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Your New English Words


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Was reading something (English) yesterday and came across two words I'd never seen before and had to look up. That doesn't happen that often, and it occurred that given the number of language enthusiasts and non-native users of English we have on here, this might be an interesting topic. 


My words were: 


Sumptuary. As in sumptuary laws, which govern... no, not sumps. Consumption. I did think maybe I should have used that in recent translations on rules on consumption by government officials in China - what can be served at banquets and so on. Sure enough, the Economist got there first. 


Another was weregild - a list of values on property and lives. Blood-money. I seem to remember way way back a link being posted on here to a similar code that operated in Tibet, or maybe a Xinhua article used it to show how barbaric feudal Tibet was. 


Anyway, post your own words. Maybe we'll all learn something. 



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Never heard of sumptuary (and the Chinese Forums input box doesn't recognize it) but I guessed it from sumptuous which is not common but often co-located with "feast".  Very much aligned with the new rules on banquets.


Weregild sounds like, and is I guess, a german loan word.  


My favorite to introduce people to is pugnacious - meaning "inclined to fight".    As in - "You are very pugnacious this morning, the waiter was only trying to be helpful and you nearly bit his head off".

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Some new words for me I found over the past few years editing on Wiktionary:


retromingency: the characteristic of urinating backwards, present in certain animals


netlabel: a record label that distributes most of its music online through digital audio formats


biological immortality: the phenomenon in which some organisms such as hydra or jellyfish do not age


redology: the study of the novel Dream of the Red Chamber, one of the four classic Chinese literary works


leprechology: the study of leprechauns

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  • 3 months later...

I've got loads at the moment - I've been reading John le Carré novels* and there's a surprising amount of vocab I've had to look up. And the new vocab builder thing on Kindle keeps track of them for me, as well as showing you where you looked up the word from. 


to prink - to make minor adjustments to one's appearance.  

exeat - a permission from an institution for absence. 


Interesting how even stuff from the sixties and seventies can fox me. At one point he says "a smart charcoal grey, the colour you see on clever London houses." I have absolutely no idea how a house is meant to be clever and can only assume 'smart'. 


*Highly recommended, by the way. Anyone who dismisses them as genre spy fiction is missing out. 

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One I learnt a while back: "also-ran" (n.) to mean someone who didn't place first in a race/contest.


What's weird is that, upon learning the word, I thought it must surely be so rarely used as to basically be obsolete, as I was positive I'd never seen it before in my life. I was also sure that I would have noticed seeing it before, as it's such an unusual word (adverb+simple past tense verb with a hyphen in the middle, which taken together forms a noun).


Since learning it, though, I've already noticed it "in the wild" in two or three places, so odds are, I must have been mistaken about never having seen it before.

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obscurantism |ˌɒbskjʊˈrantɪz(ə)m| noun [ mass noun ]

the practice of deliberately preventing the facts or full details of something from becoming known.


I came across this when researching the Chinese word 愚民政策. It seems like it's a concept commonly known by Chinese, but I had never heard of the English term. It basically refers to the government deliberately keeping its people ignorant, to achieve its own aims.

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