Each week, Monday through Friday, I’ve been trying to learn five new words a day. Here are my five favorite new words from the previous week. All of the below words and definitions come from Seth Godin’s Million-Dollar Words.
deus ex machina: Originally in classical Greek drama, the god that came down to earth to solve a problem that couldn’t be solved by any logical turn of events. It now refers to any chance event that intervenes and prevents a disaster from occurring. Sort of like a miracle, but not as good. Pronounced DAY-ous EX MA-keen-ah.
dissimulate: A little more subtle than outright lying, it means to pretend that something is other than it is. If the attorney general asks, “Did your company dummp this toxic waste?” the lying CEO would say, “No.” The dissimulating CEO would say, “What waste?”
dingbat: Though Archie Bunker used this word as a form of playful insult, the word really means a piece of ornamental border, such as trim of contrasting wallpaper or a decorative piece of type. Calling someone a dingbat is tantamount to calling them a bit of decoration.
dilettante: A person with a superficial interest in art or any branch of knowledge; a dabbler. A dilettante is a person who doesn’t hold a job and spends the days browsing through museums, taking art classes, renting old movies and cooking meals with exotic ingredients. Say djll-eh-TAHNT.
devil’s tattoo: A bit obscure, but peotic, way of describing a nervous hand or foot tapping. Drumming your fingers while waiting for an important phone call is a way of making the devil’s tattoo. Sometimes shortened to just “tattoo.”