The Oxford English Dictionary, the toughest of linguistic bouncers, just announced the latest words that editors have let into da club. You may have read that selfie and hashtag are among the crew, but little attention was paid to the more than 1,000 other new terms now appearing for the first time in that historical reference. But don’t despair. We’ve slogged through the list, chucking the nap-inducing cholestatics and varioliforms, to find the gems. Here are 7 little-known terms that you could put to good use in daily life, along with the oldest usage that the OED editors could find.
bezzie (n., adj., 1865): a person’s most respectable clothes.
This word should be appearing in rap songs constantly, and not just to refer to the yellow diamonds in the “bezzies” of rappers’ watches. The British also use bezzie as an adjective to describe their favorite things or people, such as their “bezzie mates” or whiskers on kittens.
blobfish (n., 1974): any of several bottom-dwelling deep-sea fishes which have large heads, gelatinous flesh and a distinctive sagging face.
Why call someone “bottom-dweller” when you can call them a blobfish, which encompasses not only bottom-dwelling but having a big head, yucky flesh and a saggy face? Next time you get in a fight about spirit animals, you’ll be glad to have this one in your pocket.
bonus genius (n., 1606): a benevolent spirit imagined as accompanying a person throughout his or her life and exerting a good influence, and often paired with an opposed malevolent spirit.
In Latin, bonus means good and genius (like genie) refers to a supernatural being. So that little angel on your shoulder is a bonus genius, while the devil is a malus genius.
boss of bosses (n., 1880): a person who has total control over a political party or similar organization; or a person who runs every branch of the Mafia in a particular region.
Using this to refer to your own supervisor will not only please him or her by inflating their sense of importance but also imply that you are a boss (in the sense of cool, superior, awesome). And should your name be Bob, and should anyone ever make fun of that name, you can just tell them it’s an acronym.
conlang (n., 1991): a constructed language, one artificially created as opposed to naturally evolved.
A conlang could be Esperanto, the creation of a Polish physician that some want to see adopted as a universal language, rebuilding the Tower of Babel. A conlang might be Elvish from Lord of the Rings or Dothraki from Game of Thrones. By some counts, there are actually more conlangs than there are natural languages in the world.
cooty (adj., 1917): infested with lice.
If you are anywhere near my age, you may have grown up believing that the opposite sex was afflicted with imaginary yet dangerous “cooties,” and that to avoid infection one must have “cooty shots” administered regularly. That playground usage actually stems from birds. Certain diving and swimming birds were called coots back in the 1300s, and those birds got lots of parasites, and so people started calling other things with parasites “cooty.”
town lady (n., 1642): a prostitute.
This rare and more delicate term for a lady of the night is in the company of such titles as: aunt, bat, bulker, carry-knave, cat, charver, chippy, cocodette, cooler, Cyprian, doxy, fille de joie, guinea-hen, joro, ladybird, marmalade, mermaid, molly, musk cat, night-shade, punketto, quail, scupper, two-penny and yum-yum.
This is an edition of Wedndesday Words, a weekly feature on language. For the previous post, click here.