12 terms that you didn’t know existed

You know the feeling of not wanting to get out of bed in the morning? There’s a word for that. How about saying a word so many times it loses meaning? Yep, there’s a phrase for that, too.

Imagine you’re driving on the highway.

You’ve rolled down the windows, and a warm breeze is whipping your hair. The radio is blaring, and you’re singing along to one of your favorite songs. When you get to the chorus, though, there’s a line that just doesn’t seem quite right.

“Hold me closer, Tony Danza”? you say to yourself. “Interesting choice of lyrics, Elton John.” (Actually, Bernie Taupin was the lyricist on Elton John’s earlier recordings, but you knew that, right?)

No, “Tiny Dancer” is not an ode to Tony Danza—you’ve just stumbled upon a mondegreen.

Mondegreens are misheard words or phrases, usually in song lyrics or poems.

They are also just one of many everyday occurrences communicators encounter that you probably did not know had names, such as that feeling you get when you can’t come up with a particular word, or the dot in a lowercase “i.”

Consider these:

1. Semantic satiation: The sensation of saying a word so many times that it loses its meaning

2. Griffonage: Messy, illegible handwriting

3. Mondegreens: Misinterpreted song lyrics

4. Grawlix: The typographical symbols that indicate profanity, typically used in comic strips

5. Aphthong: A letter or combination of letters that are used in a word’s spelling, but not its pronunciation, such as the “k” and “gh” in “knight”

6. Lethologica: When a word is on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t call it to mind

7. Tittle: The dot above a lowercase “i” or “j”

8. Pilcrow: The paragraph symbol that looks like a backward “P”

9. Mamihlapinatapai: The look shared by two people who both hope the other will offer to do something that they both want but aren’t willing to do

10. Dysania: The state of having a hard time getting out of bed in the morning

11. Vocable: Song lyrics that don’t have any meaning, such as “na na na” and “la la la

12. Ferrule: The metal part of a pencil or other wooden item to strengthen the object and prevent splitting

Do you know other words that should be added to this list? Which is your favorite? Please let us know in the comments.


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