Leslie Robinson

The Word Is Out

Filed By Leslie Robinson | March 15, 2011 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: LGBT content, neglected words, Word Warriors

At Wayne State University in Detroit, the Word Warriors wave the banner on behalf of lust.jpgthe English language's neglected words. Last year the Warriors released a list of words they hoped to rescue from disuse. As the obliging type, I wanted to assist the restoration effort. So I tested all 15 words to see if they fit snugly with my LGBT subject matter.

They fit. Huzzah.

The Word Warriors' 2011 list has just been released, and I'm feeling the pressure. This batch looks potentially harder for me to use. If I can't blend these words with LGBT content, they have no future with me. I'll be helping consign them to oblivion.

I'll be a word-killer. The National Writers Union will hang me by my thumbs.

Okay then, I'm ready to start. Gingerly. I'll provide the word, the definition, and - God willing - a sentence using the word.


Time out. This word was on last year's list. Why have the Word Warriors repeated it? Either the pressure's getting to them, too, or they're exceptionally fond of the word concupiscence, which means lust. Just what's going on in Detroit, anyway?

To return to the business at hand, Concupiscence. Strong sexual desire. When Bible-thumping, family-values preaching, anti-gay leaders succumb to sins of the flesh, the fallout from their concupiscence provides hours of entertainment.

Draconian. Excessively severe. Over the last couple of years, the murderous anti-gay legislation in Uganda has frequently been described as draconian, proving that word ain't dead yet.

Evanescent. Quickly fading or disappearing. At 15, Pete found his crushes on guys tended to be evanescent, hot and heavy in homeroom but over by lunch.

Hornswoggle. To deceive. After spending her last dime on ex-gay programs, Mary didn't know whether she'd been hornswoggled by her family, the group leaders, or God.

Ossify. To harden like bone. Frieda Frock knew she needed to look her best for the drag queen competition, but if she applied one more layer of foundation she believed she'd ossify on the spot.

Paroxysm. A sudden, uncontrollable outburst. Her grandmother's insistence that Liberace was straight sent Rebecca into paroxysms of laugher.

Penurious. Miserly; cheap to a fault. Looking back on her relationship history, Stacy could explain why she dated both men and women, but she couldn't explain why she always wound up with penurious dates who wouldn't pay for dinner.

Schadenfreude. Pleasure derived from someone else's misfortune. When Bible-thumping, family-values preaching, anti-gay leaders are caught succumbing to sins of the flesh, the gay community can be excused for experiencing Schadenfreude and paroxysms of laughter.

Sibilance. Producing a hissing sound. Tyler, a straight guy, believed he spoke with too much sibilance, so to prevent people from thinking he was gay, he didn't use a word that started with "s" from 2005 to 2010.

Skullduggery. Underhanded or unscrupulous behavior. Ralph planned to go to Thailand for sex-change surgery, but thanks to skullduggery by his travel agent, who pocketed most of the money, Ralph's journey ended in Des Moines.

There. Whew. That's all of them. Each word has an LGBT application. I've consigned no words to extinction, and my thumbs are safe.

But this was a tough bunch, and I plan to chat with the Word Warriors about their choices for next year. I'll suggest some neglected, out-of-fashion words that will be an easier fit for me. Like homophile. And labrys. And Madonna.

If the Word Warriors don't go along with my suggestions, well, you know what that means: We're going to have words.

And if "concupiscence" turns up again on next year's list, I won't have a good word to say about them.

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Okay, I have used "hornswoggle" and "ossify" recently, but I'm 60. (After typing these words, I find that "hornswoggle" is not recognized by the spell checker.) "Skullduggery" (also not recognized) gets used a lot during the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, and not just by the actors on screen. "Arrrrrr."

"draconian" and "Schadenfreude" don't seem all that neglected. That's all i'll say.

Those were the two I was going to point out as a WTF? moment too, Alex. I use those two all the time. I still like hornswoggle too, but my Firefox dictionary thinks it's spelled wrong and has no suggestions. Apparently it's not in there.

This may be a generational thing (I assume the Word Warriors are students as in undergrads?), but I (I'm 51) recognized and/or have seen in use all of the above except these two: hornswoggle and penurious (the former was not "recognized" by the Firefox dictionary).

Your sentence examples are quite good. Thanks for sharing.

Sibilance is the only one that's not in daily use in my world. I am particularly fond of concupiscence and use it when responding to gay dating sites, along with lubricious. Here's a limerick:

A Scholarly Limerick

Concupiscent carnal desires
Light up my loins with their fires
Lubriciously stoked;
I’d like to get poked!
(My interest in sex never tires.)


and another with Evanescent:

I happily hoist morning wood,
Although it is well understood
This engorgement tumescent
May prove evanescent
Before it has done me much good,
Except to inhibit the flow
Of urine when I have to go,
‘Cause pissing uphill
Is a difficult skill,
As most of you men out there know.


More of my scholarly/erotic/comic work at www.infinitepi.com

I LOVE words!

A bit over a century ago, doctors were trying to find ways to treat "hysteria" - the all encompassing diagnosis for women's ill health and/or discomfort with patriarchy. Based on the greek hypothesis that hysteria was caused by a wandering womb, one popular treatment was manual genital manipulation. Todays terms would call it a hand job, but medical professionals at the time were blissfully unaware of women's sexual pleasure. The goal was to induce "hysterical paroxysm," which we would think of as an orgasm, yet the doctors saw as a successful attempt to shake the womb back into place. Indeed, it often did help relieve symptoms of depression and became a very popular treatment.

I picked up that tidbit of knowledge for a high school report on the history of vibrators (originally developed as a health tool simple enough for the doctors to turn the job over to their nurses). And as a result, I will never forget the word paroxysm.

I've read about this too, that the vibrator was apparently one of the first electric items permitted for household use for that very purpose.

I'd imagine it would suck to be stuck in a world where you were forced to live without sexual pleasure, to the point of depression even. What a way to medicalize someone's sexuality.

I bet you won't, Tobi, and now I'm going to have a different image for the rest of my life when I think of the "paroxysm."

A high school report on the history of vibrators--wow, some high school.

Jim, you have a talent.

Thanks! I also write more serious verse; one of which I'm particularly proud has been set to music. Take a look at "Farewell" on my website.

Thanks again for finding me amusing!
Jim Kelly

All great words. But not all obscure.

Evanescence is a very popular goth-rock band from about 8 years ago. I'm not sure if they've broken up or not but, if they did, it's quite apropos with regards to their name, no?

*feelings of schadenfreude*

gregory brown | March 16, 2011 9:49 AM

These are all fine words, and I've used most of them with fair frequency--except "hornswoggle", which makes me think of Mark Twain or a comic character in a Thirties cowboy movie.

"Concupiscence" is something I first heard from Catholic friends in junior high school. In my experience,Catholics have been the most regular users of that word, with "scandal" coming along, too.