Search results: word nerd

Word Nerd: 5 Fantastic Words to Fluff Up Your Vocabulary in February

3 Feb

anna kendrick pitch perfect beca mitchell by Wifflegif

F-words are one of the most common in the English language. According to Mental Floss, words beginning with an ‘f’ make up approximately 2.5% of any page written in English.

So, since we’re in February, the only month that starts with the alphabet, we figured it’s the right time to curate a fun list. So, here are 5 words that start with an ‘f’.

1. Fanfaronade: Although it sounds like a word out of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory – fanfaronade is a trumped-up way of saying fanfare. It also means arrogant talk. Perhaps a nice way to describe most political speeches today.

2. Flamfoo (also flamfew): An archaic Scottish word for a person (usually a woman), who dresses up gaudily and thinks it fashionable. So that means half the internet these days. We kid!

3. Foister: A foister is a pickpocket or a cheat. This word is archaic. But we see no reason to let it wander in the halls of a dead past. How about we bring it back – like another version of Great Expectations? We’re interested in seeing how you use it.

4. Futz: This is North American slang for wasting time, idling around. In other words, futzing is what we do when we have a deadline approaching.

5. Floccinaucinihilipilification: Like antidisestablishmentarianism and supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, this word is on the list of extremely long words that are rarely used. But for the sake of a challenge – why don’t we all just try?

It means – the action or habit of estimating something as worthless.

So, how did our list of f-words make you feel? Furious, fretful, flabbergasted?
Tell us in the comments.

Word Nerd: 6 foreign words and phrases now popular in English

7 Jan

anna kendrick pitch perfect beca mitchell by Wifflegif

It’s incredible that the more sophisticated your use of English, the more likely you are to speak words that are not … English. Whether you’re going to the bazaar with your fiancé, ordering a pizza with pesto and burrata, or coming to terms with a profound sense of déjà vu you will be sampling from the melting pot of languages that is English.

So, in this edition of Word Nerd, we’re bringing you 6 words and phrases that are now as English as the chicken tikka masala:

1. Acapella: An Italian word that translates to ‘in chapel style.’ It means to sing without instrumental accompaniment. Although it was introduced in the US much earlier, a capella became a cultural phenomenon thanks to productions like Glee and Pitch Perfect.

2. Al dente: Whether or not you cook, chances are you’ve watched a Masterchef or a Bon Appetit episode (like we have) and are familiar with this Italian term. The literal translation is ‘to the tooth.’ It means food which has a bite to it and is popularly used to describe the right texture of pasta.

3. In medias res: A favourite for any English Literature student. This phrase is Latin for ‘in the middle of things.’ It refers to the convention of beginning a narrative in the middle, whether it’s the Iliad, Dalloway or How I Met Your Mother (which should have ended where it began, right?).

4. Katzenjammer: This is the German word for the severe headache that follows a hangover. The literal meaning is cats wailing. It was also the name of a Norwegian band formed in 2005 – but like most hangovers, they didn’t last very long.

5. Je ne sais quoi: This is French for ‘a charming quality that is hard to describe.’ It could be used to describe everything from an aesthetic to an experience. And if you like to sound delightfully vague when you narrate why you returned to Goa for another trip or explain yet another shopping haul – maybe say it’s down to the je ne sais quoi.

6. Nolens volens: This sounds fun and then you read its meaning. It’s Latin for ‘whether you want to or not.’ Applies to most of life as adults know it.

Any words or phrases you’d like to add to this list? Email us or leave a comment below.

Word Nerd: 4 Words inspired by comic book characters

30 Dec

Art Batman GIF by Rafahu

English is a busy language. Every year, English dictionaries can add up to 1000+ words. The words can come from memes, movies and comics! The coinages of comics have a mass appeal and often slip into canon. So, here’s a list of four words that the comics gave us.

1. Milquetoast

The word means a timid or feeble person. It was coined by H.T. Webster in 1924 when he created the character of Caspar Milquetoast to star in his ‘Timid Soul’ comic strip. His name is said to be inspired the bland breakfast of milk and toast. And since the 1930s, it has become a byword for weak and ineffectual people.

2. Zilch

Zilch means zero, nothing. It was used in the Ballyhoo magazine in 1931 to name a character who never appeared – ‘President Henry P. Zilch.’ Even today it is used as a nickname for someone who doesn’t exist (or if you were one of my classmates – to describe exactly how much you knew before the biology test).

3. Shazam

Marvel fan or not – chances are you know exactly what this exclamation means. Shazam is not just the name of Zachary Levi’s character in the movie, but it is also used to introduce an extraordinary action, story or transformation.

