Blog: Words

Burt Ross

Several years ago the comic genius Mel Brooks started a foundation whose sole purpose was to protect the Yiddish word “schmuck” (big fool among other meanings) from becoming extinct just like the Yiddish word “schlemiel” (little fool) had become over time. Apparently my tribe is very intent on coming up with words for fools.

Languages tend to evolve over time, and I am concerned that some extraordinary words in the English language are also slowly fading into oblivion from a lack of common usage. I trust that you my  loyal reader are now dying of curiosity to find out which words I have in mind.

For instance, when was the last time you heard or saw the words “honky dory?”  As far as I’m concerned, the next time somebody asks me how I am doing, they are going to be met with a hearty “honky dory.” Compare the strong “honky dory” with a meager “okay” or “fine.” There is simply no comparison.

I don’t know about you, but I am getting a  little tired of the “f” word. It is so overused. Let me suggest an old favorite like “fiddle sticks” as an adequate substitute. “Fiddle sticks” simply takes the edge off the frustration and anger. Next time you can’t find your keys and are tempted to use the “f” word, try “fiddle sticks” instead. It could lower the temperature, although it will not help you find your keys.

Another word I rarely see anymore is “lollapalooza.” If you can spell it, you are considerably ahead of most of us. The word is so infrequently used that you might actually need to know its definition, which is “something or someone very striking or exceptional.” I love the very sound of the word. Imagine a friend of yours asks you about a party you attended. “It was a lollapalooza,” says it all.

I strongly prefer “flummoxed” to “confused.” Actually I like almost every word that contains “ox” including “oxymoron.” How much better is “tuckered out” than just plain “tired?” Does anything get better than “skulduggery” to describe unscrupulous behavior?

And then there are the “be” words such as “befuddled” and “besmirched.” I bet you don’t hear those words being tossed around.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that it is my responsibility, make that my duty, to use more and more of these old fashioned words in my writings. I cannot sit around and let “doozy” and “dandy” and “kerfluffle” and “hocus pocus” go the way of “schlemiel.”