A few strange, but possibly interesting words | News, Sports, Jobs


On the front page of the Variety section of the Star Tribune on February 22, there was a collection of about 40 words submitted by readers as being fun words to say. The words were meant to be real words, but it also included proper nouns that don’t fit into ordinary conversation.

A local food writer, James Norton, had submitted one of the words I’ve always found amusing to say: Oconomowoc. They gave a clue on how to say this five-syllable word: “oh-CON-oh-mo-wok.” Once a person utters this name, they are likely to repeat it as it comes out of the tongue in a kind of soft rambling.

I don’t know how long ago I first knew the name, but it must be around 50 years ago when I took one of my road trips from Minnesota to Illinois and/or in Ohio. I had turned east in Madison, Wisconsin and was heading towards Milwaukee when I encountered the signs for the city, but there is also both a city of Oconomowok and Lake Oconomowok in the same area. The name is derived from the Potawatomi reference to a waterfall, coo-no-mo-wauk.

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Of course, it didn’t take long for my mind to conjure up many other words or “thing” that I could have submitted to the column. None of the following actually appear in the log.

The first word that comes to mind is melodious which means a sweet, mellow sound that is pleasant to listen to. Some people have melodious voices.

A sort of opposite of a melodious phrase might be the tongue twister of childhood: How much wood could a wooden chuck chuck, if a wooden chuck could chuck wood? The answer to that was: it would throw away all the wood a wood chuck could throw if the wood chuck could chuck wood.

Some of you readers will remember it: Chickory chick, cha-la, cha-la. Check-a-la romey in a bananika, bollika, wollika, can’t you see Chickory chick it’s me?

Also, from the Disney movie of Mary Poppins in 1964 came the, “Supercallifragilisticexpealidocious.” The song of the same name was written by brothers Richard and Robert Sherman. A song written in 1949 used a word close to Sherman’s version. Needless to say there was a trial, but the Shermans were able to show that there were many similar versions going back even further, so they were able to retain their authorship.

There was even a variant published in a column in 1931 with a description, “all words in the category of something wonderful” and “although quite long and tiring before you get to its conclusion, … once you get to the end you’ve said in a nutshell what it would normally take four paragraphs to explain.”

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My high school alma mater is Stivers (Tigers). The original building in Dayton, Ohio is still part of the school and was built in 1908-1909, so the school is now over 100 years old and still in operation.

My dad attended (but didn’t graduate) Stivers when he was a freshman. He dropped out of school the following year to help support the family. He became employed by the National Cash Register Company (NCR) and worked there for 50 years. My sister and my brother graduated from Stivers before me.

Stivers was a little unusual in that when I attended they allowed boys and girls clubs which were very much like fraternities and sororities. There were approximately five clubs for each gender, and pledges were announced late in the first year.

Each club had a school counselor, and clubs of about 10 upperclassmen met at members’ homes with the school counselor present. There were initiation fees, but none reached the levels of harassment that eventually led to the demise of these clubs a few years later.

So in due course I was invited to join the Royal Bengals. Every morning before classes started, when we had to be in our assigned rooms, we had to circulate pledges and get signatures from regular members in a little notebook. This was not always an easy task as the building had four floors with over 1000 students in total. Freshmen had classrooms on the fourth level with sophomores and juniors on the third level and seniors on the second level. The lowest level was mostly business level and store rooms with no assigned living room.

As a pledge, when each of us addressed a regular member, we had a greeting that we had to recite. I don’t remember the entire greeting, but it started by saying the name of the regular and continued with, “Even though I’m a sweet candy in bookworm clothes and a member of Madame Slavanka’s Slovak society, I…” This was followed by a long list of names assigned to each of us. I can’t remember all the names, but I remember one was Obediah and another was Balthizer.

Sometimes the regulars would offer us a candy or something to eat and our response would have to be, “I am sufficiently suffocated at the eloquence of my taste.” Of course neither “suffocated” or “eloquence” can be found in any dictionary.

The worst ritual was that on our last night of pledging, we each had to suck a raw egg out of an egg whose ends had been pricked with pins. The requirement allowed us to spit it out, not swallow it!

Until next time: Oh, Fiddlesticks!



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