The word is originally said to have been used by magicians, maybe before they pulled rabbits out of their top hats.

4. Brainiac

While today, it might serve as a compliment, brainiac (a blend of brain and maniac) originated as the alien adversary of Superman.

Brainiac is first featured in “The Super-Duel in Space” published in 1958.
Since the 1970s, the word has been mostly used to describe experts and intellectuals.

Any cool compilations you would like to see for Word Nerd? Drop us an email or leave a comment.

Word Nerd: 5 Exciting Words You Must Know This December

30 Nov

Word Nerd
Image via GIPHY

Whether you’re thinking of writing Christmas wishes or just keen to learn more about the most festive season of this year – we’ve got you covered with this exciting list. From Christmas monsters to spongey desserts, this list has it all (and none of them is Santa’s famous laugh).

1. Krampus: Well, you know Christmas, but do you know about Krampus?

A Krampus is a half-demon, half-goat character from Alpine folklore. Krampus assists St. Nicholas. On Christmas eve, he visits the misbehaving children with birch rods while St. Nick doles out candy. After becoming a regular feature of American horror films, Krampus now has become a part of American pop culture.

2. Menorah: A large 9-branched candlestick used in Jewish worship during Hanukkah. It has a central socket and 4 branches on either side. This is one of the most widely recognized symbols of the eight-day festival.

3. Myrrh: This fragrant resin was one of the three gifts to the baby Jesus in the manger, along with gold and frankincense. Myrrh is still a sacred fragrance in many religions. It is used as incense, anointing oil, and fumigation.

4. Wassail: Traditionally, this meant spiced wine that was drunk during Christmas celebrations. It also referred to the hot, spiced cider served to poor carolers. As a verb, it means having a rowdy time after a few drinks and also to go singing carols from one house to another. While the word is archaic – we think this Christmas could be a good time to bring it back.

5. Yule: Today we might know Yule as synonymous with Christmas, but it started as a Germanic celebration. A log was thrown into the hearth as sacrifice and its ashes were spread across the house to guard against evil spirits. Today a yule log is a delicious dessert often made of sponge cake and ganache.

Are there any other exciting festive words for this season that you would like to share? Email us or drop a comment below.

Word Nerd: 5 Odd Words that Start with an O

21 Oct

The seasons have changed and we are well on our way towards the end of the year. You might just be amazed at how time has flown by and go, “Oh!”
We share your expression of surprise and love for this cool month. So, for this edition of Word Nerd, we are sharing 5 odd words that start with an O (not including October).

Photo by Monstera from Pexels

  1. Obdurate: A word which originated from Latin – ‘Ob’ means opposition and ‘durus’ means hard (according to Lexico). So obdurate means stubbornly resistant. The way we felt as children when our parents said no to a late bedtime or an extra hour of play in the evening.
  2. Obfuscate: Can you just tell that this has Latin roots as well? Obfuscate means to bewilder someone or deliberately make unclear. It comes from the Latin for ‘darken’ – think of this word as throwing a veil over something in order to hide. Perhaps, like us, you did it when asked about how ready you were for exams?
  3. Obstreperous: The way entire classes can behave towards end of term or when a surrogate teacher steps in – noisy and difficult to control. It’s a polysyllabic word with a simple meaning. Useful if you’re trying for a Spelling Bee or trying to showcase your vocabulary.
  4. Octarchy: You might have heard of oligarchy (which also begins with an ‘o’) and anarchy – octarchy has a similar context. It is a government of eight people (from the ‘Oct’ meaning eight). It can also mean a state of eight regions.
  5. Odoriferous: We bet you can guess the meaning of this one. Odoriferous means giving a smell – especially an unpleasant one. Think fish markets, mouldy bread, stale curries, and old socks. What other examples come to mind? Feel free to share in the comments.

Any other odd words that you would like to add to our list? Email us or leave a comment.

Word Nerd: 5 cool words that you will enjoy using this season

8 Oct

Depending on your latitude and longitude, you’ve probably detected a change in the air. It could be the browning of leaves or the nightly scent of jasmine. It could be that wherever you go – it seems like you’re on the planet of pumpkins. They’re in coffees and soups and purees… On fields and porches and even t-shirts.

The signs can mean only one thing –autumn is here.

So, for this issue of Word Nerd, we are in a Keatsian mood dwelling on this “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” So, we bring you these five autumnal words for you savour!

1. Susurrus: This is a literary favourite that means whisper or rustle. Autumn is a season of susurration – there is the whisper of winds and the rustle of leaves. This dry sibilance fills the air with mystery or romance – depending on how you feel.

