In his 1859 Dictionary of Modern Slang, John Camden Hotten discussed a recent craze for long, fancy-sounding made-up words. These drew, loosely and creatively, on the prefixes and suffixes of educated big words to get their point across. “Nothing pleases an ignorant person,” he writes, “more than a high-sounding term ‘full of fury.’ How melodious and drum-like are those vulgar coruscations … what a ‘pull’ the sharp-nosed lodging-house keeper thinks she has over her victims if she can but hurl such testimonies of a liberal education at them when they are disputing her charges, and threatening to ABSQUATULATE!”
Though an educated person could sneer at the "vulgar" corruption of Latin-inspired word formation rules, few could deny their delicious mouth-feel, the genius rhythm with which they rolled off the tongue. Most of the terms came and went in the way that slang does, but a few were so melodious and apt that they became a part of our permanent vocabulary. Here are 15 of the most ripsniptious faux-educated words of the period.
This word, popular in the 1830s, meant to make off with something. It vaguely calls up abscond, but in a longer and more complicated way. There was also an alternate term absquatualize and the noun abscotchalater, meaning thief.
This familiar term also emerged in the U.S. around 1830 and was probably formed off the earlier rumbustious.
Bloviate, a combination of blow and orate, goes back to the 1850s. It was widely popularized in the early 1900s by President Warren G. Harding, who was known for his long, windy speeches.
This word for a feeling of uncomfortable confusion started in the 1820s as discombobberate. There was also a noun conbobberation, used to refer to some kind of disturbance.
The –ate suffix was a particular favorite in these words. Explaterate, a bit like explain and a bit like prattle, meant talk on and on in the 1830s.
A much more forceful and enjoyable way to say "totally."
"To drain" or "wear out." An activity could exfluncticate you and leave you worn out or exflunctified—or even worse, teetotaciously exflunctified.
Obliterate is a perfectly fine word of proper standing, but its substitute obflisticate somehow makes the obliteration seem more complete.
Snappy, smart, heart-filling and grand. “Why, don’t you look right ripsniptious today!”
Our modern sense of bodacious as "excellent" didn’t come about until the 1970s, but in the 1830s, bodaciously was used as an exaggerated way to say bodily. If you weren’t careful out there in the wilderness, you could get “bodaciously chewed up by a grizzly bear.”
Louise Pound, founder of the journal American Speech, recorded this glorious creation, meaning “greatly astonished but pleased,” in her notes on the terms used by her students at the University of Nebraska in the early 1900s.
This word for "excited, anxious, impatient" makes you feel all three at the same time.
If something can be perpendicular, why not slantingdicular (also written as slantindicular)? This one, first seen in the 1840s, deserves a comeback.
Old dialect descriptions note this as a Kentucky term for "exit."
H.L. Menken’s The American Language records explicitrize as a word for "censure."
This list was first published in 2015.