Skip to content

Wondrous Words Wednesday

February 29, 2012

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading. If you want to play along, grab the button, write a post and come back and add your link to Mr. Linky!

A few months ago, Booking Mama featured Grammar Girl’s 101 Words to Sound Smart by Mignon Fogarty in a Wondrous Words post and was kind enough to share the book with me after she read it.  The book includes 101 words that “smart people” use.  It’s not meant to be a definitive list of words, but only a start.  As I read through the book, I discovered that I know most of the words, but I rarely use them.  That’s something I need to work on.  Here are a few new words I discovered:

1. diaspora – “Diasporan identity holds that the “motherland” is worthy of sustained loyalty.  Yet in almost any diaspora – whether black, yellow, brown, or white – the dispersed are far better off, at least materially, than those “back home.”  For most hyphenated Americans, a trip to the ancestral lands is enough to reinforce the point – assuming, that is, that there are ancestral lands to speak of.  Where, after all, does one locate the home base for the “Asian” diaspora or the “African” diaspora?” –Eric Liu writing for Slate

Diaspora originally described Jews living outside Israel, and later expanded its meaning to describe any body of people scattered outside their homeland


2. omertà – “In accepting money for their clandestine trade [prostitutes] are surely bound by a code of omertà.  The unwritten deal between the client and prostitute is that the sex will remain secret.”  –Roy Greensdale writing for The Guardian

The omertà is the mafia oath of silence that members take during the ceremony in which they are “made.” Today, it can be used to describe any conspiracy of silence.


3. sclerotic – “[Mancur] Olson concluded that, paradoxically, it was success that hurt Britain, while failure helped Germany.  British society grew comfortable, complacent and rigid, and its economic and political arrangements became ever more elaborate and costly, focused on distribution rather than growth. . . The system became sclerotic, and over time, the economic engine of the world turned creaky and sluggish.”  — Fareed Zakaria writing for Time

Sclerotic describes a belief, person, or system that has become hardened, unresponsive, or rigid over time.


Do you think these are smart words?  Have you discovered any new words lately?

28 Comments leave one →
  1. kaye permalink
    February 29, 2012 6:25 am

    Never even heard the word sclerotic before. That’s a good one!

  2. February 29, 2012 6:43 am

    This really makes me feel stupid!

  3. February 29, 2012 7:51 am

    That sounds like a great book –I love the Grammar Girl podcast.

  4. February 29, 2012 8:03 am

    That was my exact same reaction. I pretty much knew the words but don’t use them in my everyday speech.

  5. February 29, 2012 8:39 am

    Diaspora is definitely a “smart” word because it also implies a knowledge of Jewish/Biblical history and a tacit understanding of the issues going on in Israel today. Whether the person using the word actually has that knowledge or not, the person hearing the word (at least if she knows the word, too) will probably think he does. I guess it also depends on the context in which it’s used. But anyway. I like omerta. Very racy.

  6. February 29, 2012 8:50 am

    Omerta is a really interesting word. Surely I’ve read it or heard it in a movie. Thanx!

  7. February 29, 2012 8:51 am

    As I’m reading books regarding Jerusalem, I learnt what was the diaspora. We use often the word Omerta in France when we speak about problems in… Corsica. Here nobody has to say what he knows about a crime…..
    I’m always happy to discover your words and those of the other players ! I relly like this meme !

  8. February 29, 2012 9:13 am

    I like these words, and only knew one of them. They are definitely smart words, that’s for sure!

  9. jlshall permalink
    February 29, 2012 9:19 am

    Well, I knew the other two, but “omertà” is definitely a new one for me (thanks!). And I’m hearing (and seeing) “diaspora” being used a lot lately — maybe we’re all getting smarter!

  10. February 29, 2012 9:31 am

    I think diaspora is becoming more widespread too. I came across it a few years ago, in a newspaper article talking about African Americans from memory. I do use it, but in the broader sense, diaspora does sound much cleverer than ex-pat! Sclerotic is very familiar for me too, as it is the adjectival form of sclerosis. It may be more familiar to many people as atherosclerosis (-otic), or multiple sclerosis. Omerta is entirely new for me. It’s an interesting word, with interesting usages by the sound of it.

  11. February 29, 2012 9:36 am

    I like these words, too. I think I’ve read diaspora more often than the others.

  12. RebeccaV permalink
    February 29, 2012 9:53 am

    Good words – omerta and sclerotic are new to me and pretty interesting. And…I have another book I need to get now. Always a pleasure participating in WWW!

  13. February 29, 2012 11:26 am

    I should have known your first word, diaspora! These are all good words to use (in writing). The book sounds like one I should also read. 🙂

  14. February 29, 2012 11:29 am

    I think I’ve seen all three of these but the only one I knew the meaning of was omertà. Maybe from reading The Godfather.

  15. February 29, 2012 12:21 pm

    I really enjoy this little book too. I’ve posted once from it and intend to use it as my back-up for Wondrous Words’ weeks when I don’t have anything new.

  16. February 29, 2012 12:22 pm

    Um…I thought that sclerotic meant that there was something wrong with your spine :/ I SWEAR I did well on the SAT test! These words were just hard 🙂

  17. February 29, 2012 12:44 pm

    Never heard of these , they are very smart words.

  18. February 29, 2012 12:52 pm

    Sclerotic had a different meaning than I thought (I was thinking more “sickly” and not hardened).

  19. February 29, 2012 1:22 pm

    I think I need that book. I’m really curious.

  20. February 29, 2012 1:41 pm

    I never heard of omerta before — sounds like one that you could use pretty frequently, at least when discussing TV!

  21. February 29, 2012 3:07 pm

    I think those are very smart words…does meow count for a word?

    I hear that a lot!!!

  22. February 29, 2012 7:04 pm

    Well these are sure some interesting words…all new to me!

  23. Staci@LifeintheThumb permalink
    February 29, 2012 7:15 pm

    I need to get a copy of that book!! 😀

  24. February 29, 2012 11:15 pm

    I only know diaspora…guess I’m not sounding so smart. 😉

  25. March 1, 2012 12:25 am

    I know diaspora, but it’s recent knowledge — comes of trying to increase the diversity in my life. I’m now hanging around people who identify themselves as part of a diaspora.

    The others are completely new!

  26. March 1, 2012 12:19 pm

    Wohoo, I knew all but nr 3

  27. March 1, 2012 6:56 pm

    I like omerta. It isn’t too often you see accent marks in English.

  28. March 3, 2012 2:39 pm

    Hi Kathy,
    I, too, am a word person. Love your idea of people sharing new words. I have a “Word Love” page on my blog, too (
    Keep up the great ideas…your blog is great!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: