Words That Seem Fake, But Aren’t
I wouldn’t call myself a gullible person. Sure, I’ve searched the ceiling for the word a few times thanks to some cruel, elementary school pranksters, but I know better now. As an adult (a term I don’t seem qualified to use when I’m still replacing meals with coffee and jamming out to 5SOS), I’d like to think that I’ve developed the ability to recognize “fake” things, but apparently, that’s not the case. A few weeks ago, I ran into a word online that I was convinced had been mistakenly typed by the author, and began immediately devising a sassy comment I could use to correct the error before finally realizing that the word did, in fact, have a credible definition. My colossal disappointment made me wonder if there are other terms out there, just waiting to trick unsuspecting English geeks. Here’s what I found:
Unputdownable (adj.): unable to be set aside
Unputdownable is the kind of word that would come out during a petty argument, when one person chastises the other for reading Fifty Shades of Grey too many times, and the other, in a fit of uncontrollable rage, attempts to defend herself but breaks under the pressure and blurts out “THE BOOK IS UNPUTDOWNABLE” instead of “riveting” or another socially acceptable adjective. Put another way, it’s the kind of word Ross Gellar would use when trying to describe an archaeology thesis, causing the rest of the Friends group to crack jokes and question his PHD. However, the joke would be on them, because unputdownable is a legitimate term according to Merriam-Webster.
Spaghettification (n.): the process by which an objects is compressed horizontally into long, thin shapes
This word means exactly what you may think and, contrary to how it looks, was not invented by a five-year old trying to explain what he’s doing to his Play-Doh. In fact, that could not be further from the truth. Spaghettification is an astrophysics term that describes the stretching and splitting of one’s body in space, particularly, near a black hole. While the term has been around for a few decades, it didn’t really catch on until Stephen Hawking’s mention of it in A Brief History of Time. Who knew the word your child was mumbling while rolling a piece of clay between his hands was actually a key physics term?
Friendlily (adv.): in a friendly manner
If you think about it, almost any word can be made to look fake by simply turning it into an adverb. Sure, it may not roll off the tongue, but it’ll be grammatically correct, meaning you can whip out the dictionary and slam it on your teacher’s desk when she tries to take points off your essay for “word choice.”
Cattywampus (adj): in disarray or disorder
Also known as catawampus or kittywampus, cattywampus actually has nothing to do with a cats-themed campus or a cats-related disease. (For those of you into American folklore, it also has nothing to do with Wampus Cat, the mythical creature that spies on men and haunts forests around Tennessee.) In fact, it bears no relation to cats at all. Cattywampus describes something that is askew, as in “Tyler slept with wet hair and woke up with her bangs all cattywampus.” Did that sentence make sense? I don’t know, but anyone hearing the term for the first time would be more intrigued with your use of the word than how you used it.
Crapulent (adj): of or related to drinking or drunkenness
As great as it would be to say “that concert was crapulent” (which, in my head, could be a fun, oxymoronic mix of “crappy” and “excellent”), the adjective has more to do with what you do at the concert than the concert itself. (Wait, to clarify, I meant drinking, not crowd-surfing. Not dancing with scantily-dressed strangers. Drinking.) The word has been around since Ben Franklin’s time and yet, people are insistent on saying how “smashed” they got over spring break. I just don’t get it.
Widdershins (adj.): in a left-handed or wrong direction; counterclockwise
Though the first definition is a bit obsolete, the second is still used today to describe something that’s going counterclockwise. As in, “my mom saw the state of my room and has been pacing widdershins in the living room all morning.” Not only is it fun to say, but it sounds a few centuries old, so using it will easily make you sound old-fashioned.
What exactly makes a word look fake, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s the way it looks. Maybe it’s the way it sounds. Maybe it’s the way your grammar teacher looks at it when you show her your essay. Whatever it is, I’m sure there are more out there other than the ones I’ve included in this list. So tell me: what are some of your favorite “fake but not really fake” words that you know?
Featured image via Shutterstock.com. Edited on Fotor.com.