A to Z of Weird Words

What does 'panjandrum' mean? How about 'tregetry' or 'quidnunc'?  To celebrate the Wheeler Centre's Adopt a Word drive, we challenged celebrity cryptic crossword compiler David Astle to take some endangered words out for an overdue spin. He incorporated 25 weird words into one very strange poem.


A is for Acnestis, that itchy bit of your back
Built to block every scratching gesture;
B is for Begrutten, alias tear-stained,
Like an emo moper’s Manchester;
C stands for Contumacy, the stubbornness
Lasting from here till kingdom come;
D is for Dactylonomy, or maths by reliance
On the counter’s fingers and thumb;

E is for Eyesome, a ten-dollar synonym
Of drop-dead gorgeous, or exquisite;
F gives Fugacious, meaning fleeting,
In contrast to an irksome lodger’s visit;
G stands for Griseous, the steely grey
Implicit in a Kimberley pearl’s lustre;
Next is H for Hoyden, a robust girl
Whose calling is brawling with knuckleduster;

Meantime, should you sidestep doctors
You suffer a case of Iatromisia;
Versus J for Jejunator, an epicure
Eschewer of foods fatty and greasier;
K is for Kalon, the kind of beauty
Transcending Hollywood’s superficial;
Alongside L for Lucubration,
Or overnight swotting by lights artificial;


M is for Merrythought, the wishbone
Present in duck, chook or pheasant;
N stands for Natant, afloat like a boat
Or strongly swimming as Thorpedo;
Moving onto Olid, describing pongs,
Or any airstream most unpleasant;
P is for Panjandrum, a stuffed-shirt
Pooh-bah prowling in two-bit tuxedo;

Q stands for Quidnunc, a gossipmonger
Deriving from ‘what now’ in Latin;
R offers Ramify, to break into branches
Like porcelain’s craquelure pattern;
S is for Scaramouche, a dastardly braggart
In the venal vein of Ebenezer Scrooge,
Perhaps a person prone to Tregetry,
Otherwise outbreaks of sly subterfuge;


U stands for Ululate, to howl or yowl
Like a lonesome Dakota coyote;
Or moan or groan like a stoner
Pwned by potent cones of peyote;
V delivers Velleity, a timid desire
So slim it will seldom transpire;
Meanwhile W is a wanton lacuna
In the Wheeler Centre’s list,
Obliging me to nominate Wheeple:
A weak bid to whistle, wisest to desist;

X is for Xesturgy, the act of polishing
As briskly shown by a shoeshine’s brush;
While Y yields Yare, the sort of eager
No bully can beleaguer or ego-crush;
Ushering us on to Z for Zetetic,
From Greek to seek – an inquisition;
Question being, which word will you pick
In this alphabetical exhibition?


Portrait of David Astle

David Astle is a full-time word nerd. You may know his loud shirts from SBS’s Letters and Numbers. Or his black-and-white boxes in Friday’s Age. He’s also the author of Wordburger (How to be a champion puzzler in 20 quick bites), plus Riddledom, Puzzled and Cluetopia. His favourite word is ‘acrobat’.


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