“Funicular.” It starts with fun, so it can’t be bad, right? Wrong. That would be like sticking your head in a raging furnace, hoping to see a fern.
Chances are 80-20 that if something is “-icular” it is going to be nasty. You know what I mean: cancerous prefixes like “test-” or “mast-” — and manslaughtery ones like “vehi-” or “curr-” — all leap immediately to mind.
But to be “funicular,” in particular, is to be ropey and nasty.
The root of the word is “funicle,” which in botany is a term that refers to the stalk of an ovule or seed. In anatomy, it’s any corded tissue, like a bundle of nerves, or that weird stuff that connects back to a placenta. Thus “funiculus” is a synonym for an umbilicus, only less umbly.
In less scientific — but no less geeky — parlance, “funicular” is simply an adjective pertaining to a rope, a cord, or its tension. “Funiculus” is Latin for “slender rope.” Thus we have “funicular railways” that run cable cars. But to me, “funicular” still sounds like a “funny collar,” and I don’t know many of those made of rope, except when you’re hanging a clown.