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One of the joyous moments of 2017 was the discovery of new words. Do you know any of them?

A man who repeatedly makes mistakes is called an ‘errorist’. A person who constantly asks for your advice but does the opposite (and we all know such people) is best called ‘askhole’. And the sort of conversation which is utterly worthless and best avoided is a ‘nonversation’. And if, like me you’ve become fascinated with WhatsApp, then the little twinge of excitement when the phone tings to inform you have a message is called ‘textpectation’. Finally, I’m sure you can work out what ‘ambitchous’ means.

columns Updated: Dec 31, 2017 08:39 IST
new year,words,Petrichor
In 2017 I also discovered that things I thought had no name actually do. For instance, the space between your eyebrows is called a ‘glabella’. The way it smells after it rains is called ‘petrichor’.(AP)

Today is the last day of 2017 and I’m glad it’s over. Whilst searching for the appropriate phrase to mark the occasion I’ve come across a collection of famous last words. They reflect an admirable capacity for wit whilst looking down a dark tunnel without finding the legendary flicker of light.

“I should never have switched from scotch to martinis”, said Humphrey Bogart, taking a last look backwards. The Emperor Vespasian took a quick sneak the other way. “Dear me, I think I’m becoming a God!”. Groucho Marx, typical of his style, was defiantly cheerful: “Die, my dear? Why, that’s the last thing I’ll do?” Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV, frightened her doctor when she said: “One moment, Monseur le Doctor and we’ll go together”. And if you can believe it, Winston Churchill exited it with the following pronouncement: “I’m bored with it all.”

One of the joyous moments of 2017 was the discovery of new words that convey their meaning quite effortlessly. I shall certainly use a few of them next year.

For instance, a man who repeatedly makes mistakes is called an ‘errorist’. A person who constantly asks for your advice but does the opposite (and we all know such people) is best called ‘askhole’. And the sort of conversation which is utterly worthless and best avoided is a ‘nonversation’. And if, like me you’ve become fascinated with WhatsApp, then the little twinge of excitement when the phone tings to inform you have a message is called ‘textpectation’. Finally, I’m sure you can work out what ‘ambitchous’ means. We all know a few.

In 2017 I also discovered that things I thought had no name actually do. For instance, the space between your eyebrows is called a ‘glabella’. The way it smells after it rains is called ‘petrichor’. The cry of a new born baby is ‘vagitus’, the wired cage that holds the cork in a champagne bottle is called an ‘agraffe’ and when you combine an exclamation mark with a question mark (like this ?!) it’s an ‘interrobang’. My favourite, however, are two I can personally relate to: ‘dysania’, the condition of finding it difficult to get out of bed in the morning and ‘crapulence’ which is the sick feeling you get after eating or drinking too much!

The new ‘facts’ I’ve learnt are even more surprising. Did you know the human heart creates enough pressure to squirt blood 30 feet or that a flea can jump 350 times its body length or that right-handed people live, on average, nine years longer than left-handed ones or that humans and dolphins are the only species that have sex for pleasure? And if these facts are true how on earth were they established? Don’t scientists have better things to prove?

Finally, The Washington Post runs a Mensa competition inviting readers to take any word from the dictionary and alter it by adding, subtracting or changing one letter to create a new meaning. They’ve been doing this for years. In 2017 the following delightful words were created: glibido (all talk and no action), beelzebug (satan in the form of a mosquito in your bedroom), caterpallor (the colour you turn after finding a worm in your apple), intaxication (the euphoria at getting a tax refund) and cashtration (the act of buying a house which leaves you stone-broke).

If you’re still with me and haven’t jumped to another article or turned the page: Happy New Year.

The views are personal

First Published: Dec 30, 2017 17:06 IST