Never mind him, Mr. Shopkeeper. I’ll take 10 of your most esoteric words. And put them in a brown paper bag for me, would you?

Fun fact: I collect obscure words. At least they are obscure words to me. Perhaps if I was a touch more abstruse, erudite, pansophic, recondite, sapient, or just less dumber, I would have a vocabulary in which words like the ones I consider reserved only for the literary one-percenters would be as plain-Jane and, well, Jane.

Do not even bother, Miss Jane, you could not possibly comprehend even the lexicon I use for my most casual affairs…I mean soirees, of course.

Another fun fact: there are some crazy-pants words hanging out in our English language.

There are only a few reasons why people would use these words:

  • because they clearly want to be misunderstood
  • because they enjoy making others to feel inferior to them
  • because they want to get on some game show that requires both intelligence and high levels of obnoxious-icity
  • because words are the only friends they have, so they picked the most pompous ones they could find to hang out with
  • because they want to be prepared in case they find themselves in a spontaneous game of Balderdash!

Since I like to think the best about people, I’m going to stick with the Balderdash! theory. Also, that’s why I collect obscure words.

People trying to fool people isn’t a new idea. It’s been around since the apes…and old men.

Have you ever played Balderdash!? It’s a nerdy fun word game. The objective is to choose a word no one has ever heard of before. You find these words by:

  1. reading the dictionary (never admit this to anyone)
  2. reading high-brow books and noting all the words you have to look up, hoping no one else knows those words either
  3. having bonzo bizarro words sent to you via a “word of the day” service
  4. hang out with obnoxious genius types (may have been redundant there) and just listen–please don’t try to engage them except maybe to offer to get them some snacks
  5. buying the game (but that feels like cheating to me)

Back to Balderdash! Once you have a killer crazy, word, you  Reveal only the form of the word (noun, verb, adjective, adverb). Then you write the real definition down (trying to make it sound fake) and everyone else writes a fake definition (trying to make it sound real).  Then you read all the definitions. That’s the fun part. Everyone votes on which definition they think is the real one. If no one choose the real definition, you get to yell, Balderdash! Sounds nerdy fun, right?

To give you a taste for the game, I’ve selected a few words from my personal vault. One is the real definition and the other is one I made up. Can you guess which is which?

I’m serious. Don’t think about cheating by looking the definitions up before you give it try.

Mazuma (noun): The Mayan term for “matriarch” and “moon,” both mystical and powerful forces. OR A form of currency used among indigenous peoples before missionaries convinced them that coins and paper were more reliable.

Yare (adjective): Like a bunny rabbit or a spy–quick and agile. OR Like a donkey or most teenagers–stubborn and contrary.

Satrap (noun): A complex device used to ensnare animals or other predators consisting of nets hung from trees. OR The Number Two Big Cheese of some unstable country waiting for the Number One Big Cheese to get assassinated or die of another natural cause so Number Two can suffer the same fate as Number One in a few years months.

Paraph (noun): A literary device used to build suspense at the end of a chapter wherein the author ends a sentence or paragraph without completing it, often with …. . OR That silly and often fancy-pants scribble-doodle that some people use after signing their name to make their signature look froufrou, ostentatious, and self-indulgent.

Obnubulate (verb): This is kind of embarrassing…The ancient Greek practice of manipulating nubile virgins to become, well, less virginal. OR To purposefully mislead innocent readers for the writer’s own macabre need to obscure his or her message.

Mainour (noun): The digestive byproduct of expensive thoroughbred racehorses having won at least one of the Triple Crown races, thus whose excrement does not stink and must be pronounced differently than that of mere normal livestock. OR Your flat-screen TV, bling, and blender the police or Neighborhood Watch Dude finds in the back of the VW Bus that is trying to, but can’t quite, make a quick get-away from your home that has just been proved non-burglarproof.

Dyslogistic (adjective): The opposite of being logistical or organized. OR Like a parent scolding a teenager for getting caught with weed or a pamphlet entitled “Congratulations! You’re Have a Baby!”

Plotz (verb): To plop or drop on the floor (or any surface) for any number of reasons: surprise, exhaustion, excitement. OR To trudge or to walk heavily as if going to the electric chair or your in-laws’ for the 3rd time this month.

Okay, now you can look up the words to see if you were right. I suggest going here. You can even sign up to get a new word delivered to your email. For free.

I hope you enjoyed this little game of Balderdash! Maybe you even learned a new word or two. The problem I have with this game is that I often remember the wrong definitions because they are often funny, so I like them better. Oh well…

I told you this would happen. Your brain only has so much storage space and you know it’s going to want to store the funny stuff.