REALIZE Magazine's 101 Coolest Words - N

Can one be a nihilist and still get good nookie?

Nookie - "sexual activity," 1928, perhaps from Dutch neuken "to fuck.” (

“I did it all for the nookie
The nookie 
Fred Durst, Limp Bizkit

Nihilism - 1817, "the doctrine of negation" (in reference to religion or morals), from Ger. Nihilismus, from L. nihil "nothing at all."   (
1) a complete denial of all established authority and institutions
2) (philosophy) an extreme form of skepticism that systematically rejects all values, belief in existence, the possibility of communication.  (  

Bazarov, the protagonist in the classic work Fathers and Sons written in the early 1860s by Ivan Turgenev, is quoted as saying nihilism is "just cursing.”  

The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Macmillan, 1967) states as follows: "On the one hand, the term is widely used to denote the doctrine that moral norms or standards cannot be justified by rational argument. On the other hand, it is widely used to denote a mood of despair over the emptiness or triviality of human existence. This double meaning appears to derive from the fact that the term was often employed in the nineteenth century by the religiously oriented as a club against atheists, atheists being regarded as ipso facto nihilists in both senses.”

“She’s such a downer, but what do you expect? She’s a raging nihilist.” Anon.

Of course, the most renowned nihilist is Friedrich Nietzsche. In Will to Power he describes nihilism as the radical repudiation of value and meaning. “Regarding life, the wisest men of all ages have judged alike: it is worthless.” Friedrich Nietzsche. Despite that dour pronouncement, we understand that he did indeed get good nookie.

“Nihilism is a natural consequence of a culture (or civilization) ruled and regulated by categories that mask manipulation, mastery and domination of peoples and nature.”  Cornel West, The Cornel West Reader

"True, we had Iron Maiden and cuddly old Ozzy, but neither aspired to the professional nihilism of Marilyn Manson." New York Times (2002)

Nasturtium - Well, this entry is based mostly on its goofy sound and peculiar etymology/history/meaning!  Middle English: nasturcium, a kind of cress, from Latin nasturtium : perhaps nasus, nose; see nas-in Indo-European roots + *tortre, frequentative of torqure, to twist - from its pungent smell. (Nasturtiums are edible and during WWII their ground seeds were used as a substitute for black pepper which, for some reason, was unattainable. 

In the *Language of Flowers, a largely Euro-centric project, nasturtiums have been said to symbolize heroism and patriotism, but that seems to be attributed to the Incas, who thought the scent accorded them vitality and the requisite patriotism to face their enemies. Perhaps they would have been better off not sniffing them, as 7000 of them died in their clash with the Spaniards in 1532.

Pizarro Executes Atahuallpa, the Last Incan Emporer, by John Everett Millais

To the Victorians, on the other hand, the nasturtium somehow connoted a joke, perhaps due to the screwy face people would make when inhaling them. 

*Floriography was popularized first in France about 1810–1850, in Britain and the U.S. during the Victorian age. Publishers from all over the world then produced hundreds of editions of language of flowers books during the 19th century.  Clearly there was a great deal of inventiveness going on behind the petals.

Nadir - late 14c., in astronomical sense, from Latin nadir, from Arabic nazir "opposite to," in nazir as-samt, lit. "opposite of the zenith." Transferred sense of "lowest point (of anything)" is first recorded 1793. ( 

“I suppose the nadir of my career as an airline hostess was spilling a glass of champagne on Ringo Starr.”  (Georgina Spottiswode)

Nincompoop - possibly from Latin non compos mentis (“not of sound mind”). Wiktionary includes these synonyms: “dunderhead, fop, fool, imbecile, fuckwit.”

"We all have our little roles to fill, my dear. If mine is that of a nincompoop, so be it. And just what is yours?” Anon.


Hugh Laurie in the BBC series Blackadder