Useful words you may not know

January 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

From Writedit, an extremely useful blog that mostly discusses grant funding news, comes this list of helpful words to use in (1) writing and (2) responding to negative reviews of a manuscript or grant.  Or in Scrabble games.  (Yes, they’re real.)

Battology n. The continual reiteration of the same words or phrases in speech or writing. A battologer is one who battologizes.

Dyslogy n. Dispraise; uncomplimentary remarks. The opposite of “eulogy.”

Ergasiophobia n. Fear of, or aversion to, work; diffidence about tackling the job. [something you write to the editor when explaining your medical reason for not accepting a manuscript to review]

Fustian n. or a. Ridiculously pompous, bombastic, or inflated language. The essence of fustian is not the use of big or exotic words but the adoption of a declamatory style that is unsuited, by virtue of its high-flown and flowery imagery, or its grandiose delivery, to the purposes for which it is being employed.

Hebetate v. To grow dull or stupid. The verb can also be transitive, meaning to make someone else grow dull or stupid — a sense of which it is hard to conceive an example except perhaps for the action upon the mind of prolonged exposure to radio talk shows or poorly conceived manuscripts. The noun is hebetude.

Ignotum Per Ignotius n. An explanation which is even more obscure than the thing it purports to explain. Literally, “the unknown by the more unknown.” Can be unintended or intended.

Jargogle v. To befuddle or mess up.

Kalopsia n. A state in which things [data] appear more beautiful than they really are.

Murcid a. Slothful, shirking work or duty.

Nugacity n. Triviality, futility.

Otiant a. Idle or resting.

Pleionosis n. The exaggeration of one’s own importance.

Quisguous a. Perplexing, puzzling.

Renitency n. Reluctance or resistance.

Thrasonical a. Bragging and boasting.

Unthirlable a. Impenetrable.

Vecordious a. Crazy, senseless, lunatic.

Zoilism n. Carping, destructive criticism.

If you’re up for a little schadenfreude, Writedit also has a selection of choice phrases from actual reviews, collected by the journal Environmental Microbiology.  For example:

The biggest problem with this manuscript, which has nearly sucked the will to live out of me, is the terrible writing style.


The Introduction and the Discussion sections are contradictory. I even believe that the Discussion may actually belong to another manuscript.


The finding is not novel and the solution induces despair.

As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to get upset when reviewers focus only on nit-picking criticisms and not on whether the paper is actually describing a real discovery.  So, please don’t consider this as encouragement to be mean to the authors of a paper you’re reviewing (unless they really, really deserve it… ).  But next time you get a bad review, you may want to read this list and consider how much worse it could have been.

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