Posts Tagged ‘greatest word’

by Christopher Brinckerhoff

This image of a keyboard was done by Alessandro Reginato in Pove del Grappa, Italia, and posted on Flickr. He calls it "writing in the darkness." http://tinyurl.com/44x57p9

The greatest words are those that we connect with; they are our favorites.

Picking out favorite words can be as careful and thoughtful a process for writers and other language aficionados as describing favorite songs can be for musicians and disc jockeys. Like favorite music, when it comes to selecting favorite words, it’s not only about what you like, it’s about why you like it.

For fun I made a list over the course of about a week with a dozen or so words on it. Legion, quibble and spatchcock were among the first to be added. I picked words that I felt were fun to say and spell and, oftentimes, uncommon.

It occurred to me others might have made similar lists, so I searched and found a site listing more than 900 of people’s favorite words, as of May 27, with short explanations. Jackpot!

Entries for ethereal, shenanigan, circumlocution, persnickety and extravaganza are a small sample of the vocabular bliss that can be enjoyed at My Favorite Word. Looking through the entries is a lot of fun and a fantastic waste of time.

There are many reasons why people like specific words. The sound of the word, the way a word is spelled, its definition, and a person’s experience with the word or what it represents are all takes on what is important to us about words.

Alexi Maxwell wrote on My Favorite Word that she loved the sound of amoeba [uhmee-buh].

“Aside from sounding wonderful, I like the word because saying amoeba at random is a good way to throw my friends,” Maxwell wrote. “I’ll be talking about the latest bestsellers, and I’ll pause to gather my thoughts. And then, out of nowhere. I very carefully pronounce ‘Amoeba,’ just for the joy of saying the words.”

In another entry, Melanie wrote she fell in love with the word plethora while working at her college newspaper.

“Plethora seemed to be such an elegant, intellectual word,” Melanie wrote. “Instead of saying many, a lot, or several, there is the beautiful plethora.  How could you not love it?”

Other entries also lauded lesser-used words.

In her submission to My Favorite Word, Neren wrote she loved the word adore for several reasons. Adore looks good when it’s written, is sweet sounding and has a meaning greater than love.

“And [adore] is also much less overused than the word ‘love,’” Neren wrote. “Hearing someone say ‘I adore you’ is actually nicer, for me, than hearing someone say ‘I love you’… Keeping in mind that nothing can really replace those three words.”

I plan to continue collecting favorite words. Perhaps my favorite word is the one that I haven’t thought of in a while, and will occur to me next. Or it could be the next word I learn about for the first time.

At the same time, I concur with my colleague Tim Bearden’s response to the favorite word question I posted on Facebook. He is a writer too.

“Well mine is two words,” Bearden wrote. “It’s ‘steady employment.’ Those are a couple of the best words in the English language.”

Copyright 2011

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