Words Learned in Milwaukee

My husband has the opportunity of being in Milwaukee this week for some training for his work. Since I have an over-abundance of vacation days that I need to use before the end of the year, I, too, am currently in Milwaukee.

Just down the road from our hotel is a two-story Barnes and Noble book store. Since I love books as much (or more) as I do words, we headed down there to take a look.

As usual, my wanderings led me to the reference materials section. I felt compelled to check out the dictionaries that they had . . . maybe there was a new one out . . . . Aha! there WAS one that caught my attention. Actually several did. They were a series of “100 Words that a (fill in the blank) Should Know.”

The first one I browsed through was 101 words that every word lover should know. I’d like to share one of the words that I saw. (Most of them I knew. Pat myself on the back . . . .) The word was humuhumunukunukuapuaa. Yup. You read that right.

This is the name of the state fish of Hawaii. While Hawaii is a delightful place to visit (I’ll be going there in January for the third time) and has beautiful topical fish (that I love to see as I snorkel), I can’t for the life of me figure out why I as a word lover should know this word! I mean, just how many times will that come up in my normal conversation? If I used it in a conversation, my friends would think that I was mumbling a voodoo chant.

Which leads me to say this about that. I believe that as a person increases his or her vocabulary, the words should be words that ‘normal’ people would use, words that would fit naturally into a conversation — or words that people might read in newspapers or magazines. And, I don’t think this word fits into those categories. (The editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries that published this series of books evidently have a different point of view . . . .)
So, here are a couple of words that I think fit into my pre-defined categories of useful words to know.

The first is exiguous (eg-zig-yoo-uhs). Exiguous is an adjective that means scanty, meager, small, or slender. You could say that you have an exiguous income and ask your boss for a raise. Or maybe the budge for a project that you are working on is too exiguous. Personally, I would like to think that I am exiguous in stature — and not behemoth.

Are you familiar with behemoth? Behemoth (bi-hee-muhth) is a noun that means any creature or thing of monstrous size or power. I would like to be behemoth in power . . . but not particularly in size.

The last word today is embrangle (em-brang-guhl). Embrangle is a verb that means to entangle, confuse, perplex. Sometimes politicians embrangle people with all of their glib nonsense. Sometimes husbands embrangle their wives. (Sometimes????)

Well, I hope that you are not embrangled by what I have said here. I hope that you’ll find ways to appropriately use these words so that your vocabulary is behemoth and your waistline is exiguous.

Cheers!

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