“I don’t wanta hear all your word descriptions of words words words you made up all winter, man I wanta be enlightened by actions.” – Jack Kerouac, “The Dharma Bums”

Recently I wrote about words that had come into our language by way of some of the many television programs most of us watch. These words are called “nonce words” or “neologisms,” which basically mean the same thing: newly coined words.

A co-worker recently lent me a book called ”Sniglets (snig’ lit): any word that doesn’t appear in the dictionary, but should,” which takes the coined-word thing to a whole new level, if that’s possible.

For example, one of the book’s first suggested sniglets is “aqualibrium,” which defines the perfect stream of water flowing out of a drinking fountain “thus relieving the drinker from (a) having to suck the nozzle, or (b) squirting himself in the eye.”

Another good one is “flopcorn,” which is a lot less sexist and ageist term than “old maids” when describing those unpopped kernels that end up in the bottom of the bag.

Some words in the whimsical little book remind me of other obscure words. For instance, a “brimplet, a frayed shoelace that must be moistened to pass through a shoe eyelet,” could have been avoided if only the lace had an aglet, one of those metal or plastic tips, on its end.


“Jiffylust,” is “The inability to be the first person to carve into a brand-new beautiful jar of peanut butter.” It is also an example of a mondegreen, a word that our brains replace for another word that sounds similar. In this case, the brand of peanut butter is “Jif,” not “Jiffy.”

The book calls that thing that makes the noise in a can of spray paint a “glacket.” While I wasn’t able to track down an already existing term for that object, I can report that the ball in a can of Guinness beer is a “widget” and the thing that rattles around inside my old hollow coot decoy is simply a “pea.” I have to admit I like “glacket” because it’s descriptive of the racket it manages to make.

And then there’s the occasional odd entry in the book that identifies “a useless sniglet,” such as this one: “MUMPHREYS (mum’ freez) n. (a useless sniglet) Those strange extra digits you find on push-button phones.” (For what it’s worth, I’m puzzled as to just exactly what those “extra digits” are. The book is from the mid-1980s, so maybe the * and # keys were still strange to a lot of people.)

Other of the book’s entries are also useless — or at least unnecessary — if not amusing or interesting. Why? Because many of the terms coined by the book’s 166 or so contributors already have names.

“Flannister” is what the book calls that plastic thing that holds a six-pack of beverage cans together, but it’s actually just called a “yoke” (or sometimes a “hi-cone”).

“Grawlix,” the name Beetle Bailey creator Mort Walker coined for the symbols (such as: @#$%&*) that stand in for swearing in comic strips, had been around for over 20 years before Sniglets decided to call them “profanitype,” which is still quite clever.


And the list goes on. According to the book, you should call the thing you might eat your lunch with a “spork,” even though the utensil had been patented and put into use by Kentucky Fried Chicken more than a decade before the book’s 1984 publication.

Also preceding the book by a decade is the linear UPC (Universal Product Code) bar code that we see everywhere today, and which Sniglets elected to christen “scandroids” for some reason.

“Pifflesquit” is what the book calls the wire net surrounding the cork of a champagne bottle, despite the fact that the names “cage,” “muselet” and even “agraffe” have been around for decades. (By the way, if you’re feeling adventurous – and brave – the technique of opening a bottle of champagne with a sword is called “sabrage.”)

Jim Witherell of Lewiston is a writer and lover of words whose work includes “L.L. Bean: The Man and His Company” and “Ed Muskie: Made in Maine.” He can be reached at Jlwitherell19@gmail.com.

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