A Word About Words

I love words. In fact, one could say that, as a writer, I depend on them. For, words are helpful in getting your point across. They’re also good at conveying emotions when looks, alone, aren’t enough. I’ve been noticing, too, that words play a key role in my ever-expanding collection of quotes.

Yes, words are special, despite the fact that they come a dime a dozen and are free to use by anyone with a hankering to speak or write.

Yet, are all words created equal? I think not. For, if you are like most, I’m certain you’ll agree that there are some words you fancy more than others.

Recently, The New Yorker magazine cleverly asked its readers to name a word in the English language that they’d like to see eliminated from the dictionary. The words quickly poured in—everything from “bling” and “swag” to “awesome” and “like.”

Which is why, I’ve decided, rather than focus on words I’d like to see eradicated from the English language (“Tebowing” would be a good start!), I am herewith celebrating the words that I love.

So, a round of applause please for these descriptive words that are, frankly, fun to pronounce:

Tony, as in:  The woman in the silvery stockings and flaming green Bolero jacket, walked confidently, that is, until she slammed into the entrance of the tony nightclub.

Apoplexy, as in: If you tell me one more time that you wish to ride the Matterhorn with my Aunt Viv, I am certain to be struck by a fit of apoplexy.

Conundrum, as in: Whether to go fishing with my cousin, Carl, or hunting with Dick Cheney, is certainly a conundrum.

Lackadaisical, as in:  Newt Gingrich is feeling rather lackadaisical this week, now that he’s quit his presidential run, and plans to wait until next week to begin his latest project–that of colonizing the moon.

Sultry, as in: His intense, sultry gaze aroused in Henrietta a passion that almost allowed her to forgive him for sinking his cuspids into her exquisitely fine neck.

Behoove, as in: It would behoove Jack to think twice about betraying the mob boss, particularly if he had any hopes of keeping his job as a hit man.

Riff-raff, guttersnipes, as in:  Eloise walked gingerly around the riff-raff and guttersnipes playing in the courtyard, in order to let the director know that she was more than ready to bring them in for their naptime.

Discombobulated, as in:  Lupita Davenport was completely discombobulated, for she didn’t know whether to serve her pie, a la mode, or with the ghastly syrup Aunt Bella had brought for the occasion.

Scofflaw, as in:  When Peter Hamilton rushed into the train station, in search of a restroom, he hesitated when he saw one door that read, “Women” and the other “Scofflaws.”  As his debts to society had all been paid, he decisively entered through the door marked, “Women.”

Lilacs, as in: For her Diamond Jubilee, young Henry, who came from royal blood, gathered a bouquet of lilacs for his noble Queen.

Convoluted, as in: The directions to the jailhouse were so convoluted, Kim discarded the idea of visiting her finance, Elvis, and decided she would just wait out the 20-years-to-life sentence he’d received.

Ranunculus, as in: Victor decided he’d pop the question amidst the flower fields, not realizing Kathryn was fatally allergic to the ranunculus, which were in full bloom.

Ne’er-do-well, as in:  Alicia was determined to tell her ne’er-do-well father that dinner was ready.

Flabbergasted, as in:  When Grandma Debbie arrived at the reunion with two leopards in tow, we were all flabbergasted, as no one had realized she was still alive.

Trousers, as in: Detective Nathan was about to finger the murderer at the dinner party, when Joe Knuckles politely asked, “Before you do, would you like to put your trousers back on?”

As for the “winning” word in the New Yorker contest, the word that most felt ought to be forever swiped from the English vocabulary? The answer is:

Moist,” as in, pass me a slice of that delectable, moist cake.

So, how about you? Tell us in the comment section your favorite—or least favorite—words.

86 thoughts on “A Word About Words

  1. Pingback: Readers Pick! « Monica's Tangled Web

  2. Hi Monica, certain phrases drive me nuts, and they are used all of the time in the business world, these inclue “at the end of the day” and “in terms of”

    • “Touch Base” Argh! A salesman I used to work for said that all the time. And every time I replied “You are not touching my base, now nor anytime in the foreseeable future.”

