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Back in college, I was in an English class minding my own business, when suddenly a dark-haired cutie in the third row busted out the word “parsimonious.” What is it about a nicely chosen polysyllabic word that is so attractive? (This was my reaction.)

But it doesn’t always work in your favor: After breaking up with an old boyfriend, I ran into him with another girl. As we awkwardly talked at the cafe, his date dropped the word “innocuous” into casual conversation, and I was so annoyed that she was both beautiful and smart (you know, your basic nightmare), I still remember it a decade later.

What more interesting words do you use? I like “peripatetic” and “phlegmatic,” while Caroline used “intractable” in a meeting yesterday.

Here are a few offbeat words: Groak means staring silently at someone while they eat, perhaps in the hope that they will give you some food. Abibliophobia is the fear of running out of reading material. Petrichor denotes the pleasant smell after rain. Sonder is the realization that each passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own.

And if you’re in the mood, here’s a fun quiz: How big is your vocabulary? Leave your score below!

 

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