It’s not hard to get your worms in a duddle sometimes

Many words sound as though they would fit nicely into a Goons script.

Many words sound as though they would fit nicely into a Goons script. - Credit: PA

Language is amazing. Call prostitution 'the sex industry' and it almost sounds like a legitimate business with a career structure, negotiable pay and lunch breaks.

Or how about 'recreational drugs'? That's a popular phrase these days. It sounds so innocent... as if they have something to do with school playgrounds – which, sadly, is sometimes the case. A man was shot dead in a military-style execution in Dublin, this month, as part of a gang war – it's been reported – over who controls the profits from 'recreational drugs' in that beautiful city.

Or how about 'developing land'? People talk about that as if the grass and trees were somehow incomplete, sad and lonely, just pining to be fulfilled by some nice concrete. Bless!

Words can stop us thinking. That's the problem. They can prevent us seeing straight.

Big words, for example, are deliberately designed to confuse us by cramming so many ideas together that you can't be sure what's really being said. Take 'Christianity'. Or 'patriotism'. And let's not even start on 'liberation'.

They all have good meanings but here's my tip: as a rule of thumb, distrust any word with more than three syllables. It's trying to tie your ears in a knot. (And some words, such as faith and love have the extra syllables written in invisible ink.)

But lest I get too serious... Words can be fun, too. Especially if you pause to think about them. What is 'existential ennui' for example? That one cropped up, you won't be surprised to hear, as part of a review in a weekend colour supplement.

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I was even more disturbed when I recently came across 'blanket cynicism'. I mean, it just seems a sad old world if we can't even trust our bed covers any longer. A person could get a quilt complex. Sorry.

But keyboard confusion has always supplied some of my favourites... the missing and mixed-up letters. The other day, I came across an obituary in which we were told the gent in question 'always had a curious min'.

Now, if that's not a Goon Show reference, it suggests to me a small, fluffy hound dyed purple and trained to sniff out oddities (possibly existential oddities). These days, it would be a very busy little doggy.

And finally... an update.

My loyal reader might recall that just before Christmas I offered you some bizarre non-words (babblesoc, probble, quingel, flingam and subvick) dreamt up by a research team at the University of Alberta (really), along with definitions a few of my more disturbed mates invented for them.

Well, that led to a friend sending me some his daughter had found in old exam papers, which seem to offer a rich source of fun.

These included one or two that make complete sense, and clearly enrich the language – like 'anyhowly' and 'maximumly'. But what do you do when you 'malfolomate'? I'm not sure I want to know.

Then there was 'gumble' as in 'people would gumble with the statistics'. Good effort. We do need a whole new vocabulary for the ways people torture numbers, don't we?

But my favourite was 'diagonize'. There is, after all, a lot to be said for not thinking straight. And I've occasionally been known to diagonize myself while walking home from the pub.

Cheers for now and, as I found myself typing on the end of an email last week... have fub.

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