24 September 2009

Alternate meanings for common words

Found deep in my files, these are selections from a contest run many years ago (? 2002) by the Washington Post, asking readers to create alternate meanings for common words.

1. coffee, n. the person upon whom one coughs.

2. flabbergasted, adj. appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained

3. abdicate, v. to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. esplanade, v. to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. willy-nilly, adj. impotent.

6. negligent, adj. absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.

7. lymph, v. to walk with a lisp.

8. gargoyle, n. olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. flatulence, n. emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.

10. balderdash, n. a rapidly receding hairline.

11. testicle, n. a humorous question on an exam.

12. rectitude, n. the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon, n. a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. oyster, n. a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism, n. the belief that, after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

I don't understand how "Frisbeetarianism" found its way to the winner's circle. It appears to be a neologism (reminiscent of George Carlin if my memory serves me), rather than a new definition for an already-existing word.


  1. Every word was a neologism at some point...

  2. You've just given me the biggest laugh of the day - thanks a lot!

  3. I just figured out where Frisbeetarian comes from -- it's probably a mishearing of Presbyterian. Maybe?

  4. @Graham - perhaps, but that wouldn't fit in with the directions for the contest. WaPo had a separate contest for changing a letter or two to create a new word; perhaps the word came from there.

  5. Reminds me of a game that a Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) radio show was doing a few years ago where people suggested phenomena that had no word to describe them and then people called in with ideas for that feeling/event/predicament. My favorite was “moon glow” for the feeling of sitting down on a seat that had already been warmed by the previous occupant!

  6. I believe it was Harpers that ran a similar feature for what they called "word orphans" (concepts without words).


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