Linda Stamper Boyne: Choice words to chew on
Vail, CO, Colorado
I love words. A shocking admission coming from a writer, right? But seriously, I’m one of those people who will stop someone midsentence and say, “Oooo, good word!”
Now, I’m by no means saying I have a fabulous vocabulary that I use in my writing or in daily conversations. I have a bit of a memory problem, and though I will comment on the use of a great word, more often than not I will have forgotten it five minutes later. But I have a great appreciation for its usage in that moment.
We all use them every day, but how often do you stop and really think about the words themselves? When’s the last time you showed some appreciation for the English language?
I like the way some words sound when you say them aloud, such as “mellifluous,” “lugubrious,” “surreptitious” and “espionage.” Go ahead ” say them out loud. You know you want to. See, don’t they sound better that way than they do in your head?
Some words are just really fun to say because of their rhythm or the combination of sounds, such as “omnipotent,” “rigmarole,” “akimbo” and “persnickety.” It almost makes you want to work them into light conversation whenever possible, but then they might become common and overused and they’ll lose their charm.
There are those that just sound like what they are. Let’s call them ultra-descriptives. (Look! I’m making up words now!) What comes to mind when you read these words? Discombobulated. “Residue.” “Succulent.” “Giggle.” “Outrageous.” “Livid.” “Mortified.” There’s just no doubt about what someone is trying to convey.
Some you just have to love for their meaning. “Peace.” “Love.” “Groovy.”
I wondered if other people thought about words the way I do, if they had favorite words, and I found that, no, not really. The initial reaction was that apparently I’m just odd. But once people thought about it, they began coming up with things.
I’d get a text message hours later, just one word long. “Revueltos” (Spanish for “scrambled”) or “Incongruous.” And now, “What’s your favorite word?” is quickly replacing, “If you could invite anyone, living or dead, to a dinner party, who would it be?” as the top cocktail-party conversation starter.
The first word one of my girlfriends said was one stuck in her brain from studying for her SATs a couple of decades ago: “microdonts” (small teeth). The one that stuck in mine from that period is “superfluous” (excessive or unnecessary). Another friend likes the word “glutinous” and, as a descriptive term, “crabbypants.”
I did find one of my friends who also has a fascination with words, but he’s intrigued by their derivation. He has the amazing ability to remember all the details, the root words and stories surrounding the etymology. Among his favorite are “sincere” from the Latin “san cera,” meaning “without wax,” and the story had something to do with not sealing something with wax or running out of wax or, well, I can’t remember exactly. Another is “carnival,” the festival before Lent, which literally translated to “goodbye meat.”
My mom likes the word “epiphany” because it’s fun to say and she loves what it means (a flash of insight). But she also likes “cookie” because that one word allowed Cookie Monster to express so much depending on how he said it. And she just really likes cookies.
My dad likes “kaleidoscopic” (ever-changing forms and color), which was actually an unexpected choice from him. I’m not sure what I thought he’d say, but that surprised me.
My next-door neighbor once had a teacher describe her 8-year-old son, now grown with children of his own, as obstreperous (noisy or unruly, especially in resisting). She remembered it all these years and shared it with me recently when my boys were being rather obstreperous.
My all-time favorite words? There are two. I like saying them and the way they sound. I like their meanings, and I like the way they make me feel. “Cabana” because it just takes me to a place of sun and sand and palm trees and vacation and someone serving me mojitos while I lounge in the shade. And “serendipity,” the gift of finding good things by chance.
Linda Stamper Boyne, of Edwards, writes weekly for the Vail Daily. She can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org.