Words for That Certain Person

A collection of specific behaviors and those who embody them
30 Jan 2020

man-winking-in-mirror

Definition - one given to bombast

Bombast is defined as “pretentious inflated speech or writing,” and we all know at least one person (and some of us know many) who is given to engaging in this. The word may be traced to the Latin bombax, meaning “cotton”; the initial meaning of bombast in English was “cotton or any soft fibrous material used as padding or stuffing.” The “cotton stuffing” sense has largely fallen by the wayside, but we have retained the “inflated speech” meaning.

You started with Hood, the Bombaster,
That man of self-reputation,
Determin’d at once to pull down,
Charles Fox the support of the nation.
— James Hartley, History of the Westminster election, 1784

rabbit-with-shadow-of-lion

Definition - one given to deluding or to having delusions

It seems fair to say that most of us know the word illusionist (“a sleight-of-hand performer or a magician”) while very few of us are familiar with delusionist, which seems a bit odd, considering that we are all of us far more likely to know someone who deludes themselves than we are to know someone who can pull a rabbit from a hat. Well, no one ever said the English language was fair (or if they did that person was lying to you).

The highest point to which any man will ever arrive, will be where he can say, “Christ liveth in me;” but never, no never, except as at least a monstrous delusionist, I am Christ or I am God!!!
The Perfectionist (New Haven, CT), 31 Aug. 1835

man-telling-jokes

Definition - one that is given to playing jokes or setting up humorous situations

When fun came into the English language, at the end of the 17th century, the meaning of the word was a bit different than it is today; fun referred to a hoax or a trick played on someone. The word was first used as a verb, then as a noun; the adjectival use of fun that is so common today did not occur until the early 19th century, which is about when funmaker entered the language.

”Best nurse ever I had!” said the doctor, briefly. “If I’ve got to choose between a painful Sister of Mercy and a fun-maker, give me the fun-maker every time.”
Zion’s Herald (Boston, MA), 25 Mar. 1908

silhouette-of-man-fingers-in-ears

Definition - one given to misology

Everyone has to hate something. The misanthrope hates humankind, the misogamist hates marriage, and the misologist hates argument, reasoning, or enlightenment.

Who hates science, but does not love wisdom the less on that account, is named a misologist. Misology commonly arises from a want of scientific knowledge, and from a certain sort of vanity therewith conjoined.
— John Richardson, Logic, 1819

giraffe-craning-neck

Definition - one given to butting in

Buttinsky is the sort of word that convinces speakers of English that anyone can invent words … all one needs to do is to take one word, add it to another one, and then stick a good suffix on the end. This is not quite how language works. We cannot say who was the first wit to add the common last element of some Slavic surnames to the term butt in, but we can tell you that the word has been in common use since the beginning of the 20th century.

Ward was a despised outsider in the entire proceeding. In the language of the underworld, he was a “buttinski,” and had been allowed to boast his own elleged (sic) connection with the Tracy case merely because the Sheriff and his advisers considered him too ignorant and worthless to be even dignified with a rebuke.
Oregon Journal (Portland, OR), 23 Jul. 1902

woman-dancing-at-desk

Definition - one given to frivolous banter especially about matters usually given serious consideration

Persiflage is “frivolous bantering talk, light raillery," and the verb form is the slightly less euphonious persiflate (“to indulge in persiflage”).

The persifleur is not strictly a humourist, or strictly a wit, though he may have both wit and humour, or one of the two.
The Sphinx (Manchester, Eng.), 14 Aug. 1869

women-discussing-book

Definition - one given to logomachy

There are number of words in English that take the suffix -machy, meaning “warfare, contest between,”: tauromachy (“the art or practice of bullfighting”), monomachy (“a combat between two persons”), and sciamachy (“a fighting with a shadow”). And there are even more words that begin with the combining form of log- (“word, thought, speech, discourse”), including logorrhea (“excessive and often incoherent talkativeness or wordiness”). When you put these elements together you get logomachy, “a dispute over or about words.”

He had, moreover, given himself to physical researches, and was devoted to philosophical discussion. He was, in short, the great logomachist of the age.
— Father Fitz-Eustace, Essays, 1822

woman-crying-at-movie

Definition - one given to weeping

Many of us have found ourselves confounded by the lack of appropriate single word to describe the person who weeps often. There is crier, but this word is too often associated with the town crier (“a town officer who makes public proclamations”). One might use weeper, but in addition to meaning “one who weeps” this word can also refer to a professional mourner, which feels inapt. Blubberer feels a bit pejorative. Lachrymist, which comes from the Latin lacrima, meaning “tear,” is just right.

And in short, in the late Conjuncture, while the Vulgus of Writers and Lachrimists were associated in Intailing the Popular Nusance of Fears and Jealousies upon us, it was be alone who found out the way to remove them, by Predicting from Natural Causes the Happy future state of our Country.
— Arthur Annesley, The Earl of Anglesey's state of the government & kingdom 1694

pretentious-man-on-phone

Definition - one given to making fine-sounding but often hollow and meaningless phrases

Phrasemaker is a word with a dual personality, for in addition to the somewhat cutting definition provided above it may also mean “one who coins impressive phrases.” You may thus use it safely to describe the meaningless-phrase-utterers in your life, and, if questioned, simply claim that you had intended it in the complimentary sense.

But farmers and mechanics, village tradesmen and factory operatives, and the lawyers and physicians and clergymen, who work among them with an industry worthy of their profession, and too much absorbed in the practical realities of life, to spend the few precious hours of their leisure, in attendance upon the carefully modulated recitations of a merely literary critic, who may justly be esteemed by them little else than an ambitious phrasemaker.
New Englander (New Haven, CT), 1 May 1850

man-giving-speech

Definition - one given to platitudes

The platitudinarian is closely related to the phrasemaker, but perhaps more prone to clichés (a platitude is a banal, trite, or stale remark). The state of being full of platitudes is platitudinous (or platitudinal), and the verb meaning “to utter platitudes” is platitudinize.

In private life, a pladitudinarian does no greater harm than boring those who have the misfortune to be doomed to listen to him.
Manchester Times (Manchester, Eng.), 4 Apr. 1848




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