Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wondrous Words Wednesday: 4, 5, 6

Today's words are brought to you by--you guessed it--my trusty 365 New Words-a-Year calendar. Usually I list my words in alphabetical order, but today they're in numerical order.

1. malinger: to pretend or exaggerate sickness or injury, in order to avoid duty or work

Whenever there was work to be done, Sally's tendency to malinger became more pronounced, much to our dismay.

This is an excellent word that describes the action of someone who feigns or exaggerates illness when work needs to be done. The verb "malinger" comes from the French word malingre, which means sickly.  In the 19th century, malinger often referred to a soldier or sailor who pretended to be sick or insane to shirk duty.  This word was later adopted by psychologists as a clinical term to describe the feigning of illness to avoid work, or for personal gain.  Today, malinger is used in just about any context in which sickness or injury is feigned in order to avoid some sort of work.

Waterloo CD, courtesy of Wikipedia
2. waterloo: a final defeat; setback

The Republican candidate feared that his lack of support from labor unions would turn out to be his waterloo.

As I encountered this word, I heard the hit song Waterloo by the Swedish pop band, ABBA, in my head.  I also thought of the Battle of Waterloo, which is the source of this word as meaning final defeat.  The Battle of Waterloo occurred on June 18, 1815, ending Napoleon's military career, as well as 23 years of recurrent conflict between France and the rest of Europe.

3. swivet: a state of extreme agitation

Before the show, the actor was in quite a swivet, but once the play started, he turned his nervous energy into a brilliant performance.

This word appeared in print by the 1890s, in a collection of "Peculiar Words and Usages" of Kentucky published by the American Dialect Society.  Although its origin is not known, the use of the word spread, and by the 1950s "swivet" appeared regularly in magazines such as Time and The New Yorker.  

Hosted by Kathy from BermudaOnion's Weblog, Wondrous Words Wednesday is a wonderful meme for those who enjoy delving into the world of words.  What new words have you discovered recently as a result of your reading, or from your own word-a-day calendar?


  1. Interesting words Suko, all new to me. I had no idea waterloo could be used that way.

  2. Isn't swivet a great word? It sounds so much better than "a state of agitation." Thanks for playing along.

  3. swivet is new to me..and will definitely use it often:)

  4. Swivet is fantastic! I feel like I'm often in a swivet. And I know I was a malingerer in my youth ... I recall a couple of occasions after a big night, calling in sick to work :(
    Thanks for stopping by my blog, Suko. Have a good day!

  5. Any post that includes a reference to ABBA wins me over :-)
    I had never heard of swivet before - I imagine that the extreme agitation and anxiety might cause the the person to sweat...maybe 'don't get your swivet in a sweat' could catch on!

  6. Familiar with the word malinger, it's the word swivet that I really like.

  7. I love how you have included etymology with your words. It really helps the meaning sink in. I liked the background on malinger, and I agree with "Petty"- swivet is a fun word. My tween daughter gets in a swivet if we criticize her hair. Love it!!!

  8. This is such a fun meme. Someday I will get around to joining in :)

  9. Three great words there. Malingering is in reasonably common use in Australia- well I use it. Waterloo is of course famous because of the song. I came across swivet a few months ago in A Wrinkle in Time, and featured it in a WWW in September. I'd forgotten about it though, so thanks for reminding me.

  10. It's good to learn a new word. Swivet is a new one to me. Nice selection of words!

  11. "malinger" - yes when I worked in HR we found a few employees guilt of "malingering"! LOL

  12. From now on, I know I'll be thinking of ABBA rather than Napoleon whenever I see "waterloo" ; ) Swivet is new to me, but so perfect. Thanks!


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