WOTD: interesting and/or funny words beginning with the letter A

I love dictionaries. I really do. They’re almost porn to total word nerds such as myself. All those lovely words. I used to read them (along with the encyclopedias) when I was a kid. An excessively weird kid. As I’ve discussed previously.

Anyway, today I was flipping through the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to pass the time while my students were working on an in-class writing assignment. Eventually I intend to read the definition of every single word in the OED. I know, how very Malcolm X of me. Yet, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to achieve this feat since the unabridged version of the OED is comprised of several thick volumes that are revised and updated regularly. This is because the English language is the most dynamic language in the world, and new words are being added to it all the time.

There are several words in the A section that I feel are particularly noteworthy. Aardvark is worth mentioning because it’s the first actual word in the OED. It’s apparently a large nocturnal burrowing animal that lives in South Africa. The word itself is in Afrikaans, which is a South African dialect derived from the Dutch language.

The next word that I was a bit taken aback to see in the OED is “Aargh!” You know, the sound people make when they are frightened, angry or frustrated. This is an example of an onomatopoeia, a word which is the spelling of a sound. Other examples include: meow, beep and plop.

Finally, there is the word abreast . It’s normally associated with walking side by side, as in, “The stroller pushers were walking three abreast on the sidewalk, so I was forced to walk into oncoming traffic to get around them.” (Yes, this actually happened.)

Despite its pedestrian definition, this word is the subject of oh so many bad puns and jokes for obvious reasons. It’s one of those old-fashioned words that nobody ever uses anymore because speaking it aloud would cause everyone in the area to titter like teenagers in a sex-ed class. Now that I think about it, the word titter also causes people to titter in the same way.

12 thoughts on “WOTD: interesting and/or funny words beginning with the letter A

  1. Thanks for your feedback! It is a bit wordy but I suppose I was making up for lost time and got carried away. WOTD means Word Of The Day, and indeed I used to write these posts daily, usually featuring only one word.

  2. Teehee, reminds me of John Prine’s song: Bang went the pistol, crash went the window, ouch said the son of a gun, onomatopoeia, I don’t want to see ya, speaking in a foreign tongue!”

    I’m a word nerd as well. I have a great etymological dictionary that I often pick up and read.

    • I find etymology fascinating. However, most ordinary mortals find it as dull as wood.

      This reminds me of a conversation I had a couple of days ago with a colleague. He paused while writing the course plan for one of the core IT courses that all students have to take. He then asked out loud how in the world could he possibly make the course interesting to someone who’s completely uninterested in computers. Those who are into computers find them endlessly fascinating, but those who aren’t will be unavoidably bored to tears.

      Poetry and etymology are like that too. This is why I never share my poetry with uninterested parties because you’re either really into it or you’re simply not. And most people aren’t.

English, motherfucker, do you speak it? J/K - it's ok if you don't.

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