Word of the (Occasional) Week

Foist: (v.) To insert or introduce surreptitiously (sneakily); to force someone to accept something undesirable by force or deceit

Similar to: Impose, pass off, compel

Example: The jeweler tried to foist the diamond on me like it was something valuable, but I knew it for what it really was: a really, really, hard, sharp rock that was sparkly and valuable.  Oh, crap.

Vitriol: (n.) Cruel and bitter criticism; sulphuric acid

Similar to: Contempt, disdain, hostility

Example: Politics disgust me with their excess of vitriol.  And honestly, it’s mostly perpetuated by that nasty, hypocritical [political party with which I disagree]!  Plus, they kick kittens!

Anathema: (n) A person or thing that is loathed or detested; a person or thing consigned to destruction

Similar to: Abomination, enemy, pariah

Example: I shop at Goodwill because spending more than $3.99 on an article of clothing is anathema to me.  Plus, store clothes don’t come with that nice “sad mothballs” scent.

Onus: (n)  A difficult or disagreeable task or burden; the burden of proof

Similar to: Weight, duty, responsibility

Example: I’m currently working on a jazzy song about burdens of proof: I call it Onus Redding.

Piquant: (adj.) Having a pleasantly stimulating taste; engaging or provocative to the mind

Similar to: Poignant, pungent, zesty

Example: My Thanksgiving dessert specialty is a pastry doused in lemon zest, hot sauce, and interesting points: I call it piquant pie.

Nonplussed: (adj.) Unable to respond because of bewilderment; perturbed

Similar to: Dumbfounded, stupefied, bewildered

Example: “I’m so disgusted with you, I’m nonplussed!” exclaimed the angry man, Mr. Subtraction Sign.

Traipse: (v.) To walk aimlessly or idly

Similar to: Amble, stroll, shuffle

Example: When Tracy Morgan takes an afternoon stroll, everyone calls him Traipsy Morgan.

Virulent: (adj.) Poisonous, infective, violently hostile

Similar to: Deadly, destructive, hostile

Example for liberals: Fox News is virulent.

Example for conservatives: NPR and MSNBC are virulent.

Example for common sense: Poisonous mushrooms are virulent.  In fact, pretty much anything with the word “poisonous” in its name is virulent.

Ambrosial: (adj.) Pleasing to the senses, divine, delicious

Similar to: Fragrant, luscious

Example: “This ambrosia is simply ambrosial!” she exclaimed.  And then I slapped her, because duh.

Unctuous: (adj.) Excessively smooth; in an affected manner

Similar to: Oily, greasy, slick, sycophantic

Example: The salesman’s pitch was as unctuous as Patrick Dempsey’s pillow.

Anachronism: (n) Something or someone not in its correct historical or chronological time; usually something that belongs to an earlier time

Similar to: No other words, really.

Example: The presence of a dial-up phone in the futuristic space ship at first seemed like an anachronism, but that was before everyone realized it was a hipster spaceship.

Editor’s Note: They totally planned on going to space, but they got so distracted by taking pictures of themselves smoking in front of the spaceship on their iPhones that they forgot to actually do anything.

Ostensibly: (adv.) Outwardly appearing as such; apparently

Similar to: Evidently, outwardly, seemingly

Example: Ostensibly, it would appear that I’ve neglected Word of the Week for a couple of weeks.  But what if I told you that I just wrote it in invisible ink?  Hold your computer up to the light.  Look harder.

Nebulous: (adj.) Vague, hazy, indistinct; cloud-like

Similar to: Ambiguous, indeterminate, uncertain

Example: Usually, I try to pass off my normal clothes as a Halloween costume, in a nebulous attempt to keep people guessing. This year, though, I decided to be more straightforward: I’m going as a human dressed as an animal dressed as a human. I’ll still just be wearing my regular clothes.

Augment: (v) To make larger; to add to in numbers, strength

Similar to: Amplify, enhance, strengthen

Example: Instead of trying to augment your muscles through weight-lifting and protein shakes, why not just tape pillows to your biceps, like I do?

Denouement: (n) In literature, the final resolution of a play or novel; the outcome of a complicated series of occurrences

Similar to: Resolution, solution; in French, literally “the untying”

Example: The denouement of Ross and Rachel’s relationship on Friends is that Rachel gets off the plane and runs to Ross, and with joy, we recall the ups and downs of their relationship. Wait, no, not their relationship.  Ross’s hair.

