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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n.) the use of bad language to alleviate stress

grawlix symbols representing bad language swearing

A perennial favourite of HH, fellow logophiles, and endless lists of weird words, lalochezia popped up on the Twitter feed yesterday and soon proved one of the week’s most popular words.

Yes, there really is a word for the use of foul language to relieve stress or vexation. And here’s where it came from.

You’d be forgiven for struggling make much headway trying to figure out where that word comes from, because neither of the two etymological roots at play in lalochezia are particularly fruitful in English.

Of the two, it’s that initial “lalo–” that you’ve probably come across before, although probably at the opposite end of a word. It derives from lalos, a Greek word meaning “speech” or “chatter,” which is the origin of the fairly familiar English suffix –lalia, root of a crop of medical and morphological terms concerned with speech or language.

So echolalia, for instance, is the mindless repetition of another person’s words. Palilalia is a stuttering or stammering speech, marked by rapid repetitions. Agitolalia is abnormally quick talking, while bradylalia is abnormally slow speech. Glossolalia is the supposed or apparent ability to speak in tongues. Idiolalia is the speaking of a language made up by the speaker (a surprisingly common phenomenon among identical siblings). Embolalia is automatic, unthinking speech, like the “ums” and “errs” we throw in to fill in the gaps between our more meaningful words. And coprolalia is the involuntary use of obscene language, such as that which afflicts sufferers of Tourette’s syndrome.

Coprolalia, oddly enough, points us in a similar direction to lalochezia: that initial “copro–” derives from kopros, a Greek word meaning “excrement”, which makes coprolalia, quite literally, “foul” language. The final “–chezia” of lalochezia, meanwhile, comes from a similar Greek root, khezo, literally meaning “I defecate.”

Somewhat mercifully, as we said before, –chezia isn’t the most familiar nor fruitful of word units in English, but it nevertheless does crop up in a handful of eminently useful words like allochezia (a medical name for defecation from somewhere other than the, er, usual place), and dyschezia (another name for constipation, or, shall we say, impaired pooping). As for lalochezia—well, unfortunately there’s really no nice way of putting this: it literally means “shitting out of your mouth.”

But, hey. Anything goes when you’re stressed.


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