Tyler Vendetti
January 13, 2015 6:36 am

Nefarious. Evil. Bloodthirsty. These words don’t bring to mind images of puppies bouncing through a field of tulips. Like many words in the English language, their definition matches their general connotation. But this is not always the case. Some terms, through no fault of their own, have been doomed to a life of misrecognition. Like a clown at a business convention, some terms simply look too ridiculous to be taken seriously, no matter how dark they really are. For example:

1) Hornswoggle (v.): to deceive

Ex. Amal Alamuddin removed her mask, revealing that she has actually been George Clooney all along; she hornswoggled us all.

If you’re looking to properly express your feelings of anger and betrayal, hornswoggle is not the word to use. It looks like a bad mix of “swagger,” “wobble,” and “horn,” a combination that I can’t imagine anyone would actually ever need (unless they spotted a tipsy but stylish rhino, which is still unlikely). Try “backstabber” instead. (Or, if you’re looking for something a little more “pirate-y,” try “hornswaggle.”)

2) Dragoon (v.): to force someone to do something they’d rather not

Ex. Smaug the dragon dragooned Siri to call him The One Lizard to Rule Them All.

Meaning “to compel by coercion,” dragoon feels like a word someone made up a long time ago to entertain themselves at work. I can see it now: “Can dragon be a verb? To dragon someone? Probably not. But maybe, if I add another ‘o.’ Perfect!”

3) Marplot (n.): one who frustrates or ruins a plan or undertaking by meddling

Ex. I tried to steal a cookie from the cookie jar but that marplot in the kitchen thwarted my plans.

Who could forget that classic Scooby Doo line, “I would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids and your stupid canine marplot”? I’m starting to think everybody, because no one seems to remember this classic catchphrase. Maybe that’s a good thing, though, because any word that sounds like the name of a zoo animal is probably not worth remembering.

4) Snickersnee (v.): to engage in cut-and-thrust fighting with knives

Ex. Al Capone tried to start a snickersnee outside the speakeasy, but no one could take him seriously.

Life tip: if you’re trying to intimidate someone, don’t challenge them to a “snickersnee” unless you want to see them. . .well, snicker and walk away. Really, any word that has the name of a chocolately candy in its title should be avoided if you’re trying to look tough.

5) Bamboozle (v.): to cheat or trick someone

Ex. Cyber-terrorists bamboozled the United States out of seven million Neopoints, sparking temper tantrums around the country.

Thanks to our good friends Chandler, Joey, and Ross, this word will never sound serious. Liam Neeson could slip it into a death threat over the phone, and I would probably go about my day without giving it a second thought.

6) Bugbear (n.): an object or source of dread

Ex. Spiders were a constant bugbear to Ron Weasley, for obvious reasons.

Derived from the hobgoblin-type creature* of the same name, “bugbear” attempts to sound threatening by pairing a harmless creature with a dangerous one. Unless the “bug” it’s referring to is a camel spider and the bear is a grizzly bear, any mention of this word is more likely to make me giggle than run away in fear.

7) Slangwhanger (n.): a loud abusive speaker or obnoxious writer

Ex. Some slangwhanger called me out on the Internet today for typing my articles in all caps. It’s like, I’M SORRY I HAVE A LOT OF ENTHUSIASM FOR WORDS, OK?

Do I need to explain why this word sounds silly? Really? Fine. It sounds like wanker. There, I said it. I see this word and all I can picture is a bunch of British guys in a locker room taunting each other with crude jokes that sound a little like “lang-wanger” or “sane wanker.”

8) Smellfungus (n.): a perpetual pessimist

Ex. Every time Jim looks at a glass, he just sees it as half-empty. What a smellfungus.

How are perpetual pessimists supposed to look on the bright side if they’re constantly being ridiculed with this title?

9) Hoosegow (n.): jail or prison

Ex. My dad was a speechwriter for the White House, but he went to hoosegow a few years ago for making up words like “hoosegow” and slipping them into the State of the Union addresses.

There are plenty of people in this country who still don’t find jail scary enough to avoid committing crimes. Hoosegow isn’t helping. Hoosegow sounds like the noise a goose makes when someone threatens to send them to prison.

10) Slubberdegullion (n.): a dirty rascal; a fiend

Ex. I was pick-pocketed on the train by some slubberdegullion and I didn’t even notice.

Reasons I can’t take this word seriously: it sounds kind of like “slobber-de-gullet” (which is gross) and I’m also not entirely confident that I wouldn’t mispronounce it and embarrass myself if I tried to use it in real life.

What serious words can you not take seriously?

Featured image via YouTube.com.