Curious Words

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We use language to tell jokes.  But sometimes the joke is in the language.  Here’s another set of words that makes you wonder.  (See Wonder Words.)

afterlife — Wouldn’t "after death" be exactly the same thing?

airshow — Is this a display of atmosphere?

alimony — Shouldn’t there be an “e” after the “n” in the word?

amends — How come you can’t make just one?

annals — Wouldn’t it be nice to be mentioned in even one?

bashful — Do you get this way from too many wild parties?

behalf — Why can’t you ever extend a welcome on someone’s "bethird"?

big — Why is this word littler than "little," "small" and "tiny"?

building — If it’s completed, shouldn’t it be called a built?

catwalk — Did you ever see a cat walk on one?

customers — Are they now called "guests" to avoid giving them custom service?

demote — Shouldn’t the word be "remote"; to make small again?

denote — Why isn’t this the opposite of "note"?

escalator, elevator — Are these working improperly when going down?

exterminate — Shouldn’t this mean the opposite of "terminate"?

extraordinary — Is this a lot more ordinary than usual?

goods — Can you buy just one?

goods — How come it’s bad when somebody has them on you?

governmental — Is this a bureaucratic state of mind?

haphazard — Does this mean that lack of order is dangerous?

heretofore — Is this the opposite of "therefromhind"?


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holy — Does this describe Santa’s mood when he goes, “Ho, ho?”

homo sapiens — Aren’t most of us heterosapiens?

hummingbird — Is this a parrot that forgot the words to the song?

indisposed — Like two minuses, don’t “in” and “dis” cancel each other, yielding just "posed"?

inexpensive — Since in- and ex- are opposites, shouldn’t it be just plain "pensive"?

inkling — If you have lots, are you a genius?

invalid — Does a physical handicap make a person illegitimate?

kilter — If being out of this is bad, where do you get more?

misrepresent — Is this when you accidentally sent something before again?

mushroom — Is this a place where they practice dog-sledding?

offspring — Is that like a dried up fountain?

pants, trousers, drawers, slacks — How is it you can wear a pair but not one?

pathetic — Is this what you are if you're not apathetic?

premeditated — Could this mean you did it before you thought about it?

preposterous — Doesn’t this really amount to “before” + “after” + “erous”?

skinny — Since fat people are bigger and have more skin, aren’t they more skinny than thin people?

slaughter — Isn’t it macabre that this word is mostly" laughter"?

stalemate — Does this have something to do with the seven year itch?

suitcase — Would this be legal mumbo-jumbo?

ulterior — Have you ever heard this word without the word “motive” after it?

uncooked — How do you uncook something?

wonderful — Is this what you are when you wonder a lot?