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A way with words

March 31, 2015 By Käri Knutson

Photo: Nigel Hayes and Frank Kaminsky

Nigel Hayes (right) and Frank Kaminsky at a press conference. Courtesy UW Athletics.

Thanks to Nigel Hayes, stenographers — and interesting words —are having a moment.

Ever since the starring Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball forward uttered “onomatopoeia,” the world took notice.

As a lover of words and the editor of the Dictionary of American Regional English, Joan Houston Hall quickly took note of Hayes’ way with words.

“I thought it was great — just great,” she says.

Her favorite word so far?

“Catawampus, of course.”

Hayes doesn’t need an assist, but Hall decided to be a good sport and offer some suggestions — just in case he’s ever at a loss for big words.

  • alamagoozlum: maple syrup made by melting down the sugar (southeast New York)
  • puckersnatch: a difficult or muddled situation (especially Northeast)
  • ramstugious: violent and reckless in behavior; outrageous, quarrelsome, passionate (especially Midland region)
  • scrimption: a very small piece or quantity (chiefly South, South Midland)
  • titrivate: to go about ostentatiously; or to fix up, adjust, manipulate (chiefly Maine)
  • upscuddle: a noisy quarrel; a disturbance (chiefly southern Appalachians)
  • wamble-cropped: unhappy, discomfited, irritated (chiefly New England)

Characteristic of Wisconsin:

  • schafskopf (often translated as ‘sheepshead’): a card game
  • krumkake, lutefisk, and lefse (food delicacies introduced by Norwegian immigrants)
  • uff-da: an all-purpose exclamation of surprise, aversion, disgust, pain (also brought to us from Norway)
  • whoopensocker: something extraordinary of its kind (etymology unknown)

Read more about Hayes’ penchant for sesquipedalian lexemes.