I love words. They make your brain bigger and the world much more interesting. Whenever I come across one I don’t know, I look it up and add it to my private dictionary. If you want to suggest a word for me to define, ask an adult to send us a message on The Real McCoys Facebook page!

articles of incorporation

(ART – ah – culz uv in – CORE – pore – AY – shun)

The fancy papers you sign when you’re starting a new business. They don’t have to be printed on an irresistibly beautiful certificate with a blue border and a gold seal, but it sure helps. (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 


(BORE – bore – IG – mah)

The grumbling sound your stomach makes when you really want some guacamole and all you have to eat is soup. (definition requested by: R. Behr)


(BRANE – wash)

A diabolical method of telling you what to think or believe that is so powerful it makes you forget everything you know and love, even your cat, if you have one, which I don’t. Does not involve soap. (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 


(breth – AIR – ee – un)

A person who actually believes that they don’t need to eat or even drink water to survive and instead gets all their calories and protein and vitamin C from sitting in the sunshine. I am not even kidding! I do not know how breatharians survive long enough to have babies and make more breatharians. I once was a breatharian for seventeen minutes, but then I got hungry and ate an entire bowl of guacamole. (Definition requested by A. Shepherd, Baltimore, MD) 



(BYE – law)

A rule made by a company or legendary detective agency. Also: something sneaky little brothers sneak into fancy documents so that you don’t actually know what you’re agreeing to. (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 


(CHIT – chat)

The kind of talking you do when you need to pass the time but don’t really have anything to say. (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 


(COK – uh – MAY – mee)

A thing you might say about something that is ridiculous or unlikely, such as Tracy Dublinger writing a letter full of nice things about me. (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 


(CAW – NUN – drum)

A confusing and difficult problem or question, such as how to feel about a bowl of avocado soup. (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 


(COP – ee – cat)

Someone who imitates someone else, whether it’s wearing the same kind of hat or robbing the same candy store. Copycats are very good at playing Simon Says. (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 


(SY – borg)

A person with robotic enhancements—like a superbrain, retractable eyebrows, or rocket-powered elbows. I have no solid proof, but I sometimes suspect that I might be at least a little bit cyborg. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1)

Danny Doogood

(DAN – ee DOO – good) 

The boring main character of the boring book series my boring little brother Milton is always reading. UGH! (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 

deal breaker

(DEEL bray – ker)

Something so important that if it’s missing, something else can’t happen. For example, if someone insisted that I eat soup before becoming the governor of Nevada, that would be a deal breaker and I would be the governor of some other state instead. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1)


(DIG – ni – fide)

Something or someone that is so proper and formal that people take it seriously. Me, for example. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1) 


(dip – LOW – ma)

A piece of paper you get when you finish college and are now allowed to be a principal, entomologist, or professional ninja. They are often irresistibly beautiful. (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 


(DIP – low – mat)

Someone whose job is to negotiate secret (and unsecret) treaties with other countries. Diplomats are usually rather dignified. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1) 


(EN – toe – MALL – o – JIST)

My mom’s job. She is a scientist who studies insects and is an extraordinary human being. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1) 


(YOO – REEK – uh)

A word that you say when you make a sudden great discovery, such as you just figured out the identity of a kidnapping Squiggler, or the world’s greatest dad put a tupperware of leftover guacamole in your lunch. It’s based on a word from ancient Greece, which is not so far away from ancient Egypt, where they had math and writing and ate dried fish. (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 


FLUR – ish

A bold or extravagant gesture—basically anything I do. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1) 


(for – MID – uh – bull) 

Inspiring fear or respect by being impressively large, powerful, intense, or capable. The definition of this word in the Oxford English Dictionary should have a picture of me next to it. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1) 


(NO – mish)

Like a gnome. Which is a creature that is rather small. Like my brother. If you have a dictionary, go look up the word gnomish, and you’ll probably see a picture of Milton. And if you don’t, maybe you should draw one. (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 

go for the jugular

(GO for thuh JUG – yoo – lur) 

The jugular is the very large (and very important) vein in your neck. Which is why certain argumentative animals try to bite each other in the jugular. For dignified detectives, to “go for the jugular” means to speak really loudly when questioning suspects. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1) 


(HAP – in – stans)

Another word for “coincidence,” which is another word for “happening at the exact same time as something else for no apparent reason.” (source: The Real McCoys, book 1) 


(HAVE – uck)

Widespread destruction, such as what happens to a bowl of guacamole when I’m near it. People who run amok often cause havoc. (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 


(HARE – lume)

A valuable something or other that has been handed down from one family member to the next through various generations. If my grandma were to give me her dentures and I were to give them to my own granddaughter, they would be an heirloom. More often, heirlooms are china plates or gaudy pins or fancy, old-fashioned clocks that kids are not allowed to touch. (source: The Real McCoys, book1) 


(hue – MAN – ah – tee)

Another word for the human race, which includes me and you and, sadly, even Tracy Dublinger. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1) 

in spades


Weirdly, this phrase has nothing to do with tiny shovels or a pack of playing cards, and instead means that you have a lot of something—even if the something you have a lot of is tiny shovels. (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 


(EYE – urn – clad)

Literally, this means covered in iron, as old wooden ships used to be so that cannonballs would not blast holes in their sides. But it also means very strong or inflexible or incapable of being changed or broken—like my devotion to avocados. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1)

