25 March, 2010

Words I Like

Form versus content is an important distinction with favo(u)rite words. Sometimes one can love a word for what it means (ineffable), other times one can adore it for the way it sounds (roil), feels in the mouth (delicious), rolls off the tongue (Baltic), or perhaps simply for the way it looks on paper (saffron).

1. cerulean - I love a deep blue. especially when it has a name like cerulean: my favourite blue word as well as my favourite crayola crayon.

2. lithograph - I love stamps that is no secret, but the word lithograph  The "th" "g" and "ph" are all phonetically chewy as well as somehow immensely descriptive. You can actually feel a print being made as the lithograph lifts from the page... It is just utterly delicious. And speaking of delicious...

3. DELICIOUS this might be my new favourite word altogether. It satisfies so many of the above pre-requisites for favouritism: it is beautifully descriptive, onomatopoeic, a delight to have in the mouth, and can be used both languidly and with biting punctuation. I like to pronounce it with capital letters in my voice and a little slide into it-- it sounds like this: "nnnnnnnDELICIOUS." I use it to describe everything from food, to people, to circumstances...

4. saffron - perfect example of form versus content. Saffron the spice? Schmeh. Saffron the word... amazing. Sexy. Exotic. The length is perfect, the vowel to consonant ratio exact. The double f is like two long legs on a contrary woman who eyes you coyly before leaving your sight forever.

5. roil - this might be word perfection in that it sounds exactly like what it means (to make turbid by stirring up the sediment or dregs of;  to stir up) but it is also hugely onomatopoeic and just generally descriptive in a satisfyingly accurate way. Specifics is everything in language, and roil hits the spot.

6. tangerine - that slightly deeper shade of orange? The slightly sweeter fruit? How is this word not perfection?

7. sorted - A Briticism. While Americans may be "all set" "prepared" or "ready"-- Brits are more than that, they are "sorted." And I just think it is the best thing I picked up there... (aside from Percy Pigs a great career and lifelong friends that is...) Sorted is the kind of word that like a photograph is worth a thousand words that can be used to explain it's full meaning. It indicates a total and utter togetherness; a finality and satisfaction. It is practically word porn. I noted it's significance for the first time after two academic terms in Glasgow: mom looked at me in wonder and actually asked me to repeat myself "Sorted," she chewed it over with delight, "SOOOOOR-T-ED. That is a great term... SORTED... whoa..." And we both stood there in awe for a moment and it has had a halo around it ever since.

8. trenchant -(Etymology: Middle English trenchaunt, from Anglo-French, present participle of trencher. Date: 14th century. 1 : keen, sharp 2 : vigorously effective and articulate; also : caustic 3 a : sharply perceptive : penetrating a trenchant view of current conditions b : clear-cut, distinct) I love words that get to the point. Words that penetrate and cut through-- and that is exactly what trenchant was invented for.  As mentioned above, specific in language is everything and nothing gets to the kernel, the essence of one's meaning more than trenchant. A trenchant analysis. Trenchant remarks that may help or hurt in just the right way.  Or as Edith, Wharton put it, "the trenchant divisions between right and wrong." Perfection.

9. defenestrate - Look. This word means "to thrown someone or something out of a window." [deadpan pause] ... I mean... isn't that AMAZING? I mean, how did this word come into being? Are there words for smashing a chair into a bazillion pieces? Is there a term specific to   threaten to "kick someone's ass" when you can threaten to defenestrate them? And just when I thought it would never be used in real life (or in televisual real life)... Lost's John Locke is dramatically defenestrated by his father in season 4. (Not to mention almost every exit in Mission Impossible 3...)

10. ineffable - Unlike Supercalifragalisticexpialidocious, is actually the word you say when you don't know what to say... the adjective you use when something is too great or too extreme to be described in words. Not to be uttered. It can be everything from the ineffable beauty of the Everglades to the ineffable Hebrew name that gentiles describe as Jehovah (or the ineffable name of He Who Must Not Be Named that Muggles would describe as Voldemort...?).

11.  Baltic - I would put this in the category of a Glaswegianism... (which, though possibly invented in this very moment, is also quite a good word...) But! Back to Baltic: it is splendid-- especially when used to describe the cold-- To quote my dear friend Frances, [Glaswegian accent] "It's feckin' BalTIC!") There is something about it that just gets to the essence of what it feels like to be cold to the bone, in the guts, to be cold in. your. soul... when it is "feckin' Baltic oot", there's nothing that can save you. Nothing.

What are your favo(u)rite words...?


  1. 1. Madcap
    2. Dreich
    3. Miserable
    4. Fine
    5. Peppermint
    6. Autumnal
    7. Whizzpop
    8. Russia
    9. Folklore

  2. you forgot 'moist', the best word ever used in the right context. x

  3. Al - where be you presently??

  4. I'm going to describe your blog with one of my favorite words...LEGIT! If I may quote my favorite line..."The double f is like two long legs on a contrary woman who eyes you coyly before leaving your sight forever." Well played, Ms. Silber, well played.

  5. I like all the words around the root "impress" - impressive, impression, impressionist, impressionistic. They conjure such varied concepts, everything from a dent in a pillow to an imitation of someone's behavior to the perception of achievement to Pointillism.

    Also, "evoke"/"evocative" are nice.

    And "encapsulate."

  6. was only just saying to my mum today how you are "with the words". I on the other hand from this poorly constructed sentence/comment am not!!! favourite words hmm...... not sure really...succulent is a good one but I guess for me it can only be one word... Crisps!!!!!!xx

  7. Oh am particularly fond of "wowzers!" and I am expecting Victoria to comment with her fondness for the word MADE!!!x

  8. I'm all for Prestidigitation myself, and Laconic also. And finally Rain. Just something about that word makes me smile.

  9. al - must agree that 'sorted' is one of my new favourite briticisms... also, 'to faff.'

  10. GaryinLeedsMarch 29, 2010

    Some luscious words there,Alexandra. My favourite word at the moment is "shrivel" ...it means just how it sounds.

  11. Should have guessed such an elozable sonsy as yourself would share with me such a lexophilic fascination... Hmmm, where to begin? Well, for the record, "elozable" was used ironically as you've well established your penchant for self-deprecation (a habit I sincerely hope you've begun to disabuse yourself of). "Sonsy" just grabs hold of the Gaelic portion of my reptilian brain-stem and refuses to let go.
    Other faves..
    "Drachenfutter" - During the recent spate of tabloid fodder, extra-marital affair revelations, I found myself recalling that word from long ago. Something about the appeasement paid to wives from guilty husbands. Dragon Food... The visual says it all.
    Speaking of 'saying it all', "Holophrasis". In the theater (as well as TV and Film. Commercials... not so much) there is such a necessity for economy of words during rehearsal that we tend to develop a verbal shorthand with our coworkers. One word to describe a more complex set of ideas. The holophrase.
    One more. In honor of your love of the specificity found in "Defenestrate", let me offer a similarly distinct vocable. "Philtrum". That unusually attractive feature (on some people) that seemingly always draws my attention when first met. The vertical groove between the upper lip and the bridge of the nose. Etymological bonus points for deriving from the Greek "philtre", or 'Love-Potion'.
    How's that for a start?...

  12. Resplendent. That's all. It feels great rolling off the tongue.

  13. Resplendence becomes you Captain-- not bad for a pirate. ;)



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