Paul Little at large
Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: Don't tell Trump, but there are much better words than stupid

Donald Trump knows the importance of words. Photo / AP
Donald Trump knows the importance of words. Photo / AP

Bloviation is not a word you hear a lot, although the overall bloviation level is probably higher than it has ever been.

This is not least because it's a trademark of the candyfloss-topped pumpkin Republican candidate in the US presidential election.

And Donald Trump knows the importance of words. "I know words," he said in December. "I have the best words ... but there is no better word than stupid."

There are so many better words than stupid.

Bloviate is one of them. It means "to talk at length, especially in an inflated or empty way" and in the context of the US presidential election, this is one word whose time has most certainly come.

There are more than one million words in English. For this you can largely thank technology, which keeps coming up with things that need names.

Most adults have a vocabulary of 20,000-35,000 words. Shakespeare had a vocabulary of more than 60,000 words, with which he put together the greatest writing in the language.

But they weren't enough for him. He also created about 1700 new words - an achievement often cited as evidence of his genius, although you could argue it is evidence he couldn't be bothered remembering the word for something so made one up.

Many words languish unused in the dimmest recesses of the language. And many are worthy of reviving. Cometh the hour, cometh the word.

Take chthonic, for instance. It's an adjective referring to the subterranean underworld and has come to be applied to things mysteriously buried or hidden, as in "Paula Bennett's sense of compassion and fairness is chthonic" or "any nutrition in this fast food burger is chthonic".

"Yonic" is a word you don't hear a lot of either. It is the female equivalent of phallic. And, as with the male version, once you know the word you start seeing yonic symbols everywhere you look.

In a climate where we are not supposed to use words to label or hurt people, many useful if arcane words can be employed as euphemisms. To describe someone as having oenophiliac (wine-loving) tendencies is much more dignified than calling them an irredeemable pisshead.

A fancy word can also be used to boost someone's self-esteem - perhaps a word like lucubration, which means long or intense studying. In 1704, one Thomas Brown used the word anythingarian for people with no particular set of beliefs.

Today, for instance, we might say: "Andrew Little and the rest of the Labour Party are notorious anythingarians."

Slightly less obscure but no less useful is "avuncular", meaning in the manner of a kindly uncle. It's most relevant in the South Island, in cases such as: "Gerry Brownlee was at his most avuncular, but no one in Christchurch was fooled."

Labascate means to begin to fall or slide. There has been much labascating of late, particularly for would-be home-owners who see their chances of buying a house labascating into the distance.

Many have become increasingly acrasial (ill-tempered) and in no mood for such persiflage (frivolous, light-hearted talk) as is represented by this column.

But for those who give a toss about the wonderful tool our language is used judiciously, that's coleworts (old news).

- Herald on Sunday

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