Wonderful World of Words

“Words! Words! Words!” Eliza Doolittle sings in My Fair Lady. She wants Professor Henry Higgins to ‘show me’ how he feels. And it was Oscar Wilde who said: “I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.”

I think writers are born with an attraction to words. We are always being told to ‘show’ the reader action without telling, yet we must use mere words to do both. So the search is always on for just the right word that expresses what we want to convey.

When I came across an article talking about a few unusual words, I knew I had to share a few with readers. I’m not sure I’ll be using them anytime soon in a mystery, but they are fun to think about.

GNOMIC: Nope, not those little guys with the pointy hats who have become so popular at holiday time recently!

Gnomic is an adjective, from the Greek, and in the early 19th C. was quite popular when desiring the nature of short, rather pithy maxims. It refers to things that may be enigmatic too, or ambiguous. EX: His speech was full of gnomic riddles.

EUPHONY: This one is Greek, too, and was first used in the 17th century as a noun to denote something pleasing to the ear, and refers to an especially harmonious combination of words (something we writers yearn to achieve, I suspect). EX: Some abbreviations came about for ease of speech and a sense of euphony.

CRINKUM-CRANKUM: This noun is from the mid-18th C English. “Crinkum” along means a wrinkle or crease in something’s surface. “Crankle” from the Latin, jeans a bend or twist

Together it means broadly something fanciful, or something full of twists and turns, or is delightfully elaborate. EX: Her historical house’s exterior was full of cranium-crankum.

While it could refer to Victorian architecture, it could also apply equally well to a mystery!

Readers, do you have any obtuse or favorite words euphonic to your ear or otherwise, that you are fond of using?




MIss Demeanors


Marni Graff is the award-winning author of The Nora Tierney English Mysteries and The Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries. Her story “Quiche Alain” appears in the Anthony-winning Malice Domestic Anthology, Murder Most Edible.  Managing Editor of Bridle Path Press, she’s a member of Sisters in Crime, Triangle SinC, Mavens of Mayhem SinC, the NC Writers Network, and the International Crime Writers Association.


  1. How much fun! I love words, too. In fact, I have a little book entitled DICTIONARY OF THE STRANGE, CURIOUS & LOVELY–filled with the most incredible words and their etymology. Must share this!

  2. I think part of why I’ve always enjoyed Charles Dickens so much is because of his playful and imaginative use of words. I like “ugsome,” (which means what it sounds like) and “connubialities,” meaning fights between married couples.

  3. I’m obsessed with wordhippo.com. A while ago, I asked it to give me a synonym for “brawl”. It gave me “argy-bargy”. That made my night 🙂

  4. I love your examples, Marni. I think all writers love words. One of my favorite books, The Glamour of Grammar by Roy Peter Clark is a fascinating look at the origins of a ton of fun words. I was lucky enough to take a class with him in Florida, years ago, and he’s brilliant. He knows so much about words and writing. All his books are great, but I like that one the best, although his How to Write Short is terrific too, with its emphasis on finding the right word. Anyway, great post and hurrah for fun words.

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