      • Touch base. Exactly what does that mean and where did that expression ever come from? It’s kind of weird the things we say, but somewhere, long forgotten, there’s usually a good reason for it. Well, rest assured, I won’t be offering to “touch base” any time soon. Not fond of it either. 😉

  3. this is very helpful and fun to read! thought at first ‘Lackadaisical’ doesn’t look like a normal english word, it looks funny for me..LOL until i listen to it then it became my top pick, it’s rather convenient and classy word. thanks for this post! 🙂

    • Charlie & Yannie, I like the way “Lackadaisical” falls off the tongue. Like skipping pebbles across the lake. Glad you liked it. May you have many a lackadaisical day, finding many ways to use this very classy word! 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I like words so much that I usually have the closed caption turned on when I watch movies 😀 I don’t know why exactly, but I do enjoy reading while I’m watching. A good word, that I like, is proclivity!

    • Hey, Nate! Did you notice I called the cop in the “trousers” entry by the name of Detective Nathan? That was my homage to you, my friend.

      I love that you watch films with captions on. I find them distracting (unless, of course, the film is in another language).

  5. We’ve been working our way through SAT words with my daughters. A few were new to me or I’d forgotten about.

    DELETERIOUS: Causing harm or damage
    OBURATE: stubbornly refusing to change ones opinion or course of action.
    RAPACIOUS aggressively greedy or grasp
    ASPERITY-noun, harshness in tone or manner, harsh qualities of conditions, rough edge on surface of metal

    I’m very fond of Violet, Vex, Babushka, Mercurial, Synopsis, Caveat, Scharffen Berger…oh wait that’s chocolate—still, I like the sound of it.

    • To be honest, Lynne, most of these SAT words are new to me, too. On the other hand, I’m very fond of vex, mercurial, caveat, and violet. They all have the feel of a 19th century British novel!

  6. Well, I gotta say that riff-raff and guttersnipes are now on my favorites list since I was mentioned above:

    Riff-raff, guttersnipes, as in: Eloise walked gingerly around the riff-raff and guttersnipes playing in the courtyard, in order to let the director know that she was more than ready to bring them in for their naptime.

    I feel famous! 8)

    “Apoplectic” is a favorite of mine as in “He was apoplectic with rage.” I also love “empurpled” which could be substituted for apoplectic in the sentence above.

    On the other side of the spectrum, I like “gentled”.

    Fun post!

    • I’m delighted you like the words, “riff-raff” and “guttersnipes.” I was inspired to use some of the names of my favorite bloggers, including you! Though I ran out of sentences, so I may have to do another one soon, so I can include more, like Totsy, Ariana, Jayne, and so on. 😉
      And yes, Eloise, you are famous! After all, there’s a whole series of wonderful children’s books about you: Eloise at the Plaza, Eloise at Christmastime, etc. 😉

      • Merci!

        Oh, those Eloise at the Plaza books! I got them from every aunt, cousin, grandparent. There was even a new one within the last ten years or so. Got that one too as a birthday present.8)

  7. Monica, how did Lupita get a hold of my syrup?? Girl, the word that should have made the top spot in the New Yorker should have been “panties,” with “awesome” coming in at a close second. Panties. Do you pronounce it with a t sound or or run the syllables together to make it sound like “panies”? I hate it! It makes my skin crawl. And don’t get me started on the “dude” trend. That one just makes me want to hurl. The Son has started a ridiculous trend with his friends. They now add an “s” to almost every word. Hence, people becomes “peoples,” later becomes “laters,” and dude (in singular form) becomes “dudes.” Dear Lord, give me strength. My favorite word? Canoodle, as in “I would give the devil ten years of my life if I could canoodle with Jim Caviezel.” bwhahahaha! 🙂

    • Bella, you know the best part for me in this post was coming up with the sentences. I’m so glad you caught that I’d named Lupita’s aunt after you!

      And, I’ve always hated panties. Sounds awful on so many levels. Underwear is more like it! Canoodle is a kitschy word. So retro! 🙂

  8. I love words that sound just like what they mean — ‘perseverate’ is ever so different from ‘persevere’, even if they have the same root. ‘Bittersweet’ is an all-time favorite of mine. And, to feel the true light of ‘enlightenment’ (putting aside its overuse these days) is something I hope one day to experience.

  9. Ahh, you are a wordsmith, indeed, Monica. I love it.

    “Like” is at the top of my list of words I wish would disappear–even though I LIKE this post a lot and your FB page, etc. It’s funny how that word has weaselled its way into our lives. Like, OMG! 🙂

    • Becky, I agree. I cringe when I hear some folks sprinkle the word, “like” as they speak. It’s so distracting that soon I have no idea what they’re saying as I am counting how many times they use this particular inane word. And, yes, it’s rather ironic, isn’t it? As annoying as it is in conversation, we crave to be “liked” on FB. It’s the new currency! 😉

  10. Great post Monica. I share the tall person’s love of words. I like your selection. I especially like words that describe colors, such as turquoise, azure, emerald, scarlet.