2. Hibernaculum: For us humans, it’s the sweet spot between the weighted blanket and the mattress as the nights get colder. For the bear – it’s a cave, and for the mountain pygmy possum and the Columbian ground squirrel – it’s a burrow in the ground. So, a hibernaculum is where creatures seek comfort as the weather grows colder. In other words, it’s where they hibernate.

3. Autumnity: This refers to the period of life when a person has crossed from middle age to the senior years. The word is also used as an adjective. But this second use is outdated. We can just use autumnal instead.

4. Indian Summer: This is a period of warm weather or mild weather in late autumn before the freezing cold. It also means a happy period before the end of something (like the time after exams before the results).

5. Crackling: Well, this could mean the crispy skin of a duck, the crackling of leaves, the crackling weather, or the crackling bonfires. The word resonates endlessly in autumn. It’s just such a crackling season, isn’t it!

Do you have any favourite autumnal words? Email us or drop a comment below!

Word Nerd: 6 words that start with an S

13 Sep

Word Nerd

The letter S is the seventh most frequently used letter in English. And it begins and ends more words than any other. So, in honour of this month that starts with an s – we decide to dedicate this Word Nerd to six superlative words that begin with this alphabet.

1. Sarcast: While we love sarcasm, we’re surprised at seeing this word hardly ever used. It’s for a person who is sarcastic or makes a sarcasm. Cool, right?

2. Scrounge: This word means trying to steal something (typically food or cash) by taking advantage of someone’s generosity. But it can also mean looking for something like tickets to a festival or questions for a panel.

3. Sesquipedalian: Formally used to indicate words that are polysyllabic or long. This also applies to a long-winded style of writing. The word has Latin roots.

Do you know that some people also have a phobia for long words?

4. Suss: Originating from ‘suspect’ or ‘suspicion’, the word suss means to ‘discover the true nature of’ or be shrewd and wise. Suss can function as both a noun “He has no business suss” or as a verb “I sussed the situation and decided against.”

5. Sibilant: This is used to define the frequent repetition of the s or hissing sounds. In poetry or drama, sibilance is frequently used to create a negative, and dangerous atmosphere.

6. Sartorial: Anything related to dress, tailoring and style of clothes is sartorial. It comes from the Latin ‘sartor’ or tailor. An example of this sentence could be, “She avoided stereotypes: sartorial and otherwise.”

Any interesting s-words we missed? Tell us!

Word Nerd: 4 cool figures of speech that you must use

20 Aug

In the ancient Greco-Roman civilization, being a citizen of means meant having a strong grasp of three subjects: logic, grammar, and rhetoric.

Rhetoric meant the art of persuasion. While it was easy to understand why it was an important subject in a time where senators were becoming more important than generals (Julius Caesar), rhetoric remains important today even though it is no longer taught in a majority of schools.

Most of us have come across the phrase: “That’s a rhetorical question.” Nowadays, we associate rhetoric with political speeches or sales jargon – with insincerity in short. But, rhetoric in its true form is language composed with the intention to persuade. In that context, rhetorical devices and figures of speech remain as much of a necessity as ever!

Word NerdUnderstatement – the way the English do it.

Here are four figures of speech/ rhetorical devices that were popular in the times of Caesar, in the times of Shakespeare, and are popular even today!

1. Alliteration: Ever twisted your tongue with “She sells seashells by the seashore”? That’s an example. Alliteration is used to emphasize a part of the speech or text (think marketing copy and mottos), it’s used to infuse rhythm in the sentences, and for comedic effect (think of the repetition of c’s in a sentence).

2. Oxymoron: This device pairs opposites to create drama. Think of phrases like ‘big baby’ or ‘open secret.’ Oxymorons make language interesting (sometimes poetic, at other times funny). They create drama for the reader or listener. They’re literary spectacles!

3. Asyndeton: ‘I came. I saw. I conquered’ is a great example of the device. In this style, the writer or speaker omits conjunctions between words, phrases and clauses in order to create a certain rhythm and focus the meaning. For example, if Caesar had said, ‘I came and I saw; then I conquered’ – history would not have been half as impressed.

4. Understatement: This is an art that is commonly associated with the English. It involves presenting a thing or quality as less important or good than it is. For example: ‘The streets are in floods and all he said was “There was a bit of a sprinkle last night.”’

Understatement can add elegance and charm as well as humour to your language.

Are there any rhetorical devices that you are interested in using or that you like to use? Let us know!



Are you a serious word nerd? Here are 7 signs that give it away

12 Aug

BrainGain Magazine

BrainGain Magazine started this Word Nerd series in March 2016. Since then we’ve written about Americanisms, the secrets to writing a good sentence, to best way to insult someone, accents, and other oddities of this common language we speak.

