Last week’s column concerned itself with emerging words from the past 12 months that were chosen as 2022 Words of the Year by various organizations. This week we do a 180 and consider a “hodgepodge” of old, even archaic, and odd words that have come to my attention. Or perhaps it’s more fitting to call this week’s word presentation a “potpourri” (which comes from the French words “pot” and “pourri” and literally means “putrid pot”), though in this case it means “a miscellaneous collection or medley.”

One of my sources for this week’s words is the writing team at “Jeopardy!,” which has given us a few old words including “expergefactor,” which is simply anything that wakes us up, be it our alarm clock or that barking dog that goes by the bedroom window every morning.

Another expergefactor would be the “pot-valiant” (brave when drunk) guy gunning his Harley down the street during the wee hours of the morning. Perhaps the noisy fellow is “vinomadefied” (literally “soaked with wine”), or maybe he’s simply the victim of “prepotation” (drinking excessively).

Making matters worse, when you arise after being wakened from your slumbers, your hair may be full of “elflocks” (hair that looks as if fairies have tangled and knotted it).

Whatever it is that’s roused you out of a sound sleep, you could end up suffering from “uhtceare” (“uht,” or “the time before dawn,” and “ceare,” or “care”) a seldom-seen Old English word meaning “lying awake before dawn and worrying.” What makes the word so rare, according to, is the fact that “there is only one recorded instance of it actually being used.”

I’ve recently stumbled across several uncommon words that remind me of some recent developments in the world of American politics. The first word is “empleomania,” which is defined as “a thirst for public office and the opportunities for personal enrichment it provides,” even to the point of giving away the farm in order to be elected to a particular office. Enough said.


Then there’s “mugwump,” derived from Algonquian word for “leader,” it usually refers to someone who is independent or undecided. Mugwumps were originally a group of Republican political activists who were vehemently opposed to political corruption and supported Democratic New York Gov. Grover Cleveland in his defeat of Maine’s James G. Blaine in the 1884 presidential election.

A couple other words I think describe a few politicians are “makebates” (those who excite contention and quarrels) and “backfriends” (seeming friends who are secretly enemies – or, as they say on social media, “frenemies”).

Sometimes the career of a member of Congress can appear to be “filipendulous” (hanging by a thread), such as that of recently elected New York Rep. George Santos, who has since acknowledged lying about his past — what he called “resume embellishment.” Some have called for him to step down while others say his “peccadillos” (unimportant offenses) aren’t worthy of such an extreme step. (Peccadillo gets its name from the diminutive form of the Spanish word “pecco” or “sin.”)

Whether or not Santos’ political future is in doubt, one TV news host jokingly(?) suggested that Congress pass something called the SANTOS Act  (Stop Another Non-Truthful Office Seeker).

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 [email protected]

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