Words QUESTION

The wallpaper is beginning to peel in our bedroom, probably because of a leak, now fixed by the new roof we got this summer. It’s always something with a house that’s about a century old. I said to The Wife, “This house is giving me agita.” She thought I had made up the word; I had not.

Agita (n) – a feeling of agitation or anxiety. “Judging by its spelling and meaning, you might think that ‘agita’ is simply a shortened version of ‘agitation,’ but that’s not the case. Both ‘agitation’ and the verb ‘agitate’ derive from Latin ‘agere’ (‘to drive’). ‘Agita,’ which first appeared in American English in the early 1980s, comes from a dialectical pronunciation of the Italian word ‘acido,’ meaning ‘heartburn’ or ‘acid,’ from Latin ‘acidus.’ (‘Agita’ is also occasionally used in English with the meaning ‘heartburn.’) For a while the word’s usage was limited to New York City and surrounding regions, but the word became more widespread in the mid-90s.”

So the Wife says, “Where did you learn that word?” I reply, “How the heck do I know?!”

But it got me to thinking that there ARE a few words that I can specifically remember learning, and not just as a child, that I have regularly incorporated into my vocabulary.

Ersatz (adj)- being a usually artificial and inferior substitute or imitation. I learned this from a book about recordings by the Beatles, both as a group and as solo artists, that I read in the late 1970s. The writer referred to Ringo’s Goodnight Vienna LP as an “ersatz Beatles album.” All four Fabs appear, albeit not together, on the album.

Penultimate (adj) -next to the last. I was reading a black and white comic called Elfquest in the early 1980s, and in issue 19, co-creator Richard Pini noted that it was the penultimate issue. I’ve used the word a lot ever since.

Are there any words you picked up from reading as an adult that you didn’t know before but have integrated into your vocabulary?

In honor, two versions of the song Words by the Monkees.
TV show version
singles version

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