Ann Zaniewski, Detroit Free Press
DETROIT - While one university seeks to banish words, another wants to save some from the brink of extinction.
Wayne State University here unveiled its annual list of the top 10 most useful - and underused - words in the English language.
The 2013 list unveiled Thursday includes such colorful gems as "buncombe," which means rubbish or nonsense; "cerulean," meaning the blue of the sky; and "dragoon," to compel by coercion.
"We have a wonderfully rich resource at our disposal, the English language," said Jerry Herron, dean of the Irvin D. Reid Honors College at Wayne State University. "The more we use that language to its full capacity, the more we are able to discriminate and describe the world around us, the more interesting the world gets to be."
Herron said he and three colleagues came up with the idea for the list about five years ago over dinner and created Wayne State's Word Warriors project. Nominations are accepted online. People can vote for their top picks.
Herron said hundreds of nominations come in every year.
The goal of the list is to "encourage people to experience the joys of the English language," he said.
"What we always try for are words that are interesting, words that describe a phenomenon in the world that is too little acknowledged or looked at, and words that are fun to use," Herron said.
Herron's personal favorites on this year's list? "Fantods," meaning extreme anxiety or distress, and "troglodyte," or cave-dweller.
"I think they're fun to say," he said.
Last week,Lake Superior State University released its own tongue-in-cheek list of Words to be Banishedfrom the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness. The group included "fiscal cliff," "spoiler alert" and "boneless wings."
Herron said he agrees with Lake Superior State's picks.
"There's no buncombe on that list," he said.
Wayne State University's 2013 top 10 list of words worth reviving:
- Buncombe. Rubbish; nonsense; empty or misleading talk.
- Cerulean. The blue of the sky.
- Chelonian. Like a turtle.
- Dragoon. To compel by coercion; to force someone to do something they'd rather not.
- Fantods. Extreme anxiety, distress, nervousness or irritability.
- Mawkish. Excessively sentimental; sappy; hopelessly trite.
- Natter. To talk aimlessly, often at great length; rarely, it means simply to converse.
- Persiflage. Banter; frivolous talk.
- Troglodyte. Literally, a cave-dweller. More frequently a backward, mentally sluggish person.
- Winkle. To pry out or extract something; from the process of removing the snail from an edible periwinkle.
Detroit Free Press