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Vocab Builder: Sounds Good to Me

This latest edition of Vocab Builder is nothing more complicated than being all about how I like how the words sound. Fussbudget was one of my mom’s favorites when we kids were growing up—and it still sometimes describes me accurately, although I’m trying to reform.

  • fussbudget, noun: one who worries over little things.

In truth, his customary precautions do make him sound a bit like a paranoid fussbudget, but, he says, “I pay attention, and I’ve never had a problem.”

Washington Post, 1999
  • apocryphal, adjective: describes something that is spread around as true but is highly unlikely to be so.

That’s not counting the apocryphal bit of CIA lore from the 1980s wherein the agency’s spooks tricked the Soviets into installing rogue software on components of a Russian pipeline, causing it to explode.

Popular Mechanics, January 2011
  • pugnacious, adjective: belligerent, quarrelsome.

Palin may say she’s a pugnacious jock primed to take on the big boys, but her beauty-queen figure and glossy hair are her calling cards.

Newsweek, June 21, 2010
  • jury-rig, verb: to set up in a makeshift fashion for temporary use.

Another excellent tool for insect collection is a seine, which you can jury-rig by tying your shirt or handkerchief between two poles.

Field & Stream, July 2010
  • susurrus, noun: a rustling or whispering sound.

They whispered to themselves, a soft, low susurrus that might have been the crashing of distant waves were such an alien noise not unknown in this landlocked place.

John Connolly, The Lovers (2009)

A version of this article originally published on September 21, 2011.


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