  11. My favorite word is Serendipity. I love the sound of it and the meaning of it. “Boggle,” as in “it boggles the mind” is also a great word and “pie” as in Monica-Pie or just plain “pie” is a silly word I like that is a remnant of my Southern background (I think — anyway I like it). But “Serendipity” — what a life being open to plenty of serendipity right around the corner.

    • Serendipity is a beautiful word. (Plus, did you see the movie? A lovely romantic comedy!) Another word I like is “serene.” As for “pie,” my pie of choice is, “moon pie.” It’s the kind of word I want to hug! 😉

  12. Great post! Currently I find myself using ‘Fascinating’ more than I probably should, but I like how it relays my excitement for learning something new and interesting. So many on your list are good words. It is a nice reminder of how fun language and words can be!

    • Fascinating really puts the emphasis on excitement. Use it wisely, though. You don’t want to run it into the ground, you know, and have it lose its meaning. 😉

  13. Ok Monica, once again you gave me a hard homework 😦
    I must go to my dictionaries and try to understand all those words I have never heard before.
    I love words, but I love them simple, but full of meanings!

    • Nikky, look at this way: I’m giving you new words to help you in telling your story. Most of these unusual words I know, I learned through reading great novels in my youth. It’s the best way I know to expand your vocabulary. So look them up and practice using them. Soon, they’ll come naturally and hopefully, you’ll like them as much as I do. Start with “flabbergasted.” That seems to be a really popular word. 😉

  14. Many of the words I love come from the Irish (naturally!):
    Hooligan – a mischief-maker
    Shillelagh – a wooden club with a knot on the end
    Slew – as in, lots and lots

    The words I’m bored with include:
    Nice – just what is nice, anyway?
    App – tired of having these shoved down my throat!

  15. I have not found a word what is disagreeable with my palate for words in general. Typically what annoys me is the context in which a word is used, For example, in a heated moment between a couple, the man turns to the woman and says “I care for you”, in that context and if I were that man’s lover, I might grow to hate the word ‘care’, which on it’s own is a perfectly nice little word. I don’t hate or dislike any words ( although I reserve the right to register one, should I recall one later in the week). I don’t think the word love is used often enough in the right context, which is why it’s devalued. Fabulous post, Mistress Monica.

    • Brenda, so true. When it comes to the word “Love,” we seem to use it willy-nilly, in reference to all sorts of things, which has not served any purpose but to water down its meaning.

      Thank you so much for reading. I’m glad you enjoyed this post!

  16. What a funny post!! Hehehe. I loved reading all the sentences, they are so creative! Highlights include the over-confident walker, Elvis the convict, the restroom for scofflaws, and Lupita Davenport.

  17. A couple of my favs: sycophant and hootenanny (okay, so that’s a colloquialism — which is also a good word — but then again some of the best words/phrases are regional).

  18. My favorite words are: aplomb, characteristic, ubiquitous and juxtapose

    Least favorite words are: awesome – could it be more overused?? ‘my bad’ – what is that word and what does it mean? I’d prefer mia culpa. Oh and I loathe ‘dang’..

    Lovely Monica, you have such a gift with words. May you find many more to use in your writing. I can’t wait for more.

    • I love aplomb, as in Herbert Fellwood danced the night away with great aplomb. 😉

      Re “my bad,” MM, I loathe that expression. I dislike when proper grammar is thrown out the window as it is in this case. Sigh.

  19. Favorite word: penultimate, as in second to last. You can’t say that word without sounding awesome.

    Least favorite word: awesome. Oh, and rural, especially when combined with “route.” The human mouth should never have to tackle that many r’s in such close proximity…


    • Good one, Mik. Rural reminds me of an episode of 30 Rock from a few seasons ago. In it, the star of the show within the show, Jenna, was making a movie. It was called “The Rural Juror.” Say that three times fast.

      Boy did the cast members of 30 Rock get a kick out of saying that title. It was a running gag for at least two episodes.

  20. I don’t expect none of those words are used for a true southerner, especially those who went on to college in some small southern town and got hired right after graduation in the south. We might hang on to a word like conundrum ’cause it’s easy to say and many of us are in one. I played Scrabble with my mom from a tender age, so I like words that are out there and making them up. ‘Course, I don’t think my words would make the list but that’s okay. I speak Southern and English, so I’ve got the best of both worlds.

