The five most confusing words in the New York Times – a challenge

If you're a regular reader of, you may know that you can find the definition of a particularly tricky term simply by rolling your mouse over the offending word. What you probably don't know is that the New York Times has been tracking popular usage of this feature, partly to help reporters better understand their audience.

If thousands of people are clicking on the word recondite, for instance, a reporter might substitute something different. Pedantic, perhaps.

I'm a bit behind the ball on this one, but over at Nieman Journalism Lab, the estimable Zachary M. Seward has somehow gotten his mitts on an internal Times memo ranking the most-clicked terms. And what a motley lot it is! If you're feeling particularly sprightly, see if you can define the top five most confusing terms:

1. Sui Generis
2. Solipsistic
3. Louche
4. Laconic
5. Saturnine

Maybe it's because I work with words all day, or maybe it's because I read a lot of Roland Barthes in college, often against my will – but I went five for five. Number 48, however, sent me for a loop.

The word? Appurtenances.

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