The word is out

By Leslie Robinson

At Wayne State University in Detroit, the Word Warriors wave the banner on behalf of the English language's neglected words. Last year the Warriors released a list of words they hoped to rescue from disuse. As the obliging type, I wanted to assist the restoration effort. So I tested all 15 words to see if they fit snugly with my LGBT subject matter.

They fit. Huzzah.

The Word Warriors' 2011 list has just been released, and I'm feeling the pressure. This batch looks potentially harder for me to use. If I can't blend these words with LGBT content, they have no future with me. I'll be helping consign them to oblivion.

I'll be a word-killer. The National Writers Union will hang me by my thumbs.

Okay then, I'm ready to start. Gingerly. I'll provide the word, the definition, and--God willing--a sentence using the word.


Time out. This word was on last year's list. Why have the Word Warriors repeated it? Either the pressure's getting to them, too, or they're exceptionally fond of the word concupiscence, which means lust. Just what's going on in Detroit, anyway?

To return to the business at hand, Concupiscence. Strong sexual desire. When Bible-thumping, family-values preaching, anti-gay leaders succumb to sins of the flesh, the fallout from their concupiscence provides hours of entertainment.

Draconian. Excessively severe. Over the last couple of years, the murderous anti-gay legislation in Uganda has frequently been described as draconian, proving that word ain't dead yet.

Evanescent. Quickly fading or disappearing. At 15, Pete found his crushes on guys tended to be evanescent, hot and heavy in homeroom but over by lunch.

Hornswoggle. To deceive. After spending her last dime on ex-gay programs, Mary didn't know whether she'd been hornswoggled by her family, the group leaders, or God.

Ossify. To harden like bone. Frieda Frock knew she needed to look her best for the drag queen competition, but if she applied one more layer of foundation she believed she'd ossify on the spot.

Paroxysm. A sudden, uncontrollable outburst. Her grandmother's insistence that Liberace was straight sent Rebecca into paroxysms of laugher.

Penurious. Miserly; cheap to a fault. Looking back on her relationship history, Stacy could explain why she dated both men and women, but she couldn't explain why she always wound up with penurious dates who wouldn't pay for dinner.

Schadenfreude. Pleasure derived from someone else's misfortune. When Bible-thumping, family-values preaching, anti-gay leaders are caught succumbing to sins of the flesh, the gay community can be excused for experiencing Schadenfreude and paroxysms of laughter.

Sibilance. Producing a hissing sound. Tyler, a straight guy, believed he spoke with too much sibilance, so to prevent people from thinking he was gay, he didn't use any word that started with "s" from 2005 to 2010.

Skullduggery. Underhanded or unscrupulous behavior. Ralph planned to go to Thailand for sex-change surgery, but thanks to skullduggery by his travel agent, who pocketed most of the money, Ralph's journey ended in Des Moines.

There. Whew. That's all of them. Each word has an LGBT application. I've consigned no words to extinction, and my thumbs are safe.

But this was a tough bunch, and I plan to chat with the Word Warriors about their choices for next year. I'll suggest some neglected, out-of-fashion words that will be an easier fit for me. Like homophile. And labrys. And Madonna.

If the Word Warriors don't go along with my suggestions, well, you know what that means: We're going to have words.

And if "concupiscence" turns up again on next year's list, I won't have a good word to say about them.

Leslie Robinson is as good as her word. E-mail her at, and read more of her words at

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