    • Everyone says “conundrum,” Totsy. I bet even Beatrice has said it once or twice. 😉 And, you’re right that you’ve got the best of both worlds. Plus, you ooze Southern charm!

  21. Flabbergasted is a great word! It’s my favorite until I think of another great word. There are just so many it’s impossible to choose. And I love how Susan’s mother kept her notebook of new words to learn. I might just have to start studying the dictionary. Perhaps my Scrabble scores will improve. 🙂

    • Flabbergasted is such a descriptive word, and you’re right. There are so many to choose from. In the comments here, there are many more that have been offered up, like Jodi’s: comeuppance. Splendid word, I say!

    • Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting! I love Scrabble, but lately I’ve been playing Words with Friends on my iPhone. It’s so much fun and addicting. I’ll be sure to check out your site, too! 🙂

  22. I love this post, Monica, because I love words, too. In fact, when I was around 10 years old, I decided I was going to learn every word in the dictionary. I started off with the A’s, and each night, I would go thru the dictionary until I found 10 words I didn’t know, copy them in a notebook, and then use them in a sentence. When my mom died about 6 years ago, I found my old word book in her things that she had always kept!

    • Susan, this is a great story about you and your vocabulary notebook. How wonderful that your mother kept it for you. Clearly, it had as much meaning for her as it did for you. 🙂

  23. Discombobulated))) I like that one. Excuse me while I clap the syllables. Yes!

    I agree, Monica. Words Turn Me On. Words Comfort Me. Words Have Saved Me.

    Yet I despise the word: “WOOT’. It turns my stomach! Xxxx

    • Kim, I think “discombobulated” is a popular one, based on the comments here, anyway. Aren’t words the best? And, best of all, they’re free to use by anyone. You’re only as limited as you’re vocabulary! 😉

  24. “Reality” shakes me up as I wonder “Whose reality?” “Is this really real?” I ask dubiously. Yes, I’m very dubious about using the word “reality”. But then, perhaps I live in a fantasy world.

    • Georgette, “Reality” was ruined the moment the first reality show debuted, and it’s never been the same. If you live in a fantasy world, may I join you? 😉

  25. Abstemious and ubiquitous are words that I love. Not that I am abstemious at dinner, I usually indulge in the ubiquitous bread bowl. Words I could do without – phlegm, mucus – oh wait, maybe it’s the allergy season I can do without. But not lilacs. Aren’t they just fabulous? I’ll even suffer the phlegm for a whiff of a lilac. And since my husband’s name is ‘Tony’, guess I’d better keep that word too. LOL.

  26. I must admit the word I hate the most is “Plump” I mean what kind of word is that? It can mean anything from describing somebody who is overweight to a decent sized turkey at Christmas!!

    The two most underused words these days seem to be “Sorry” and “Please” many youngsters especially don’t seem to be aware they exist.

    The most abused word I think is “Love” it can mean so many things and at the same time mean either so much or so little.

    As for my favourite word….. I don’t think I have one, The English language is so rich in words, meaning, depth and feeling that I think it’s impossible to have a favourite.

    So there you have it Roberts thoughts on the English language, a language that’s always evolving and is spoken and abused by many many people.

    This is a bit of a deep post for me, especially on a wet May morning.

    • Robert, I wholeheartedly agree re “please” and “sorry.” “Plump,” too, for that matter. Thanks for sharing your pet peeves!

      Hope you’re having a great week!

  27. “Moist” is, indeed, a weird word. I don’t care for it either, but I’m not sure why. I also hate the word “nasty.” But, as someone who taught writing to college students for years, I, too, dislike the overuse of “like”–as in, “She is, like, so weird.” I hate the verbal hiccup it has become.

    Also, have to agree that “discombobulated” is a wonderful word!

    (Can’t wait to read your memoir, Monica!)


    • “Moist” is like chalk on a blackboard. I had no idea just how many people hate it! Kathryn, I’m with you on “like.” Like, yuck! Will keep you posted on my memoir. 😉

  28. I love the word ‘bailiwick’, which means a person’s special field of interest, responsibility, or expertise. When people accuse me of dropping the ball on something, I like to say, “Hey, that wasn’t my bailiwick!”

    I do indeed hate the word ‘moist’.

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