Words are a very, very strange thing and English may be one of the stranger languages humans have employed. English has developed for two thousand years since the times that England was known as Albion, an outskirt province of the Roman Empire. In this list, we're going to explore some of the more oddball words our language has produced and their equally odd origins.
Logorrhea – Pronounced log-uh-RI-uh, logorrhea is pronounced disturbingly like another English word, diarrhea. Unlike diarrhea, which describes the excessive flow of one's bowels, logorrhea describes something altogether more pleasant on the sense – an excessive flow of words. “Rhea” apparently is the root descriptor of any kind of “excessive flow.”
Like diarrhea, logorrhea is defined as an unpleasant physical condition, apparently treatable with some medications. It is defined with excessive wordiness, incoherence and incoherent talkativeness. The description of the condition makes one think that, if he hadn't found a way to utilize for material gain, the popular rapper Eminem may have a pretty critical case of logorrhea that causes him to ramble with tremendous and traumatic speed, as seen on his recent song “Rap God.”
Defenestration - Defenestration is a descriptive term for the act of throwing an individual out of the window. It arose from the 30 Years War, a nasty seventeenth century conflict in which Protestants began to take control of the Kingdom of Bohemia, what is now today the Czech Republic. The conflict arose as the Catholic Church sought to stomp out the ascent of Protestant. Things got nasty and a number of Catholic nobles were thrown out of windows in the “Defenestration of Prague.”
The Protestant Reformation is largely seen as a progressive shift by many – Martin Luther stood against a lot of Catholic practices that he saw as counter to common sense, such as vows of celibacy. The Reformation also put Bibles and other printed materials in the hands of more people than ever before, making people more literate and not reliant on other people, like priests, to interpret scripture and other information for them. Protestants were an angry lot, however, and they gave us a number of outbursts of creative violence. Defenestration, burning at the stake, witch trials and eventually the obliteration of Native Americans can all be tied to the Protestant movement.
What makes this word so deliciously bizarre is its structure. Usually when a word starts with “de” or “be,” that acts as a verb that undoes the action of the rest of the word - “deconstruct” undoes what was constructed and “beheading” undoes someone's head. If one is not being thrown out of a window and experiencing defenestration, does that therefore mean that the act of not being thrown out of a window is the act of fenestration?
Agonarch – Many of the most puzzling words in the English language originated from the Middle Ages and period of the Early Renaissance. With the ascent of the Protestant Reformation and later the Enlightenment and the printing press gaining in use all through that period, English took off as a language more so than any time before or sense.
Agonarch is a seventeenth century word meaning “judge of a contest or activity.” It took quite a bit of research to find any use of the word and that was mostly regulated to dictionaries. However, the word could have contemporary usage. Reality shows like American Idol and Survivor often center around celebrity judges, from Demi Lovato to Nicki Minaj, who judge potential musicians over their aspiring talent and work. Imagine a reality show called “The Agonarchs.” It could work.
Syzygy – As the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance provided the wide girth of much of the English vernacular with the rise of the printing press, it also birthed much of the terms we have for astronomical and celestial bodies. Most of the planets in our solar system were named in the period following the discoveries of Galileo Galilei and the various terms we have for observation came out of that period, which was an abrupt and refreshing rebirth in European culture after the thousand years following the fall of the Roman Empire.
Syzygy is defined as an astronomical sight in which the presence of three heavenly bodies are seen all at once together. It is a rare occurrence which nonetheless has been observed. It also is the only word in all of the English language that contains three employments of the letter “y.” Use it sometime with your friends. I promise they will be impressed.
Aa – Aa is a very different strange word than any other that I have listed here. Unlike all the others, it doesn't originate with the Middle Ages or with Europe. It's a word that originates from Hawaii, discovered in mid-century as Americans began to encroach on the island. The word is defined as meaning “basaltic lava forming very rough, jagged masses.” It's certainly a word that could be employed, especially since lava flows in to parking lots and other parts of city life was observed in Hawaii this year. However, it's use may seem a little awkward at first for anyone who is not accustomed to the native Hawaiian dialect.