John Hancock

(JON HAN – kok)

A person who wrote his name so huge and fancy on the Declaration of Independence that “John Hancock” is now another way of referring to anyone’s signature. As in, “I think I’ll just put my John Hancock on this irresistibly beautiful document with the wavy blue border and the shiny gold seal.” (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 


(MOW – tuv)

Someone’s reason for doing something, especially when that reason is hidden or not obvious, as was the case when Tracy smiles so that everyone is forced to look at her perfect white teeth. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1)


(NOO – FUND – lund)

A large island off the eastern coast of Canada. Also the breed of an enormous and filthy and very friendly dog named Mike owned by my crazy uncle Vern. (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 


(NUN – chux) 

Amazing ninja weapon consisting of two sticks attached by a short chain or rope. I do not own nunchucks but absolutely should, even though my mom and dad do not agree. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1)

Oxford English Dictionary

(OX – ferd ING – lish DIK – shun – air – ee) 

The biggest dictionary in the world, containing more than 600,000 words and 21,000 pages in 20 volumes, which is, admittedly, not quite as impressive as the Annabelle Adams series. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1) 

pediatric oncologist

(PEE – DEE – AT – ric ON – CALL – oh – gist)

A doctor who treats kids with cancer, which is what my old best friend Maude wants to be when she grows up. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1) 

pro bono

(PRO BONE – oh)

It has nothing to do with being a pro, which I am, and nothing to do with bones, which I have more than 200 of, and instead means doing something for free, which I sometimes reluctantly do when Milton makes me. Pro bono is Latin, which is a language that nobody speaks anymore but Principal Jones probably studied in college. (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 


(REN – uh – gade)

Acting in a way that goes against the beliefs of one’s country, dojo, or elementary school. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1) 


(RIK oh – SHAY)

To bounce off something and change direction. Not to be mistaken for my friend Rick O’Shea. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1) 


(RUB – ish)

Something I say to let someone know I think whatever they said is ridiculous, such as when Tracy Dublinger suggests that her secret handshake is better than mine. Also, another word for garbage or trash. (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 

run amok

(RUN a – MUK)

To behave uncontrollably and disruptively. The teachers try to keep us from running amok at recess. But we sometimes do it anyway. (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 

Scotland Yard

(SCOT – lund YARD)

The headquarters of the London Metropolitan Police, home to the most highly trained detectives in all of England. Annabelle once visited there on a vacation with her family and ended up staying for six months, learning all their secrets, and teaching them a thing or two about hypnotizing bears. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1) 


(SELF – less – ness) 

This means to be more concerned with the needs of others than you are for your own. Principal Jones thinks Milton is selfless. And I have to agree. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1) 


(SING – ul HAN – ded – lee)

When you do something without help from someone else. Surprisingly, you can use two hands to do something single-handedly—as long as both of the hands are yours. Weird. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1) 

smog in the noggin

(SMOG in the NOG – in) 

This is an old-fashioned phrase from the 1950s, which is when my grandma was a little girl. Smog is a mixture of smoke and fog. A noggin is your brain. If you have smoke and fog in your brain, it doesn’t do a very good job of remembering things. (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 


(SMOK – screen)

Something you do use to make it seem like you’re doing something else. There is no actual smoke involved—unless Tracy Dublinger’s smoke screen was lighting a campfire and roasting marshmallows to make it seem like she wasn’t just sitting there, plotting her next dastardly scheme. (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 

smoking gun

(SMOW – king GUN)

A piece of evidence that is so convincing that, once you find it, the crime is basically solved. Like when the cookies are missing and little bits of snickerdoodle are all over your brother’s hands and face. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1) 

the Pampas

(thuh PAHM – puss)

A large, flat part of Argentina with no trees. Also home to many grazing cows. Also a great place to go sulk when you’re feeling discouraged. (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 

The Squiggler

(the SQUIG – lur)

A squiggler is someone who makes a squiggle. Which is a line that curls and loops in an irregular way. Which means that you might be a squiggler. Along with most three-year-olds. The Squiggler is the diabolical mastermind who is throwing the unsuspecting students of Tiddlywhump Elementary into a delirious craze by sending anonymous letters that seem good and nice and kind but that are actually filled with dastardly subliminal codes that make you bad at math and even worse at spelling. (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 

toothless eels

(TUTHE – les EELZ)

The inhabitants of the not-so-secret tank hidden underneath the office of Principal Jones (history’s greatest principal). Best avoided at all costs. (source: The Real McCoys, book 2) 

turn the other cheek

(TURN the UTH – ur – CHEEK)

When, instead of fighting back after someone does something rude or mean to you, you remind yourself that two wrongs don’t make a right and do nothing instead. Surprisingly, you can “turn the other cheek” without actually moving your head. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1) 


(you – TOW – pee – in)

Something that is really, really great or maybe even perfect. In a utopian version of Tiddlywhump, there would be no Dublingers and Mrs. Bunyan would never, ever talk about teeth. (source: The Real McCoys, book 1) 


(WUT – zer – FUZZ – ul)

The word you use when you can’t remember the name of something. For example, when I was in kindergarten, I could never remember Eleanor Roosevelt’s actual first name, so I called her Whatserfuzzle Roosevelt until first grade, when, all of a sudden, I could finally remember. (definition requested by R. Behr)