The U.S. may have won independence from Britain, but the English can gloat that Americans still speak a language named after them. American English, however, has spawned more than a few wacky words. It can be quite baffling at times so in this article we’ve brought together some of the more unusual terms to help you navigate the world of those ‘wacky Americans’.


Lollapalooza    [lol-uh-puh-loo-zuh]

Lollapalooza, “an extraordinary thing, person, or event.”

Sockdolager    [sok-dol-uh-jer]

Sockdolager, meaning a “decisive blow or remark,” is the product of an American fad to mix and match Latin roots and slang to create new, often silly, words. Partly derived from sock, “to punch,” and possibly from doxology, “the end of a service,”. Rather unusually, sockdolager was one of the last words Lincoln heard before he was assassinated.

Catawampus    [kat-uh-wom-puhs]

Catawampus, “confused or diagonal,” seems to have its origin in the South or Midwest in the 1840s. Think of the phrase kitty-cornered and you’ll see a shared origin between kitty- and cata-. The source of wampus, on the other hand, may just be a funny-sounding mystery.

Hornswoggle    [hawrn-swog-uhl]

The next term may be the funniest sounding word in all of English … Hornswoggle means “to trick or hoax.” The exact origin of hornswoggle is unknown, but its first known appearance in 1829 was in the U.S.

Foofaraw    [foo-fuh-raw]

A foofaraw is either “a great fuss about something insignificant” or “an excessive amount of decoration.” The term comes from the American West and is a mutation of the Spanish fanfaron, meaning “show-off.”

Discombobulate    [dis-kuhm-bob-yuh-leyt]

Discombobulate sounds like something from a cartoon. It was first recorded as discombobracate, then discomboobulate. They all mean exactly what they sound like: “to confuse or upset.”

Bumptious    [buhmp-shuhs]

Bumptious means “offensively self-assertive”. One could say it is the sockdolager that discombobulates you to the point of feeling catawampus. These lollapaloozas of English speak for themselves. If you feel hornswoggled by any foofaraw, you just may want to absquatulate.