Can you spell these brain teasers?

Sometimes common parlance rarely appears in print—and spelling it correctly becomes a devilish puzzle. Here are some words you might know how to say, but not spell.

Last week on PR Daily, a subheading to a post used the word “brouhaha.” It was the first time this writer had seen the word written out.

The word is one of those coinages that is common in spoken English, but less so in writing. These words can be colloquialisms or jargon and should be used with caution since not all readers will share the linguistic background necessary to grasp their meaning. However, they can spice up dull verbiage and go a long way toward establishing a conversational rhythm.

Here are some words for adventurous writers—and the spellings for each word to earn plaudits instead of titters. (Definitions courtesy of Wordnik.)

Bumfuzzle — confused or perplexed; flustered

Brouhaha — an uproar; a confusing disturbance

Cahoots — a partnership; in league

Cattywampus — in disorder or disarray; askew

Cockamamie — foolish or silly; worthless

Codswallop — utter nonsense

Collywobbles — stomach pain; anxiety or fear

Copacetic — satisfactory or acceptable

Doohickey — an unnamed object or gadget

Flibbertigibbet — a silly or scatterbrained person

Gobbledygook — nonsense; meaningless or confusing language

Higgledy-piggledy — disordered or confused; jumbled

Hornswoggle — to trick or deceive

Hootenanny — an informal gathering or concert featuring folk songs

Kerfuffle — a disturbance or outburst

Malarkey — nonsense; foolish talk

Namby-pamby — spineless, weak, or wishy-washy; sentimental

Ornery — mean or disagreeable; stubborn

Persnickety — overly picky; fussy or finicky; focused on trivial details

Ragamuffin — an untrustworthy and disordered person; a child dressed in dirty, worn clothes

Rigmarole — rambling or confusing language; a succession of confusing instructions or statements

Scalawag — a rascal or scamp; a mischievous person

How many of these words did you know how to spell, PR Daily readers?

Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor and a regular contributor to PR Daily. Read more of her work at

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