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Cacology

Poor choice of words or incorrect pronunciation; a failure to say something important. 

Origin

Via Late Latin and dated back to the late 18th century, cacology stems from the Greek word kakologia, compounded of cacos and log meaning ‘bad’ and ‘word’, respectively, referring to any case of abusive language.

Why this word?

Cacology is a great word to have in your words’ bag pack; if you had a penny for each and every time your conversation partners misused a word or wronged with its pronunciation- you would have been a rich man!

Cacology doesn’t only refer to language mistakes, but to any lexical use that impedes understanding. The word ‘refuse’ for example, is not only a verb but also a relatively unused noun meaning ‘garbage’; “the dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse” would thus make no sense to anyone who is not aware of the rare meaning. There are many words in the English language that are spelled the same but vary in pronunciation, ones not aware of different pronunciations tend to make some sentences into a mass! “The insurance was invalid for the invalid” is a great example; “the soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert” is definitely my favorite!

How to use cacology?

When a speaker on TV, your mom, husband or friend fail in getting their point across due to a mal choice of words or silly pronunciation you can tell yourself (or them) that “this was a bad case of cacology right there..”

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Written by Victoria Sheinkin

Victoria Sheinkin is a writer, content editor, translator and chief editor for UnusedWords.com. Speaking three and a half languages, she holds two BAs from the Tel Aviv university- Communication and jounalism, English literature and linguistics.

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