There were always the same few words that kept popping up in my college research papers. Words like “exacerbate,” “maelstrom, “quagmire,” “aforementioned,” and the deliciously awesome “melange.” Words like this were thrown in as an attempt to sound smarter than I was. But it would be senior year, when writing for the college newspaper, when I really started to have fun. As the year continued, I gathered a list of strange and unique words that I was determined to squeeze into newspaper articles somehow. By the way, if you’ve never tried to squeeze funky words and inside jokes into printed articles/books, you are letting the best in life pass you by.
My friend here at work just said that, in high school, all the newspaper reporters would use the word “plethora” as much as humanly possible in articles. “I’m pretty sure we were misusing it at times,” said my fellow editor. In fact, best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article where he talks about his time at the Washington Post and his many attempts to get the phrase “perverse and often baffling” in the paper. It took dozens of attempts before it snuck past the copy editor.
For me, writing for my college newspaper was when I really started to just throw crap out there and see if it stuck. I remember one time I used the word “phoenix” as some kind of verb. That was a doozy. Another time, I snuck in the word “fancypants,” which I thought was a nice touch. But my greatest achievement was a piece where I managed to squeeze in not one funky word, but actually four. The first three were “caveat,” “prosaic” and “doomsayer.” But wait! You haven’t heard my crown jewel of weird-words-that-I-got-paid-to-write. It was:
Back up! You heard me right. I used the word “envenomed” in an article that had nothing to do with snakes nor any kind of animal. Beat that! If anyone else has similar amusing stories to tell, I am all ears.