Last Writes

Richard Lederer gives us a snicker over ‘sniglets’

Zizzebots are “the marks on the bridge of one’s nose visible when one’s glasses are removed.”

Elecelleration is “the mistaken notion that the more you press the elevator button, the faster it will come.”

Carperpetuation is “the act, when vacuuming, of running over a piece of string or piece of lint at least a dozen times, reaching down and picking it up, examining it, then putting it back down to give the vacuum cleaner one more chance.”

A charp is “that one green mutant potato chip found in every bag.”

Choconivorous is “the tendency when eating a chocolate Easter bunny, to bite off the head first.”

And the hozone is “the place where one sock in every laundry load disappears to.”

Welcome to the weirdly incisive world of “Sniglets,” the Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Dictionary created by comedian Rich Hall 30 years ago. Hall defines a sniglet as “any word that doesn’t appear in a dictionary, but should.”

Hall’s wiggy lexicon dazzles us with an inherent shortcoming of all vocabularies: No language has a net wide enough to throw over all of reality. There will always be more things and ideas in the world than there are words. As wondrously vast as the vocabulary of our English language may be, there remain many gaps in the mother tongue that Noah Webster and others haven’t filled in — nouns, verbs and modifiers that describe the hitherto indescribable.

The possibilities seem limitless. Thousands of objects and ideas are banging on the door of our language pleading to be named. Here are three Richard Lederer originals; I’m confident that you can do better than these lame-o efforts:

Brainsicle. the headache you get when you consume ice cream too fast.

Cubismal. describing the collective shape of the ice cubes that coalesce when your ice maker is on the fritz.

Navel reserve. The lint that accumulates in your belly button.

To inspire you to try your hand and mind at fashioning your own sniglets, I share more classic sniglets from Rich Hall’s daffy dictionaries. By the very acts of naming and defining, these creations help us to look at the world through new eyes:

Aquadextrous. possessing the ability to turn the bathtub faucet on and off with your toes.

Blivett. to turn the pillow over and over, looking for the cool spot.

Doork. a person who pushes on a door marked “pull.”

Flannister. the plastic yoke that holds a six pack of beer together.

Laminites. those strange people who show up in the photo section of your brand-new wallet.

Maggit. the annoying subscription card that falls out of the pages of a magazine.

Phonesia. the affliction of dialing a phone number and forgetting whom you were calling just as they answer.

Tile comet. any streamer of toilet paper attached to your heel as you emerge from a public restroom.

Richard Lederer, MAT English and education, PhD linguistics, is the author of more than 40 books on language, history, and humor. His latest book, Amazing Words, a career-capping anthology of bedazzling, beguiling, and bewitching words, is available now at his website —