Note: Pronounce this word French-like.

Lustrous: (adj) Glossy, shining, brilliant

Similar to: Bright, dazzling, radiant

Example: The heads of bald men, when rubbed with olive oil, are lustrous.

Quixotic: (adj) Overly romantic or chivalrous; impulsive or impractical

Similar to: Fanciful, fantastic, imaginary

Example: “I don’t deserve this!” I swooned as my quixotic boyfriend swept me off to fourth meal at Taco Bell.

Succor: (n) Help, assistance; a person who provides help or assistance

Similar to: aid, relief, support

Example: Someone offer me succor; I am so tempted to say, ‘A succor is born every minute.’

Myopic: (adj) Nearsighted; lacking tolerance or understanding; short-sighted

Similar to: biased, astigmatic

Example: Those who say no good can come from the closing of Borders myopically forget about what fun looting is.

Verbose: (adj) Characterized by using many–often too many–words

Similar to: wordy, loquacious, turgid

Example: Calvin Coolidge was not known for being verbose; he was known for being the President of awesome quietness.

Dearth: (n) An inadequate supply; a lack

Similar to: Scarcity, shortage, want

Example: There is currently no dearth of Ryan Gosling films to be viewed.

Commandeer: (v) To seize for public use; to force into military service

Similar to: draft, grab, usurp, annex

Example: Alien forces tried to commandeer the Word of the Week page and make it their own, but they were unsuccessful.  On the upside, this page is back, stronger than ever, ready to be updated every week.  On the downside, when it sings in the shower, it only sings that song from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Vacuous: (adj) Without contents, empty; lacking intelligence

Similar to: Absent, blank, dull

Example: “Word of the Week” has been vacuous of content for a few weeks; I may have forgotten that it existed.

Chide: (v) To voice disapproval, to criticize or lecture

Similar to: Admonish, blame, condemn, scold

Example: Admonish me all you want, but I’m just going to keep smearing bananas on the wall until you give me a good reason not to.

Aberration: (n) Something that differs from the norm

Similar to: Eccentricity, oddity, quirk

Example: A win by the Cleveland Cavaliers is an aberration.

Infatuation: (n) An obsession or captivation; a deep-seated crush

Similar to: Desire, fascination, passion

Example: When I have an infatuation with someone, I don’t like to declare it on Valentine’s Day; I wait until the original day of love–Sweetest Day.  Or Labor Day.  I mix up the two.

Hubris: (n) Extreme pride or arrogance; an excess of ambition or pride (especially in Greek tragedies)

Similar to: Conceit, pretension, audacity

Example: It may simply be hubris on my part, but I don’t believe that anyone can stew a pot of Spaghettio-O’s better than I can.

Omnipotent: (adj.) All-powerful; infinite in might

Similar to: Powerful, mighty, supreme

Example: Taco Bell rejected my marketing suggestion, claiming that “Gordita Omnipotent” didn’t have the same ring to it that “Gordita Supreme” did.

Subjugate: (v) To bring under total control; to overcome

Similar to: Overpower, subdue, repress, conquer

Example: Some people think that it’s cruel that I like to subjugate my stuffed animals by making them bow down to me and demanding that they serve me meals and call me “ma’am”, but I like to feel powerful.

Demagogue: (n) A leader who tries to stir people up and gain support by appealing to emotions, prejudices, etc.

Similar to: Agitator, incendiary, rabble-rouser

Example: Some people consider him an educational hero, but I think that Big Bird is just a fanatical demagogue trying to stir his adoring fans into an alphabet-loving frenzy.

Didactic: (adj.) Meant to teach some sort of lesson, often a moral one; conveying instruction; educational

Similar to: Advisory, instructive, pedantic, sermonic

Example: Classic cartoon Disney movies, complete with heroes, villains, and morals, are almost always didactic in nature; the same is not true of the Girls Gone Wild series.

Profuse: (adj) Spending or giving to a large amount; in excess; abundant

Similar to: lavish, ample, abounding, plentiful

Example: “When you ate six pies last Thanksgiving, I was okay with it,” said my mother.  “But seven?!  Seven is just profuse.”

Ameliorate: (v) To make or become better, more bearable, more satisfactory.

Similar to: Alleviate, mitigate, improve, relieve, help

Example: “If you spend time browsing this site, it will ameliorate your grammar woes,” said Amelia, whose name sounded like “ameliorate,” and who was, consequently, an expert on the matter.


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