Grammar

10 Names of Things You Didn’t Know Had Names

Sometimes it’s fun to learn that things you didn’t know had names actually do, even if it’s virtually impossible to work them into a conversation.

In the early 1980s, HBO’s Not Necessarily the News introduced us to the sniglet. The sniglet was said to be words that should be in the dictionary, but weren’t. They would show a depiction of a thing or situation, then define it with a made-up name.

An example of a sniglet from the show is the spratchett. That’s the plastic separator some stores make available at checkout counters so customers can put a clear boundary between their order and that of the next person in line.

On the other hand, there are things that actually do have names that we’ve likely never heard. In fact, some of them are so random and obscure that we almost assume that no self-respecting linguist would lower himself to actually come up with a name for whatever the item is.

Here are 10 things you didn’t know had names.

1. Brannock Device

The Brannock Device, along with the shoehorn, might be some of the non-tech gadgets still in use in department stores. It’s that metal thing you stand on so that a shoe salesman can measure your foot to help you select the proper size. It was designed in 1927, so it has been around for a long time. An official Brannock Device measures heel-to-toe, arch and width of the foot. You can order your own for just $68.

2. Dysania

Ever felt like you just can’t get out of bed in the morning, despite the two, three or four alarm clocks you’ve placed at various points around the room to force yourself to get out of bed — at least long enough to turn them off? You may be suffering from dysania.

3. Glabella

You know the space between your eyebrows (unless you have a unibrow, in which we’re talking about the space where there should be no hair? That’s your glabella.

4. Grawlix

When one of those characters in the funny pages decides to use “colorful” language, they don’t want to actually use profanity in comics that might be seen by young children — depending on the publication, of course. So when they use a line of symbols instead of a curse word, they’re using a grawlix.

5. Lemniscate

It refers to the Infinity symbol, or more broadly, figure-eight-shaped curves.

6. Petrichor

Imagine a nice rain. Now imagine that heavy, green smell you experience after the rain. Yes, that’s the petrichor. Now imagine how that smell would taste. That’s pretty much what a wheat grass shot available at health food and some smoothie stores tastes like; therefore, I do not recommend wheat grass shots. Proceed accordingly.

7. Philtrum

Your philtrum is the vertical groove in the middle of your upper lip, just below your nose. Humans aren’t the only mammals to have this anatomical feature. Even dogs have it: look towards the bottom of their nose and you’ll see the groove at the center below the nostrils.

8. Phloem Bundle

Those string-like things inside the peel of a banana. They serve a function: they help deliver nutrients along the inside of the banana. Chiquita Bananas tells us they’re pronounced “flom.”

9. Tittle

Such a great word, and so difficult to work into everyday conversation, the tittle is a typographical term that describes the dot above an i or a j. It has been suggested that the phrase, “to a T” was shortened from the original version: “to a tittle.”

10. Zarf

The Zarf is the thick cardboard sleeve that is added around paper coffee cups to protect the holder’s hand from the heat of the coffee inside it. Zarf comes from an Arabic word meaning “container” or “envelope”.)

Your Turn:

Have you ever discovered a name for something you didn’t know had a name? If so, what was it?

4 Comments

  1. I’ve heard the word petrichor used before, but the others were new to me.
    I also like the word aglet. It’s the kirk plastic wrap on the end of your shoelace that helps you thread then through the eyelets of your sneakers. My favorite thing about the word is the fact that I learned it from a children’s cartoon.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.