REALIZE Magazine's 101 Coolest Words - O

Would Olive Osculate?

Osculate - 1650’s

1. To kiss, (from the Latin verb osculari, from osculum "a kiss; pretty mouth, sweet mouth," literally "little mouth," diminutive of os "mouth" (* if you really want to go the source, see the allied etymology of oral, below*) (

2. Mathematics: To have three or more points coincident with. Of a curve or surface - to touch another curve or surface so as to have a common tangent at the point of contact.

"I'm trying to figure out if Buckminster Fuller used osculating orbital elements in his geodesic domes.”

“Did we kiss, or did we osculate? If I pronounce the latter with a sensual drawl, and imagine the Romans referring to the lips of their beloved as os, (and who knows if that’s pronounced awsss or ohsss or ahssss?) well, really, I think we osculated!”

*Here is a wonderful example of a word whose utterance is somewhat paralleled by many languages: 

Oral (adj.)1620s, from Late Latin oralis, from Latin os (genitive oris) "mouth, opening, face, entrance," from PIE (Proto-Indo-European) *os- "mouth" (cognates: Sanskrit asan "mouth," asyam "mouth, opening," Avestan ah-, Hittite aish, Middle Irish a "mouth," Old Norse oss "mouth of a river.”

Oops -

Interjection: An exclamation of surprise, dismay, apology, etc, especially when one has done something awkward.1925, origin unknown.

“In Dorothy Parker’s short story “The Little Hours," a character exclaims, “oops … I’ve got to watch myself.” Whoops, in the sense of oops, began appearing around the same time and can be found repeatedly in issues of Popular Science and Boys’ Life, where it was printed as early as 1929. By 1937, “Whoops!” was exclaimed in a letter by nobody less than Ezra Pound... and the prostitute in Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) says “Hoopsa!” when Leopold Bloom trips walking up the stairs.”  Forrest Wickman, Slate

Some opine that the word derives from simple physical acts, i.e. the involuntary lip-rounding and expulsion of breath that accompany a regrettable mistake, or from an approximation of the sound of, whoops, vomiting.

Whether or not one approves of turning exclamations into nouns, it has been done, alas:

Oops, noun - a blunder; serious mistake; goof, whoops.

"Of course we all heard Britney Spears exclaim “Oops I did it again” and now we even have an Oops YouTube channel, complete with “Epic Funny Fails."  A downward spiral.  Oops, maybe I’ll take it off my list."

Oblivion -

Late 14c., from Old French oblivion (13c.) and directly from L. oblivionem "forgetfulness; being forgotten," originally "even out, smooth over, efface," from ob "over" (see ob-) + root of levis "smooth." (

1.  The state of being unaware or unconscious of what is happening:

"It takes constant attention to evade that state of relative oblivion in which we all tend to wander this earth."

2.  The state of being forgotten, especially by the public:

"And when all her tweets and posts are buried by a million others from those of even lesser minds, what will be left to halt her inevitable slide into oblivion?"

3.  Extinction:

"How much greater the Atheist’s fear of death, knowing it leads directly to nothingness, to oblivion.  Or perhaps, for the naughty among them, it is a great consolation."

Ornery -

1816, American English dialectal contraction of ordinary (adj.). "commonplace," hence "of poor quality, coarse, ugly." By 1860 the sense had evolved to its current definition of bad-tempered, cantankerous, combative.  Just another fascinating example of word meanings shifting through time - known as “semantic shift.”

"I guess it is logical to apply the concept of coarse and ugly - ordinary - to someone’s nasty temperament and over time wind up with ornery. But the chilling thought is that it is ordinary to be ornery."

If you haven’t yet watched Olive Kitteridge on HBO, you haven’t sampled Frances McDormand’s stellar evocation of ornery, because she is one cantankerous cuss. Although in her case, there may be a deeper pathology at play.  Did she have bigger dreams for herself?  Could make ya ornery…