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Discombobulate: Word Wednesday (Improve Your Word Power)

I do love the English language and discombobulate is such a funny-sounding word. When I first heard it way back in school, I really did believe it was a made up word. I was delighted to find it there in the dictionary.

Merriam-Webster says this about it:


verb dis·com·bob·u·late \ˌdis-kəm-ˈbä-b(y)ə-ˌlāt\
Popularity: Top 40% of words
Definition of discombobulate
discombobulate discombobulating
transitive verb
: upset, confuse <inventing cool new ways to discombobulate the old order — Kurt Andersen>

discombobulation noun

Examples of discombobulate in a sentence
<our grandmother seems a bit discombobulated by all of this birthday fuss>

Origin and Etymology
probably alteration of discompose

First Known Use: circa 1916

The Facebook comments are often illuminating or humorous –

Suzanne Alexander · Foothill College
Reading John Dunn’s 2012 memoir “Loopers”, chapter 7.
The way he uses the word feels awkward to me as I have never seen or heard it used to describe an inanimate place! – only to describe people.

“The clubhouse was like a Georgian battleship – sprawling and DISCOMBOBULATED like a high school or community college that has been added on to over the years.”

I get his meaning but still find it awkward at best…
Can a *building* be DISCOMBOBULATED?!?
Like · Reply · Nov 11, 2016 6:56am

Suzanne, a word can be anything you want it to be. As a writer they are essential tools and as long as the reader understands the idea or concept then yes, a building can be discombobulated – why not?

Dunn’s use of the word in that context is in my opinion wonderful. It conjures up both the image of a Georgian battleship and the ad hoc adding of extra buildings to the school or college thus painting a further picture in the imagination of his readers.

What do you think?


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  1. Suzanne has never used pathetic fallacy in her writing, perhaps? A building can even be gloomy, sad, or under-the-weather to paint a mood! I wonder if she gets this upset and awkward over reading “I wandered lonely as a cloud” of the eponymous poem by Wordsworth.

    I love the word “discombobulated.” A friend and I always make a joke that since we were feeling discombobulated, we need something to make us combobulated again. Same with “disgruntled.”

    “Well, I was disgruntled, but then I got the refund, and was gruntled all over again.” Hee hee!

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