Wondrous Words Wednesday: Roxanne Henke

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) and interesting (to us, again) words we encountered in our readings. See this week round-up at BermudaOnion’s blog!

My words for this week come from Learning to Fly by Roxanne Henke (my review). Interestingly enough, most of the definitions are tagged as “N. Amer. informal”, that does say a lot about this book 🙂 I’m sure you’ll know most of these, but they are new to me.


I’d put up with Lily’s ornery mood all morning.

ornery: adj. N. Amer. informal bad-tempered.

While the idea was clear from the rest of the scene, I’d have guessed something like “stubborn”.

Credits: mdanys on Flickr


It was impossible to miss the appraising glances of two teenaged boys who were trying on jeans in the shared, men-and-women’s dressing area. I’d never before been struck by the fact that only a thin panel of laminate and a flimsy lock separated my almost-thirteen-year-old daughter from these google-eyed young men.

Google-eyed: adj. see my comments below

According to one Urban Dictionary contributor, “In the days prior to a certain search-engine’s rise to fame, thereby distorting the original meaning, the term “google-eyed” referred to a certain odd and slightly humorous appearance or expression in someone’s eyes.[…] In newer post-google.com use, it probably refers to someone who has spent far too many hours “googling” or web-searching for something and reading too many webpages.” I think both meanings are implied here, with teenage boys spending too much time on the internet suddenly making this face: when they see the girl. Also, I think the original, pre-google.com phrase was either “goggle eyed” or “goo-goo eyed“. The addition of the “too-much-Google” idea was a nice touch in this context.

Credits: tom.arthur on Flickr


I had no idea if discombobulate was even a word, but it summed up perfectly the disorder and confusion that peppered each day.

Discombobulate: v. humorous, chiefly N. Amer. disconcert or confuse.

I thought this was made up, especially with that comment!

Credits: catnomu on Flickr


The whole nature of junior-high life appeared to be distancing yourself from your parents and glomming onto friends.

Glom: v. N. Amer. informal 1 steal (something) 2 (glom on to) become stuck or attached to.


Trying to tell her she was tailgating, speeding in a school zone, or switching lanes without using her turn signal was only an invitation to the silent treatment.

Tailgate: v. informal drive too closely behind (another vehicle).

Not knowing this one, I thought it meant “to cut across, to cut off”. I don’t think there is a verb in Italian for this one.


Seth and Susan could be such fuddy-duds.

fuddy-dud: n.One who has a closed mind and is confined to tradition and
doesn’t see the need to be constructively creative. Laziness. Often demanding groveling.
*This definition comes from Urban Dictionary

Apparently a more common form is “fuddy-duddy”, defined on my dictionary as “informal a person who is very old-fashioned and pompous”.

Credits: tomblessley on Flickr


She’d have a conniption if I stuck my head downstairs and asked how things were going.

Conniption: n. N. Amer. informal a fit of rage or hysterics.


If I’d had my druthers, we’d have called this whole thing off.

Druthers: n. N. Amer. informal one’s preference or choice in a matter.


(All definitions are taken from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 via WordReference.com unless otherwise stated.)


7 comments on “Wondrous Words Wednesday: Roxanne Henke

  1. Those are all definitely American terms and I guess some of them are a little regional. In the South, we say fuddy-duddy instead of fuddy-dud. We also usually say conniption fit, which seems redundant after seeing the definition of conniption.

  2. @ Annie: thank you, but the pictures are not mine, I found them on Flickr.com

    @ BermudaOnion: and it is true that the novel sounded very American, even to me (i.e. one notoriously deaf to AE/BE differences)

  3. A great list of words there. Although I think they are more universal than you may suspect. I knew (and probably use) all of them except for glom/glomming. Australians would more commonly use fuddy-duddy than fuddy-dud. Indeed it’s rather extraoridnary how weird fuddy-dud sounds! Your illustrations are fabulous BTW

  4. The words are all a part of my language which tells me a lot about the book they came from. I’m guessing it’s set a few decades ago, most likely in the midwest of the US. I know because I’m one of those fuddy-duddys. I’m off to read your review and see if I’m right.

  5. @ Louise: thanks. As I said, I am normally deaf to the differences, and only rely on dictionary entries to know

    @ Margot: Midwest, yes, and it spans two decades, so you’re right on the timeframe too. How did you do it, just from a few words? I’m envious 🙂

    @ Mary Ann: thanks for stopping by!

Ditelo con parole vostre/Let your words be heard

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