Monday, November 17, 2014

A Love Letter to Words

Dear words,

In the summer of 2012, blogger Ted McCagg created tournament brackets for words beginning with every letter of the alphabet and let them duke it out on his site to determine the best word ever. The winner was diphthong, which is a grand old word, but it's no hobgoblin. The whole thing was just fucking thrilling, and while I agree with several of the words on the list (like rapscallion and juggernaut), there are words that I love so much more than his top eight. The sound of a word is so personal that it's hard to completely agree.

It is probably totally pointless to explain why I like words. They are words. I like to use them for writing and speaking. I would write a love letter to just general literacy, but that's kind of like saying, "I love the concept of currency" or "I love the distribution of resources" or something, and thar be monsters and repercussions. So instead, here is a list of words that I really, really, really love, and not because of their meaning, but because of how they sound.
azure
bamboozle
blurt
bungalow
cahoots
cinnamon
copacetic
dusk
egregious
epitome
esoteric
forbidden
fuck
glutton
gossamer
hobgoblin
incognito
jade
jam
jaunt
juggernaut
keelhaul
lasagna
lullaby 
magnanimous
nemesis
neologism
ogle
pandiculation
phallus
pilfer
quicksilver
rapscallion
ripple
shuttlecock
slaughter
somnambulism
spelunking
thrum
tyranny
ubiquitous
velvet
verbose
warlord
woebegone
xenolith
yonder
zealous

Some of these words sound the same, like dusk, lullaby, and bungalow. They got that "uh" sound. (Typing out "that 'uh' sound" looks ridiculous. I don't like it. Phonetically that "uh" sound gets a symbol that looks like an upside-down v, but I can't be all like, "you know, the phonetic symbol that looks like an upside-down v sound" because that is a silly thing to say, and it would confuse people.) All I'm saying is that I love the soft u. Shuttlecock. 

Who's with me? Don't you all have favorite words too? Words that pilfer, ripple, and thrum? According to the google machine, a common favorite word is serendipity. Not my jam. It sounds like saccharine smarm. But that's one thing that makes a word great: my saccharine smarm could be your blessing and truth. Another that seems to pop up all the time is loquacious, and that reminds me of a racist joke so fuck that word. Ephemeral is popular too, but it's a little too melancholy for me.

Pandiculation is a word I discovered like an hour ago:

A stretching and stiffening of the trunk and extremities, as when fatigued and drowsy or on waking, often accompanied by yawning.

I pandiculate pretty much every time I stand. I like it. It's like a scientific surprise. There are other words like that on the list. Cahoots sneaks up on you, because it sounds like a cartoon rabbit instead of a sneaky alliance.

Sometimes a word is almost too well-tailored. Glutton is brutish. It catches your throat and forces you to stop breathing, just for the tiniest of spans. Magnanimous sounds all ancient and grand, and it stretches out like an extended hand. Or a hero, standing akimbo. Ah! Akimbo! Great word.

I suspect I've always been better at words than nearly everything else. Or more accurately, I've always felt more confident in my words than nearly everything else. Words are about sharing something personal and valuable, and about believing your rhetoric is impressive enough to be shared at all.

Words are an antidote to loneliness. They're bridges. Words are about pride. They're paranoid and lovely and full of brass and balls. Brass! Balls! Also excellent words.

Each word has a specific function, and words chosen are just as significant as words that aren't. At the moment of use a single word is the most important part of a person's vocabulary. Even if a word isn't carefully and consciously selected, word choice is so damn particular. It's mesmerizing. I love listening to a well-crafted sentence. The rhythm of a phrase is salient. Cadence is captivating.

Words are just plain dreamy. Yes you are. Yes you are.

Love,
Me

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3 comments:

Kono said...

Growing up in southwest Cleveland there was a band called Rapscallion, i was a bit young to see them but the name just exuded danger, there was a cement support wall near my house on a main intersection and someone spray painted "Rapscallion was here!" in six foot letters with black spray paint, to this day i can see it perfectly.

Rassles R. said...

It's always weird to remember random graffiti - I used to go to this bar and someone had scribbled, "fuck yeah cake" on the wall of the men's room (I don't remember why I was in the men's room, but whatever), and to this day, whenever someone says "cake," in reference to the band or the food, I automatically think, "fuck yeah."

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