Some words you're proud to know.
"Neurofibromatosis," for instance, the medical term associated with what people think of as The Elephant Man's disease. It feels like an accomplishment just to pronounce the word, and I admit, after learning it while writing an article on facial disfigurement last year, I let it roll off my tongue a few times more than I needed to, just to savor the mastery of saying it.
And other words are something of an embarrassment.
"Bollard," for instance—those squat posts used to keep vehicles out of certain areas. I'm quite ashamed, actually. Maybe I just assume that nobody knows what "bollard" means, that it's too esoteric a word. Maybe it sounds somewhat naughty, like "bollocks."
I seem to recall a Wall Street Journal article, years ago, about bollards that rise out of the ground being a thing in Los Angeles, both a status symbol and a way to make certain that nobody is going to steal the Ferrari parked in your driveway. I did a bit of digging. They're also known as "retractable" or "telescoping," bollards, and will set you back about $500 if you raise and lower them manually, ten times that for automatic bollards that rise up using a mechanism.
The word, by the way, is not that old—an 1840s nautical term, according to the OED, referring to the posts on ships where ropes are secured. The Oxford guesses that it comes from "bole," a term for tree trunk that dates to the 1300s.
Now the question is, knowing "bollard," how long will it be until you're showing off to friends. "There's the store, just past those bollards." My bet is, if you read this blog, it'll be sooner than later. You can blame me.