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Uncopywriting: 10 uncommon words that should be more common

This post is not going to make you a better copywriter. In fact, it will probably do the opposite. A lot of people won't have any clue what these words mean, but they should. The following is a selection of wonderful pieces of diction which serve roles that would be otherwise hard to fill with normal English. Words that express things which we all experience, and provide the most concise and aurally pleasing means for expressing them. Sadly, they're words that are falling out of use.

bathos

Anyone who has taken a literature course knows what pathos is. It's the result of catharsis, that cleansing moment in a tragedy when the power of sorrow over some one else's plight overtakes us in a wave of pity, compassion or sympathy.

Bathos is not.

Bathos is that ludicrous descent from the elevated towards the common place. It's when the male lead lets out a scream over the death of his cardboard cutout female counterpart, and the audience snickers and rolls its eyes. It's when – usually by heavy handed approach – the emotions that should evoke pathos instead make us shake our head in disgust.

And really, how do you describe this without bathos? We struggle to refer to the moment of bathos as "over dramatic" or "cheesy" or some combination. No, it's bathos.

chortle

This is actually a pretty well known one. and you might be able to get away with using it.

A chortle is that snorting single laugh you make when some one says something funny… but not that funny.

What's important about this word is that it describes something so specific, yet so common. It's not a laugh or a chuckle, it's the aural equivalent of an "upvote" or "like", a casual, appreciative sound that we make

salacious

This is another wonderful sounding word. With that much hissing and saliva, it could only refer to two base desires: hunger or lust.

Salacious refers to something with a lustful appeal, often used to describe the obscene or lewd or morally loose. For instance: "The Tudors was dramatic and well produced and utterly salacious, but lacked a lot of the history I was hoping for."

Why not just use lewd? Connotations. Lewd has an automatically negative connotation, something that is lewd is bad, while something can be salacious and good.

effervescent

We probably all know this one. Basically it means "bubbly", but while "bubbly" as a descriptor has gained a negative connotation, effervescent has maintained a definition of vivacious and enthusiastic.

hy not just use bubbly? Bubbly has gained its own meaning. To say that some one is bubbly usually describes them as young, silly, and air–headed. Effervescent is a positive quality, referring to a enthusiasm and a joy for life.

rapacity

If you read our blog then you're probably in a business where you've had to deal with a rapacious person. The kind of person who just takes things by force, who has an insatiable thirst to gain more.

Rapacity is that character or quality of taking things by force, of exorbitant greediness. It's the primary quality of the bad guy in every Disney film, video game, and sci–fi TV show.

slake

Can you guess what it means? Is it a channel through a swamp or mud–flat, the chemical process of lime combining with water, slime, to daub, lick, to refresh by moistening, to extinguish, or to go extinct? Actually it's all of the above. What a word.

However, for the course of this post, the definition we're using is the property of loosening, moderating, quenching. One slakes ones anger, thirst, hunger. Though the etymology is different, it's the property of going slack, of relaxing.

We don't really have another word for this. "Quench" is similar, but one does not quench anger as one slakes it, and for that it earns a spot here.

ribald

Ribald, humorously vulgar. Alternatively it can also mean brutal and vulgar. It's usually used to describe just that kind of rude humor that we enjoy so much these days. Its normal use would be along the lines of "Rogen's sense of humor, ribald and often juvenile, brings a strange style to this remake of the 1930's radio–play."

stanchion

A stanchion is a post used as a support for something. This can be an upright beam used to support a rood or deck, or a a pole used to hold cattle. As such it can also be used as a verb in two ways:

  1. To support something by adding to it (usually by adding stanchions)
  2. To confine something in place (usually cattle).

As such one can use the word in a number of great ways. "They stanchioned him by the train" "they stanchioned the deck, hoping to that it would weather the coming storm" or more abstractly "he stanchioned himself with thoughts of home."

saccharine

A somewhat negative form of "sweet". Something saccharine is so sweet that it makes you ill. It's cloying and syrupy and gross. The word can also be applied to things that are excessively sentimental.

Why not just use "sappy"? Actually this is the word with the weakest case for its use, because sappy really does sum up saccharine fairly well, but saccharine still maintains a slightly more specific use. While sappy can refer to happy or sad, saccharine is that sappy "sweetness".

mellifluous

Is that not a linguistically beautiful word? One might even say that it sounds… mellifluous.

This is one of those words you can figure out from its sound. Mell 'like Honey', fluous 'flowing'. Something that flows sweetly. It is usually used to describe a sweet, flowing sound. One might say "The trumpet's slow, long notes produced a mellifluous rhythm"

This is another word that is wonderful because it fills such a specific niche. One might otherwise say "the trumpet's slow, long notes produced a mellow pleasant rhythm" but that is wordy and just doesn't capture the same idea as well.

Comments (Comment Moderation is enabled. Your comment will not appear until approved.)
Great words!

Lewis Carroll invented "chortle". A combination of chuckle and snort, I think.

Other words from Jabberwocky that I just love are gallumphing, beamish, and brillig.



# Posted By Michael Straker | 1/14/11 4:02 PM
I did not know that Chortle was from Jabberwocky. That's pretty awesome.
# Posted By KentC | 1/17/11 8:24 AM
Great words.I want to follow your blog in future also.Is there any way to subscribe it.Thanks for sharing.
# Posted By Web statistics | 3/13/11 8:58 PM
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