We go inside the diary of a word nerd

After a suitcase of documents and my laptop, the possession I would save third in a fire is a battered black book.

It lives at the bottom of an old shoe box in my cupboard. Inside is a gallimaufry of words just the way I like them — long, old and tasty.

They include archaic treasures gathered over the years from Charles Dickens, CS Lewis and other authors, as well as many gleaned from websites like

‘Vellichor’ and other wonderful English words
Forty strange facts about the English language
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Happily, I concede we cannot halt the march of language. I watch with interest as ’emoji’, ‘selfie’ and ‘belfie’ pervade modern English, and would never frown at the use of a smiley face.

But I wouldn’t rescue a page full of hashtags from a slight breeze.

On Thursday, the Oxford University Press declared ‘hashtag’ to be the children’s word of the year, based on thousands of short stories submitted to a BBC competition.

“Children have extended its use from a simple prefix or as a search term for Twitter to an editorial device to add drama or comment,” Oxford University Press spokesman Vineeta Gupta said in a statement.

I’m okay with that. I swear. Honestly. #notevensad

But forgive me if every now and then I dig out my little back word journal, bury my weary head inside and reminisce.

Here are some of my favourites:

absquatulateAbsquatulateTo leave abruptly.
abstemiousAbstemiousPracticing moderation.
agonAgonA conflict, especially between a protagonist and antagonist in a work of literature.
algedonicAlgedonicBoth pleasurable and painful.
cachinnatorCachinnatorA person who laughs too often or too loudly.
congeriesCongeriesA jumbled collection.
consenescenceConsenescenceGrowing old.
contretempsContretempsAn accident
eidetikerEidetikerA person with a photographic memory.
epizeuxisEpizeuxisRepeating a word or phrase for emphasis (‘Nope, nope, nope’).
farragoFarragoA confused mix.
froideurFroideurAntipathy or hostility.
gallimaufreyGallimaufryA confused medley of things.
insoucianceInsoucianceA casual lack of concern.
interregnumInterregnumA pause.
invidiousInvidiousLikely to arouse resentment.
kenosisKenosisTo completely humble oneself (literally, renounce divinity).
lacunaLacunaA gap.
mythomaniacMythomaniacA compulsive liar.
pellucidPellucidEasy to understand.
perambulatePerambulateTo walk leisurely for fun.
persiflagePersiflageLight and slightly contemptuous mockery or banter.
queeg-thingQueeg-thingSignaller of strange behaviour.
tergiversateTergiversateTo change one’s loyalties or beliefs.
truculentTruculentQuick to argue.
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