Thanks to Vijaya for suggesting this word—it’s one of her favourites.

Raccoon… hmm, makes me think of Guardians of the Galaxy and, unlike Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars prequels, a non-irritating CGI anthropormorphic animal named Rocket.

For anyone who doesn’t know, a raccoon is a small nocturnal carnivore native to North America. According to Merriam-Webster, the word derives from the native American language Virginia Algonquian, also known as Powhatan. According to Wikipedia, that language became extinct around the 1790s when its speakers were forced to switch to English.

That makes me feel sad.

Noisome

Meaning highly obnoxious or objectionable; often used to describe a disgusting smell.

It’s one of those words ripe for being misused by the careless writer who chucks it into a sentence without double-checking its meaning.

The noisome explosions surrounded me while I cowered in the foxhole.

Nope. Unless, perhaps, you’re describing the rapid expulsion of air from someone’s backside, or a hand grenade lobbed into a cesspit, explosions are rarely likely to be noisome.

Kerfuffle

Another of those words I love because they sound so much like their meaning. Does a disturbance or commotion sound like a kerfuffle to you? Of course it does.

It apparently comes from a combination of ancient Scots and Gaelic. Probably. It typically refers to a commotion caused by an argument, though can apply to most disturbances.

Since I’m claiming it to be one of my favourite words, I checked to see whether I’d used it in any of my published fiction. Lo and behold, it appears in my first novel, The Village of Lost Souls.

Although the rear wall blocked out the Dead Lights at ground level, they were bright enough to light up the garden like a flare and I was vaguely aware of a kerfuffle coming from the disturbed animals and poultry as I sprinted past them.

See—told you I loved it.

 

That’s all for Part 5. Don’t forget to suggest any words you find weird for inclusion in future instalments. I’ll credit anyone whose suggestion I use.

 

6 Replies to “Weird Words 5”

  1. Living in the middle of raccoon country, I’d like to offer a gentle correction. Raccoons are omnivores, not carnivores. The favourite pastime of city-dwelling raccoons is to raid garbage cans at night. My sister who lives in Toronto had a mother raccoon raising her babies in the attic, and spent many sleepless nights listening to them carousing overhead. In more rural areas such as the one where I live, raccoons are often hit by cars at night, and I’m always saddened in the morning to pass another body on the roadside. It’s so odd to think that, in other parts of the world, ‘raccoon’ is an unusual word!

    1. Hi, Louise. I’m happy to stand corrected – that’ll teach me to be more thorough in my research. Thank you, and for the additional information. It sounds as though they are as common as, say, the fox over here.

    1. Sadly, no. I’ve seen a couple – one rummaging through bins in my village, another when walking in the country lanes nearby (that one was leggy, reminding me of a foal, obviously smaller but not by as much as I felt it should be) – and they have been known to kill a few cats locally. That’s about the extent of my fox story repertoire.

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