fb-pixel Skip to main content

May I have a word: It’s five letters, and it ought to exist

Terms that would be handy to have in conversation — and in Wordle.

Pickpocketing is "nokay."Shutterstock

Last time, my challenge was Wordle-related: I asked you to coin and define five-letter words that don’t exist.

James Wadsworth, of Cambridge, suggested: “Shouldn’t the name of the game be a five-letter word? How about wordl?”

Larry C. Kerpelman, of Acton, wrote: “Many Wordle solvers try to use as their first word on the daily puzzle a word that contains as many vowels as possible, in order to identify the vowels that the solution word is likely to contain. So my five-letter word is aeiou, pronounced ‘Ay, you!’ — as might be shouted to a crowd of people to try to get the attention of the person in the crowd you wish to connect with.”


Larry, your coinage puts me in mind of the song “Swingin’ the Alphabet,” as it was called in the Three Stooges’ 1938 film “Violent Is the Word for Curly.” If the song ever was in fashion, I regret it has fallen out of it. It has a storied history that dates back at least to the 18th century, and a 19th-century forerunner was sung at Harvard. More recently, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians recorded a version of it, and Gene Vincent, of “Be-Bop-a-Lula” fame, wrote and recorded a song based on it. The Stooges’ lyrics go like this: “B-A-bay, B-E-bee, B-I-bicky-bi, B-O bo, bicky-bi bo, B-U bu, bicky bi bo bu” — and on through the alphabet’s consonants. But I’ve veered off topic, haven’t I?

Barbara Jerzyk, of Eastham, sent me a serious-minded response: “I endured Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s homophobic, racist rhetoric for four months this winter. I love the Florida winter weather, but the Republican agenda is very upsetting. I propose the new word gayno. It’s a contraction of Don’t Say Gay, the name critics have attached to a bill that DeSantis recently signed into law, proclaiming it inappropriate to teach kids that they can be whatever they want to be.”


And Bob Powers, of Arlington, came up with a word to mean “anyone who refuses to hold the door for you”: doron.

Shall we give that word some company? Like boron, meaning a person who not only does stupid things but also is boring; goron, someone who forces unwilling companions to watch gory movies; horon, a person who has complete faith in horoscope predictions; noron, someone who says no to absolutely everything; quoron, someone who forgets to show up at a formal meeting, causing the group to fail to achieve a quorum; roron, a person who makes roaring noises at inappropriate times; toron, someone so clumsy that they keep accidentally tearing their clothes; voron, a voracious omnivore with a hankering for unhealthy foods; woron, someone who always manages to wear the wrong thing; and zoron, a person at a zoo who taps on the glass and throws food meant for humans to the animals.

Meanwhile, Mary Woodall-Jappe, of Ipswich, reported: “My adult son invented a five-letter word that we heard frequently (and loudly) during his defiant, hands-on-hips toddler years: NOKAY!

Of course the little dude wasn’t being a noron; he was just a typical 2-year-old. Although I’m a few decades older than that, I’ve already found myself using nokay. I award bragging rights to Mary (and her son) — well done!


Now let’s move on to our new challenge. Brian and Lourdes Tran, of Málaga, Spain, write: “In Spain, there’s a word for sitting around the dinner table and talking long after you’ve finished your meal: sobremesa. The conversation just goes on and on even after coffee is served. Italian has a word with much the same meaning: dopopranzo. We think English, too, needs a word for that. While we’ve been in the Boston area for the past six months, the subject has come up more than once during discussions about what living in Spain and with the Spaniards is like. We can explain it but cannot use one word for it. Can you help?”

Send your ideas to me at Barbara.Wallraff@globe.com by noon on Friday the 13th and kindly include where you live. Responses may be edited.

Barbara Wallraff is a writer who lives in Cambridge, Mass., and London.