For this edition, we thought about the series itself, and its name. We thought too about the person it was named after – that’s you, the reader. And we wondered what it is that makes a word nerd a word nerd. We wanted to write about signs which help us identify you who care so deeply about words. You, who would be interested in finding out that the credit for this widespread use of the word ‘nerd’ goes to Dr. Seuss. He wrote about, “a Nertle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too,” in If I Ran the Zoo.

And there are signs. We’ve listed 7 of them here. If you score 7, you’re a certified Word Nerd and should, on all occasions, carry a badge to announce that. If you score between 4-6, you’re nearly a nerd and can take it further if you choose. If you score below 3, well, we’re still happy your’re here.

Here are 7 signs that you’re a nerd about words:

1) You have a favourite dictionary

It’s not just that you look up word meaning, etymologies, pronunciations – you even have a favourite dictionary. (Hat tip to good ol’ Oxford)

2) You have at least one word-game in your phone

Because words are fun; arranging them, playing with them helps you relax. We get it. We have that addiction too.

3) You know the difference between then & than, their & there, effect & affect and so on

Not only do you know the differences, but it surprises or annoys you when others don’t. You might point their errors out or purse your lips – but what matters is you know, you know.

4) Typos make you laugh and laugh. As do grammatical errors.

Not only are you the first to spot them but you actively scour the internet for those funny typo listicles. Move over adult humour, here’s funny grammar.

5) Well-spoken people instantly move into your crush zone

Guilty. It’s Tom Hiddleston for us. Him with his love of Shakespeare, his double first in Classics from Cambridge, and his turn of phrase, has us looking at him like the heart-eye emoji. (Yes, he also played Loki but that’s not entirely why).

6) You love language like cats love boxes

Not just the rules but the fun of it. You can be moved (to laughter or tears) by the way a sentence is written, you probably attempt writing yourself – even if it’s long Instagram posts or birthday cards or just your diary, and you enjoy reading – whether on kindle or paper.

7) You’ve reached the end of this blog

Yep. You’re here. You read an entire article when you could have just watched more of a YouTuber’s skincare routine, or played PUBG, or stalked the social media of that friend of a friend. You’re here. And we’re glad you are.


Hey word nerd, check out more on words here:

Word Nerd: Top 5 writing errors made by undergraduate students

29 Jul

In 2008, Andrea Lunsford and Karen Lunsford conducted a national study on undergraduate writing in the US. The study was called “Mistakes Are A Fact of Life.” It revealed the most common errors made by college students in essays, papers, and other submissions.

Even today these errors are common and continue to attract negative attention from the reviewers or assessors.

So, in this Word Nerd, we bring you the top five writing mistakes made by undergraduate students. Make sure you check your drafts for these before submitting.

1. Using the wrong word: We have seen a number of memes on ‘their’ versus ‘there.’ But this error can occur when using more complex words – ‘illusion’ vs ‘allusion,’ or ‘compose’ instead of ‘comprise’ or even ‘assent’ versus ‘ascent.’

If you have even a smidgeon of doubt, double check your thesaurus and dictionary.

Word Nerd

2. Capitalizing at a whim: College students are far from the only ones prone to making this mistake. Even when it comes to Facebook Ads, newsletters, LinkedIn posts – arbitrary capitalization is a bane of the word nerd’s existence.

Please capitalize only proper nouns and proper adjectives, the first word in a sentence, and important words in titles. If you have access to a style guide, you can refer to it and make sure that you are capitalizing correctly. Otherwise, simply refer to a dictionary.

3. Missing the apostrophe: This is also a common one. The apostrophe makes a noun possessive. For example, ‘Angela’s file’ or ‘the boys’ soccer team.’ Apostrophes are not added after the possessive pronouns – ours, hers, and yours.

Word Nerd

4. Splicing the comma: A comma splice occurs when you use a comma to separate two clauses that could stand alone as sentences. For example: ‘Silas read the novel, his friends saw the movie.’

Depending on the meaning you want to convey, the comma splice can be corrected by splitting the clauses into independent sentences (‘Silas read the novel. His friends saw the movie’) by using a semi colon (‘Silas read the novel; his friends saw the movie’) or by using a connector (‘Silas read the novel but his friends saw the movie.’). Or just restructure the sentence.

5. Misspelling: Wrongly spelt words belong in autocorrect memes (which in turn belong in 2010). However, you’d be surprised at how often words are wrongly spelt and damage your score. Just ask the admissions officers at Johns Hopkins! Over-reliance on the spell checker will not do you any good either. Make sure to change font and read or print and read. Then re-read.

Are there any errors that you would like to add to this list? Let us know!