Superfluous Lexicon #12

Six measurements you don't need to know, but lord almighty are they useful when you do.

Zack S. Westby Zack S. West

Paul Simon once said, "When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it's a wonder I can think at all." The modern American school system is a mess, and I don't think it's necessarily teaching the right things. But that's why I do this, isn't it? Point is, we learn a lot of useless measurements. Most of us will never be chemists or biologists, advanced mathematics are not applied in the majority of jobs, and you certainly don't need to know what year Columbus got here to have gainful employment in America. But we all talk to each other every day. And we need good words to explain specific things. Here are six words that may help us all understand each other a little better.


Let's start at the top. That's really funny if you already knew what zenith is. Damnit. The zenith is the absolute highest point of something. So, the peak of Mt. Everest would be it's zenith. The ball at the top of the needle on top of the Empire State Building. Your bald spot. It's a great word when hyperbolizing, because the absolute zenith paints a pretty clear picture of how exaggeratedly you feel about something. Now don't forget to go back to the beginning now that you get the joke!

Example Sentence: When I wake up in the morning and lay on my back, my zenith becomes quite noticeable.


If you know this word, I am going to show how impressively psychic I am. Do you watch a lot of Monty Python? Maybe friends who do? Freaking MAGIC, right? That was the coldest read ever. I couldn't even see your face. But, like all magicians, one day I must tell my secrets on my deathbed. The word bereft is most frequently used in reference to Monty Python's exceptionally famous Parrot Sketch. As in "It's not pining, it's passed on. This parrot is no more! It has ceased to be. It's expired and gone to meet its maker.This is a late parrot. It's a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. If you hadn't nailed it to the perch it would be pushing up the daisies. It's rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This is an ex-parrot." If that doesn't define it for you, nothing will.

Example Sentence: And seriously, who doesn't watch a lot of Monty Python? Maybe someone bereft of a sense of humor.


As it is a food related word, piquant may have actually worked for last week's article too. If you swing that way. However, we're here now, so deal with it. It's also sort of a measurement. Piquant describes something that has an intense or particularly enjoyable flavor. It also isn't always taste. It really just means something that breaks through your dulled palate and surprises you with a feeling of intensity that you weren't expecting. That painting at the museum that you stopped sat in front of for half an hour, and then bought a print of it on the way home. In a way, it's the things we all crave most.

Example Sentence: Speaking of Crave, I hope you find my articles piquant. Or at least more pleasurable than a blow to the head.


Before we get to the word, let's deal with pronunciation. You don't say it like Porky the Pig stuttering Fable. FAH-li-bull. Like you are capable of fah-ling. Which is kinda what it means, get it? Fallible means imperfect. Capable of mistakes. Infallible means the other way around. So I have a question for fans of the New Testament, specifically Revelations. Why would God create a Godzilla monster to destroy the sinners, only to, 3 passages later, boil him alive in the sea? That's not effective use of your Godzilla monster. It reads like God is going out of his way to put on a big production, rather than eradicate those who don't worship him in the most efficient way possible. Sounds to me like someone is a drama queen, which in the circles I run in is called a character flaw. BAM. Fallible.

Example Sentence: Get it? It's funny, because the argument I'm using is also fallible. Hilarious.


Once you learn this word, you can't unlearn it. It's so useful I replaced my swiss army knife with a piece of paper with it written on. Are you ready for this? Stochastic means a situation that is unpredictable because it is effected by randomness. The ten dollar term is "non-deterministic." So a die roll would be a stochastic process, because we don't know what the outcome will be, because it is random. A game where you make decisions that are the effected by die rolls would be a partly stochastic process. It's a bit dry, but it applies to so many things. Of course, some people say life is entirely stochastic, and those people are infrequently employed. And usually drinking the rest of the nice bottle you were saving for ugh… nevermind.

Example Sentence: People ask me about my writing process, but honestly, it's pretty stochastic.


Yes, you know this word. We all like Scott Bakula, and it's thrown around a lot in sci-fi and by people trying to sound smart. Also Quantum of Solace, which when you actually know the definition, will actually become a better movie, just by merit of the cool title. Quantum means the smallest possible piece of something. The point where it is no longer divisible. That is an incredible concept, and one that is incredibly useful to use in conversation. If someone actually took a quantum leap, they would barely leave the floor and move an invisible distance. But a quantum of solace? That's all James Bond is asking for. The smallest possible amount of rest. That's all he needs to get his strength back up and destroy you all.

Example Sentence: Now I shall reveal to you my super hero alter ego…

Quentin Quantum: The Indivisible Man.


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