Once-a-book word: Turgid/Turbid

Some words are like a 360 tomahawk dunk. It’s fine to occasionally whip one out (boo-yah!). But if you use them too often, your fans will start to think you’re showboating.

This week, I’m running a twofer on once-a-book words. Yes, I know that I risk having this post burst under the weight of its own sesquipedality. And yet these two words are so confusingly similar, I thought it was best to tackle them together. Turgid and turbid. What a difference a consonant makes!

Turgid is an adjective that means ‘swollen’ or ‘distended.’ Turgid makes me think of a rush hour in Houston: thick, muggy air—and the streets overfilled with sluggish cars.

Also, turgid is one of those words that is congenitally genitally-linked. Perhaps turgid is not as bad off as other perfectly good words (like erect, penetrate, moist, ballcock) which automatically cause people to snicker or roll their eyes—no matter what the context. But if you u, se the word ‘turgid,’ know that some readers are definitely going to think of a dude’s wiener. Just deal with it. In fact, it’s kind of fun to play with that sort of implication.

So what does turbid mean? As a physical adjective, turbid is typically used to describe water that is cloudy or opaque. (To help you remember that, think of ‘turb’ in turbid as similar to water that is turbulent, or that has been disturbed.)

To make things really confusing, both ‘turgid’ and ‘turgid’ can be used as a diss on writing style. Turgid can mean pompous or pretentious (as in someone who’s puffed-up on their own self-importance). Turbid can mean confused or muddled (as in murky water).

By the way, ‘sesquipedality’ refers to the practice of using long words. Consider that one a none-a-book word!

Other once-a-book words: Sanguine, Sartorial, and Peripatetic

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