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The other day, I heard an American colleague of mine use the word “kattywompus” in a sentence without even missing a beat. I have to admit, I was impressed. Usually I get wound up when people throw around needlessly complicated words in casual conversation because it seems to give off an air of smugness, even if the speaker doesn’t intend it to. But in this case, the lady totally pulled it off and I spent the next few minutes wondering if this is a normal word in the US or if she just has an amazing vocabulary.

Anyway, this whole incident reminded me of a time many years ago when my lecturer told me that everyone should try to throw a “twenty dollar word” into their writing now and then. I’m still a little torn on it. If you get it wrong, it could come across as pretentious but if you get it as right as my colleague, it could add real spice to your prose. I’m still not sure I want to risk it but if I knew for sure I could pull it off, I think I would like to throw “Koumpounophobia” into my work. That is, the fear of buttons.

What is your “twenty dollar word”?

My secondary school chemistry teacher was scared of buttons. You can guess how the bad kids stopped him from coming over to their desks. -Image by lisaclarke

My secondary school chemistry teacher was scared of buttons. You can guess how the bad kids stopped him from coming over to their desks.
-Image by lisaclarke

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