The Ten Best Words I Learned From

I used to be a little sceptical of The people behind the site deliver ten grains of rice to the needy for every language-related question you get right.

It’s always been fun, but I wasn’t sure whether I was really doing any good by playing it. Most of its advertisers, from whom it derives its revenue, used to be charities, so I wondered if it was simply shuffling money around the good causes.

Recently, though, some ‘proper’ advertisers have started placing ads with them, so I started playing again in earnest. The words are much more interesting than they used to be, with a couple of relatively tough words showing up at level twenty. There’s also options to play in other languages, and to learn new languages — potentially very useful for students.

I really recommend that you give it a go. You do some good with your free time, and you learn some excellent words in the process. You might even get some inspiration from them for NaNoWriMo.


Hecatomb is an ancient word for the ritual slaughter of one hundred animals, but it has since expanded to mean any mass killing in the name of a cause — much like its fellow Ancient Greek word for sacrifice, Holocaust. Hecatomb is not so full of connotations as Holocaust is, however, and is therefore more flexible in its use. I suspect this flexibility will only be used to make awesome band names, sadly(?).

Usage: What do you think we should call our band? Frozen Holocaust or Hecatomb Of The Lost Million?


This word, meaning “coin enthusiast”, is related to the more widely-known philately (stamp-collecting) in that it lends the whole hobby an aura of sophistication and even decadence. A numismatist always has a bottle of something that may or may not be merlot on the go, a fine cape and a devastating line in sardonic wit. Also oddly pointy teeth. A coin enthusiast, by contrast, sounds like he or she smells faintly of mould and drinks cold tea out of a stained and broken thermos flask. Such is the power of language.

Usage: Thief is such an ugly word. I much prefer “over-enthusiastic numismatist”.


This word for a type of whip is just beautiful. Contrasting with the elegant onomatopoeia of “whip”, which accelerates down towards the cutting consonant at the end, “quirt” sounds like the ultimate anticlimax. Quite simply, if you get hit by something that goes “whip, whip”, it hurts. If you get hit by something that goes “quirt, quirt”, then you wipe it off and question the decisions you made that led to this point in your life. Actually, that might apply to the whip too.

Usage: My cattle wasn’t moving out of the road so I gave some of them a good hard quirt in the hindquarters. Why are you laughing?


Meaning “hypocrite”. Careful with this word, as some consider the word to be anti-Semitic — Pharisaic Judaism still has followers. It certainly is a little anti-Semitic in origin, but it’s such a beautiful word to say out loud.

Usage: Given the whole communion thing, the idea of the blood libel is a little Pharisaical, is it not?


To have a common ancestor.  It’s often used more loosely, and it’s great to see such a bodily, real metaphor being used widely — it makes the language richer and more full. Blood-with-blood, blood-bound, blood-related. Consanguine. Great word, although I’ve noticed I’ve been going a bit vampiric with a couple of these definitions.

Usage: Difficult to believe that Claudia and Edward Cullen are consanguine, isn’t it?


Putting this word on the list is cheating a little, appropriately enough, as I knew this word before But not only did it round the number of words up to ten, it is a really evocative, crooked little word meaning ‘fraud’. It also seems somehow petty, and mean, as though it’s more to do with swindling peasants out of grain than the big-bucks white-collar fraud we’re used to today.

Usage: Fraud is wrong, but a little light cozenage every now-and-then keeps ’em alert and on their toes


Ah, the French. The only people about whom one can vaguely generalise and escape any confrontation or accusation of wrong-doing. This is a word for a type of herb or shrub, which misleadingly doesn’t actually live forever. It probably refers to the long life of the herb once dried out, which seems a little creepy to me.

Usage: These? No, these aren’t dead flowers. They are immortelle… Say, kid, you wanna live forever?


Gigot is a word for a leg of lamb. The word seems somehow both like a jaunty butcher puppeting the meat in his store to hilarious effect, and like a Biblical giant or demon.

Usage: And then Gigot came to the place of the Canaanites; and verily, he did pull a face like a monster and hop about after the little ones shouting his own name until they squealed with laughter.


Suitable for the public. Ironic, that its cousin esoteric became the more well-known of the two words. It’s a wonderful word, though, very curt and precise-sounding. Because it’s not well-known, you could also use it to talk about dodgy schemes with potentially wide-reaching impacts without anyone noticing.

Usage: This gigot has been here for months, do you think it’s, uh, exoteric? Ah, who cares, just chuck it up on the display.


Abbot. But come on, an abbot who is also clearly a part-time dragon or something.


Chimeric Abbot Figure

The Archimandrite, It Comes

Myths about world hunger. Good luck with NaNoWriMo everyone! Here goes nothing…

Regenerate the cell.

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2 thoughts on “The Ten Best Words I Learned From

  1. Maggie L R says:

    very informative, Thank you. I will check out this site and see if I can get some rice to those starving people.
    .. I wonder how soon I will be able to show off what I know about a gigot or quirt?

    • I wouldn’t hold my breath! I’ve been looking for an opportunity to use some of these words casually for a little while, but so far I only just managed to get numismatist into a tweet. Thanks for the comment.

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