The other day someone told me something wasn’t too shabby and I realized that I never hear the word “shabby” unless I am hearing that something is “not too shabby.”. No one ever says something is shabby, and really, I’m not even sure what shabby means because I don’t know what a shab is. That would be like if you knew what the phrase “not too hairy” means, only without knowing what hair is. But I digress.
Anyway, I thought of a few other words that you hear mentioned only when used in tandem with one other specific word. In some cases it was a word that you hear only with a certain prefix (e.g. liminal and subliminal).
Only words you hear it with: “not too”, and, “chic”; as in: When I saw her in that shabby-chic outfit the first thing I thought was, ‘she’s not too shabby.‘.
When you don’t hear it used, but could: Don’t see that movie dude, it was mad shabby.
(author’s note for word lovers: The word “shabby” exists, but the word “shab”- it’s root word- is “obsolete” according to the Merriam-Webster link provided. Isn’t that weird?)
2. Broach (the verb, not the noun)
Only word you hear it with: “the subject”; as in: While at the chewing-tobacco convention, I didn’t broach the subject of NASCAR not being a sport.
When you don’t hear it used: Sure it was a stupid topic to broach at the dinner table while meeting her grandparents, but he was right about the effects of asparagus.
Only word you hear it with: “Off”; as in: Seeing his kilt off kilter will ensure my sleeping and eating habits are off-kilter for at least 48 hours.
When you don’t hear it used: I am so glad you are back on kilter!
Only word/prefix you hear it with: “Sub-“, like in “subliminal”; as in: He tried to blame his craving for nachos on subliminal advertising, but everyone knew it’s because he’s a total fatass.
When you don’t hear it used: While she may not know she likes me yet, her attraction to me is liminal. You’ll see.
Only word/prefix you hear it with: “Non-“; as in: The congregation is non-denominational; so it’s like church only without all the churchiness.
When you don’t hear it used: He called your gay cousin, “queer”, only twice all week! That’s pretty accepting for a denominational guy of that ilk.
Only words/prefixes you hear it with: “Over-“, “under-“; as in: I was overwhelmed with gratitude when Chelsea gave me a postcard from Prague showcasing a chimpanzee in lederhosen.
When you don’t hear it used: “Can I grab you a beer while I’m up?”, “Oh, no thanks, man. I’m totally whelmed right now.”
Only word/prefix you hear it with: “Point”; as in: You’re right- if giraffes had gills and laid eggs they would be classified as a fish. But they don’t, so that’s a moot point.
When you don’t hear it used: Batman isn’t real, so he cannot possibly adopt you- that is moot. Get over it, T.R..
Only word you hear with it: ” For”; as in: I told my dad it was uncalled for to label me a malodorous, flatulent mama’s boy. So imagine my disappointment when my girlfriend found that claim justified.
When you don’t hear it used: After agreeing with my father, my girlfriend remained uncalled for a few days.
(author’s note for word lovers: Merriam Webster didn’t have an entry for “uncalled”, but they did for “uncalled-for”. I counted “uncalled”, as a word anyway.)
Only words you hear it with: “Kit and” ; Example: I was expecting only one or two, but she brought the whole kit and caboodle.
When you don’t hear it used: While I can understand hating 97 or even 98 dalmation puppies, Cruella DeVil hating the entire puppy caboodle is unbecoming.
10. Wick (the verb, not the noun)
Only word you hear it with: “away”; as in: This hi-tech shirt from Nike wicks away moisture from my skin.
When you don’t hear it used: Well it didn’t wick very much from your underarms, stinkpits.
Only words you hear it with: “pick”, (nitty) “gritty”, and “wit”; as in: When you get down to the nitty gritty, even people from New Jersey wouldn’t nitpick the decision that The Situation is a nitwit compared to Carl Sagan.
When you don’t hear it used: Sure it’s unfortunate the CEO of Oscar Mayer giggles upon hearing the word ‘wiener’, but that’s just a nit. He’s a tremendously prescient executive.