Masquerading Vocabulary

Despite being known for its thrills and chills, its terrifying sights and fetid smells, there's quite a lot about Halloween to love! There's the plethora of sweet candy, obviously, but how about the cool decorations, the parades, the crisp crunch of leaves underfoot, and seeing your neighborhood come alive as everyone mills about Trick-or-Treating? And of course, there's what might be the most fun part of all: dressing in outlandish costumes; or lack thereof, if you are in certain neighborhoods of San Francisco! By covering ourselves in the veneers of masks, robes, and toilet paper, we can adopt entirely different personas, maybe even live a little vicariously through our costume - how can you not feel heroic when you're wearing Catwoman's boots and cowl? Just like we dress up ourselves, we can easily cloak common words under the impressive guises of new vocabulary. Don't let the idea of outlandish-sounding words petrify you into inaction - costuming your vocabulary is easier than you might think.

Start with the basics - pick out a few of the spookier creatures strolling down your block. Take, for instance, the pale, thin figure drifting along in powdery makeup and a diaphanous wedding dress, pure white but for a theatrical streak of blood across the front. Now, this macabre figure could be something as awkward sounding as an "undead-bride," but who wants to walk around with that tagline? Instead, when she and her friends come calling for candy, be sure to compliment her wraith outfit - this cooler name will impress as much as choice candies!

Of course, you may be thinking, a case like that would be easy, but what happens when you're not entirely sure what someone's dressed as? For example, take the kid stumbling down the street in overlong black robes, donned in an ambiguous, expressionless mask and equipped with what could equally be a plastic ax, pitchfork, or even a gray-handled broomstick. Given the dark color of his robes, you can barely see him in the deepening October evening, and although his chosen costume appears to be something occult, you'd be hard-pressed to label it further than that. Don't hem and haw - instead, take advantage of his insubstantial identity, and remark how scary an eidolon he makes - in the process making him feel good about the miscellaneous hand-me-down Halloween paraphernalia from his older siblings.

Halloween vocabulary doesn't have to be anything out of the ordinary, but then again, you don't have to wear a costume, either: in both cases, donning a striking ensemble is simply more fun! So this October, allow your vocabulary to masquerade with a few new words. Use them enough, and soon they won't even feel like a veneer anymore.

  • Fetid: As fun as Halloween is, there's no denying that it comes with some pretty terrible smells. Whether it's the noxious stench of a dragging, flesh-eating zombie, a rotting pumpkin that's been sitting on a stoop too long, or that horrible plastic smell of the inside of some masks, Halloween has enough fetid odors to make you sick to your stomach. This doesn't mean you should Trick-or-Treat with nose plugs, but don't be surprised if you catch a whiff of a witch's fetid fragrance.
  • Veneer: Traditionally, veneer describes a thin sheath of expensive material that's meant to make a piece of furniture look fancier. But don't worry about trying to connect Halloween with chairs and cabinets - the word can also be used figuratively to describe any covering meant to relay a false impression, like that cowl you're wearing to make everyone think you're the real Batman.
  • Petrify: STOP! Before you use petrify, be aware that it has several different definitions. One means to physically turn something to stone - think of that cool hunk of petrified wood you saw the last time you were at the science museum. The other is figurative, meaning to bring to a standstill or to freeze with horror or shock. Guess which meaning you're more likely to use around Halloween?
  • Macabre: What would Halloween be without the morbid and the gruesome? Macabre, which describes something that is ghoulish or in some way related to death, is perfect for that kid from down the street who wears skull earrings and spends an unusual amount of time hanging around the cemetery. The scariest thing about the word itself, though, is the pronunciation: don't forget that the "re" at the end is silent!
  • Wraith: "Wraith for me!" yelled the littlest ghost as she ran after her fellow ghouls on Halloween night. That's not especially funny, and neither is the word wraith, a term that commonly refers to a pale, spectral image said to portend death. Wraith can also describe anything that's slim or insubstantial, like the cheap mints handed out every Halloween by that old lady who lives on the corner.
  • Occult: Occult is a word that usually describes things which are hidden from view or practices done in secret. For this reason, occult often refers to things that are supernatural or arcane, like the dark magic of a witches' coven. Thankfully, with a good lexicon, language is anything but!
  • Eidolon: What's that wavy, ghostly image that's shimmering up ahead? Is it a dark force? Is it a spirit come to wreak havoc on the living world? Is it a couple of Trick-or-Treaters playing with glow-sticks? You might describe this sight as an eidolon, an ethereal and possibly supernatural image that you can't quite identify. An eidolon can also be a false representation of something, though, so don't mistake some harmless grade-schoolers for a ghastly entity!