Saturday, July 9, 2011


Well, it's time to learn about a few more interesting words and where they came from and why we might want to use them, so here goes!


You probably already know that this word means "surprised" or "astonished," and that it's a goofy-sounding word that's fun to use when you're talking or writing.  But do you know where the word came from?  I'll bet you don't, because nobody really knows exactly where flabbergasted came from.  What we do know is that it is an old word that has been around since at least 1772, which was the first year that it appeared in print.

The second part of the word, gast, is probably from the Middle English word gasten, which means "to terrify."  The word aghast also came from gasten.  And before gasten, there was the Old English word gast, which meant "spirit" or "ghost."  If you see a ghost, you might feel aghast, or you might turn as white as a ghost yourself.

But the first part of flabbergasted is harder to explain.  It might come from flap, which can be something that makes everybody get excited.  Like for example, "When the moose ran through the room, it caused a big flap."  Or another idea is that if you are surprised or aghast, you might shake like you are a big, flabby mound of jelly.

So maybe one of those is the true explanation for where flabbergasted came from.  Or maybe somebody just made it up, and everybody thought it was a funny-sounding word, so they kept using it.


If you boast a lot and sound all pompous when you talk, then you are bloviating.  And you could also say you are blowing a lot of hot air.  Which is how this word got started, with the word blow and then an ending that is supposed to sound like the word came from Latin, which it didn't really.  The word has been around since about 1897, which just goes to show that even way back then people were boasting and bragging and blabbing on in annoying ways.

I think that bloviator is a good word to have in your vocabulary, because everybody runs across one of these people sometimes.  And another word that means the same as bloviator is blowhard, so that's a good word to remember, too.


This word means to do everything all wrong and make a big mess of it.  You can also spell it bollox or bollocks.  People in the UK use this word lots more than Americans do, but it's a good one to know anyway, because you never know when somebody will bollix something up.

The modern word bollix comes from the Middle English bolloks, which are boy parts that girls don't have.  When boy dogs are neutered, the bollocks are what get taken out.  Personally, I think that the reason why the word bollix means to screw things up is because boys do that more often than girls do.  Of course, this is just my own personal, female opinion, but it is based on what I've scientifically observed by watching my brothers.

You can also use bollocks as an exclamation, like if you say, "Bollocks to that!"  Or it can describe something that is useless or bad quality, like "That bollocks leash broke, and my dog got away!


This is another fun-sounding word that I think more people should be using.  A ninnyhammer is a fool or a dull-witted person.  Of course, sometimes people use the shorter word ninny to talk about a silly person, but there's something about ninnyhammer that really drives the point home, so to speak.  And besides, ninnyhammer has been around since 1350, so it is a fine old word with a good, long pedigree.


A schnozzle is a really big nose, like for example, Jimmy Durante's nose.  Mr. Durante used this word all the time to talk about his nose, even though he was Italian and the word came from Yiddish.  And what the word was in Yiddish was shnoitsl, which means "snout."  Snoitsl came from the German Schnauze, which also means "snout."  And guess what!  The Schnauzer dog breed got its name from the word Schnauze.  Which seems kind of silly to me because this means the Germans named them "snout dogs," even though lots of dogs have snouts, and some, like for example, Afghan Hounds, have snouts that are lots longer than the snouts of Schnauzers.

But anyway, that's the end of today's vocabulary and linguistics lesson!  I hope everybody finds at least one word here that they can use in their conversation this week!


  1. I liked schnozzel it is so fun to say and it sounds like a sneeze. Schnozzle!


  2. Schnozzle is a great word, and I also like ninnyhammer a lot. I think I am going to start calling all my brothers "ninnyhammers" because that's what they are!