As a writer I love words. The more obscure the better. The sillier sounding the more fun. I like the ones with multiple syllables that have a melody to them.
When I first hear them I try to work them into my everyday vocabulary. This obsession started at a very young age. I can remember confessing adultery to the priest when I was around seven. I had no idea what it meant but it made adults giggle. (That priest had a good story for his poker game!)
Eventually I learned to understand the meaning fully before using words. (Also the fact that adults giggle didn’t mean I wouldn’t get a wallop from my mom).
The first time I heard gob smacked I was gob smacked! It is a perfect word. People’s ears perked up (a lot like Spock on Star Trek). It means utterly astonished. I started using it but it’s not a frequent flyer word. If you use it too much you are always utterly astonished and it holds no allure.
(Note that swear words were originally invented to add emphasis on a mood or comment. The use of them as every fourth word in a sentence totally dilutes the meaning. Did you hear me movie screenwriters? It’s like too many exclamation points.)
I still use “gob smacked” and I have “boogers” for a less traumatic astonishment. (Boogers is not something that comes from the nose. It’s usually the first “bad word” that a young boy learns that makes his parent giggle. I love young boys. They know how to push the envelope. I never could do proper fart sounds with my armpit.)
This past weekend I learned a new word. Catawampus (alternate spelling katywampus). I knew what it meant by the way it was used in a sentence. That is the sign of a good word. If you have to look it up in a dictionary (or google), the word loses its power to well…gob smack.
Since you don’t have the full conversation, I’ll give you the meaning.
“Off kilter or not centered; crooked”
The conversation was about hanging pictures on the wall and other home decorating techniques. My friend classified their style as catawampus. I’ve been in their house. It’s not catawampus (which has a bit of a negative feel to it). It looks fully orchestrated (another great word) but asymmetrical (dang I’m on a roll).
The true meaning doesn’t describe their house but I don’t care. I learned a new word that again will be very difficult to work into my everyday conversations.
I have some friends who are catawampus. That’s a start.
This post is for Louise and Fred, my catawampus friends. (There is no negative feel here. More asymmetrical.)