A Passion for Words

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Words entice me into books, thrill me when well spoken, and bedevil me when I’m writing. They amuse me, enrich me, anger me, and sometimes fail me. I spend part of every day entangled with words, and I couldn’t be happier.

According to family lore, a weakness for words wanders in my genes, making me susceptible to the eight parts of speech, well positioned. My grandmother, Caroline Hall, responsible for my cheekbones and weakness for ginger cookies, also led me to words with her zeal for books and a lap perfect for reading Mother West Wind “Why” Stories to a toddler.gramma

When she was eighty-five, she showed me a small box on a shelf above her sink that held 365 vocabulary cards. The word of the day was insouciance; she was to learn it and use it several times in conversation. She studied the card for a minute or so, and then told me my dishwashing was too insouciant.

I realized the extent of my obsession with words when I met a girl in college I liked for her lively eyes, tinkling laugh, and tongue-tickling name: Roxie Throckmorton. Try saying that name aloud two or three times. Please do.

Wasn’t that fun?

Roxie’s name filled my mouth and gave a dramatic lilt to my voice, so I said it every chance I had. The poor girl must have tired of my fixation; before long, every time I saw her, she was vanishing around a corner.

Other words ricochet and resound in my mouth as well. Serendipitous is a long time favorite; my flowers gave me coreopsis; and a fellow blogger introduced me to susurrus.

I admire words that echo the sound they represent — whisper, quack, sizzle — and am partial to compound words that are self-descriptive — dragonfly and raindrop.

Through no fault of their own, I find some words innately funny and amuse myself every time I write them: irk, rambunctious, chortle. I tend to overuse these words, especially my favored willy-nilly.

Some words offend me in an oh-yuck way, and I admire their ability to do so. Spew and sludge are fine examples.

Names that flow with poetic rhythm captivate me: Persephone, Schenectady, Thaddeus, Kaskaskia, Edna St. Vincent Millay.

I suppose my family had it right. I did inherit a weakness for words. They answer a need in me as demanding as my need for light.

Do you share my affection for words? Can you think of two or three you are partial to for whatever reason? If so, please leave some in a comment, no rationale required. I’d enjoy reading words that appeal to you. Who knows, I might discover another as amusing as willy-nilly.

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36 thoughts on “A Passion for Words

  1. I am a fellow fan of “chortle.” That’s how I always described my beagle Mable’s laughing bark of joy when she greeted me road-side as I stepped off the school bus every afternoon.
    I love: philanthropic, enigmatic, insipid, manse, juxtaposition, and lately ~ roil. Vocab tests were one part of school that I looked forward to as much as Art class and Choir!

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  2. I made one up for a piece I’m now working on: Compstability. The piece is titled “Environ Mentally-Challenged.” I explore the idea that while the trash that I find in the back country is not biodegradable, the people who leave it are. I’ll put it up in a couple of weeks.

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  3. For some reason Tim and I love the word “ungulate”. When we’re driving across highway 40 in NW Colorado and see a herd of antelope or a few deer we exclaim: “Look at all the ungulates!”
    Our very large cat is named “Moose” and although he is, of course, a feline… we sometimes call him an ungulate too!

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  4. I like to casually drop cacophony, circuitous, or indegenous into conversations, and whenever opportunity arises, say quinoa. I, like Aunt Beulah, love serendipitous, for its meaning and how it sounds. An all time favorite is snarky. Its sound makes me laugh.

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    • I forgot about cacophony when writing this post, or I would have tried to use it. I like it’s sound, feel in my mouth, and meaning. I agree with you about snarky as well. I look for chances to use it.

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  5. Ah words, my companions when alone. I do not like the words moist, burlap, Cock-a-Poo, meal, or Quinoa, My mother had a friend, Margarita Bastiachia, whose name, like Jose Napolean Aduarte I sing when alone and words dessert me. We just found an old, (1977) is now old, medical book at work, I have found some good ones, as always your post has left me sufficiently safonsified, like a fine Croquemboche. Cheers.

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  6. worzelodd, the mention of a medical book reminds me of several words, that were unfortunate for the patient, nevertheless rather fun to say: petechiae, idiopathic thrombocytopenia, and my favorite…serosanguinous.

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    • You sent me to my dictionary with your last sentence, Sheila. I think there are stories behind the words you don’t like. Am I right, or do you simply find the words themselves irritating? The two names you sing certainly rival my Roxie Throckmorton. I’ve tried them, and they do lilt in my mouth. And, Mercy, how did you ever get your tongue around those medical words. Their pronunciations appear daunting to me.

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  7. Oh, dear Beulah! This post was sheer delight to read. Lucky you to inherit cheekbones and a thirst for words. My very favorite has always been capricious for that is what life is ! Loved the replies you ‘solicited’ as well.

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  8. Of course, willy nilly is a favourite of mine, but I try not to use it willy nilly, I also like rhinoceros genetalia and gooseberries. Should I have put a comma in there? I am not fond of punctuation or diarrhoea, but funnily enough, I am rather fond of urophagia and the squitters.

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    • Pam, a friend’s dad, when frustrated with a malfunctioning piece of farm equipment or a stubborn cow, used to hit his leg with his hat and yell, “Well, gull durnit, girls!” Thanks for helping me remember.

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  9. Lovely, plump, and lousy. I love these words. I don’t speak Spanish but I like to pretend I do. I love to yell “vamanos muchachos!!” daily at my children. I also love chica and mijo. Just so you know. 🙂

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    • I’m so pleased to hear from you, Bonnie. Spanish does have a ring to it. Being a retired schoolteacher, I’m partial to the only complete sentence I know in Spanish: “Donde esta la esquela?”

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  10. Dear Janet, Mercy, Aunt Doris and friends, here are some more words, Pygal- pertaining to the Buttocks, Fur Fur- Dandruff, Leresis, Talkative elderly person, Biota Randen- beet juice. Pytherism, sound of wind in the trees. Oh what fun, enjoy.

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      • I work in a Health Food Store Janet, a relic of a place, poorly managed by the 82 year old owners son. I deal with the bulk grains and seeds, and the dry herbs, and compounds for making teas and tinctures. The warehouse is a dusty Bleak House, the tiny lunch room a nasty bile color, but it is in that room I do most of my writing..something about it .His second store, “Fairfield” closed last week, “Good Ship Fairfield” was roughly inspired by saying farewell to co-workers from there.

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      • I’m so glad I asked the question, Sheila, because it elicited this very interesting answer. As usual, your words helped me picture where you work — and write. Seems an unusual place to call forth your muse, but it obviously works for you. I’ll go back and reread “Good Ship Fairfield” with new appreciation.

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      • Any time Janet, I apreciate your curiosity, I wrote “You Remind Me Of Haggis” on the #50 bus on the back of the phone bill. On my daily commute, the ever nasty bus passes the real “Godfrey’s Luggage” Will get organized and send you some pictures.

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  11. Great post. Your grandmother’s cheekbones are wonderful.
    One of my favorite words is Rutabaga. Fun to say and yummy to eat. Whenever we have it, my entire family chants, “Rutabaga, rutabaga, rah, rah, rah!” You may have guessed that we are not entirely normal.

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