Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Words I Like and Don't

As a writer I love words. I believe in their power to inspire and to hurt. I love the sound of certain words and disdain others, so I thought I’d write about words I like and those I dislike.

I got the idea for this post after hearing exacerbated used in one of my audio books. I don’t like that word at all, it doesn’t roll off my tongue easily and I mess it up any time I try to say it. I like the meaning of the word: to make worse, but I can’t use it because it is so difficult to both say and write.

I occasionally (another word I don't like because I never spell it right!) work as a substitute teacher in the local school district and I find myself struggling to pronounce the varied names of the students in the class. How awful is it that I keep asking the class, “How do you say his/her name?” when the poor child is sitting right there? I ask the class because I often can’t understand the child who belongs to the name. Not only are some of the names difficult to remember, they are darned hard to pronounce and a few have annoyed me. How about “Javenus”, a name which doesn’t lend itself to an easy pronunciation, it’s just a choppy name. I embrace diversity and like creative names, but some of them make me grateful for vanilla names like Melanie and Tommy.

I often think of James Lipton, host of The Actor’s Studio, who asks his guests, “What is your favorite or least favorite word?” Many of the answers are words with meaning, such as bigot or truth. If I were to answer in kind I would say my least favorite words are hurtful curse words, or curse words in general. I don’t like to hear someone pepper their speech by swearing every other word; it is a waste of perfectly good language. However, when alone, usually in my car or in my yard and either a pushy and rude driver or a kinked garden hose gets the best of me, I can spout profanities as good as any Hell’s Angel, so who am I to talk?

My favorite words with meaning are cliché: love, kindness, justice. I’d have to say my all-time favorite word, one that easily rolls of my tongue and holds meaning for me is Siskiyou. The word just sounds wonderful and it reminds me of a place I long to be; the mountains of northern California/southern Oregon. I loved the word so much I named a new puppy “Siskiyou” but unfortunately it died young from Parvovirus. The experience was painful but at least I don’t associate the loss with the name, I still consider it my favorite.

What is your least favorite word? Your favorite? Why? What meaning do these words hold for you, or do you like them just because they sound good to you?

10 comments:

Alan Burnett said...

Another interesting post. My favourite word? At the moment it is probably "bake". Don't ask me who there is just such a solidity of tradition about it. Least favourite? "Foreign" - because it is always used as a term of criticism and denigration.

Lisa Gioia-Acres said...

Alan, I like bake, too! And soup! Thanks for weighing in.

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Great post!

My least favorite word is: ginormous (it's not even a word but let me tell you it is used!)

My favorite word is: pamplemousse (grapefruit in French)

Vegas Linda Lou said...

You know my favorite word; it's one that you say in the car when you're mad. Favorite thing to say, favorite thing to do. But that's just me.

As for my least favorite words, three come to mind. I refuse to write the first one, but it begins with a "b" and has to do with noses. I absolutely cannot stand that word; it's disgusting.

"Panties" is another word I would never say. It sounds so dirty and icky.

The third word is "penis." For all the joy they bring, that is the gayest sounding word ever. When I look at one, I prefer not to think of what it's called. But that's just me.

Lisa Gioia-Acres said...

Oh, Linda! It's okay, say it - booger! The word "panties" is fine, I don't like brassiere, that word is weird. As for your last word: Hey! This is a family oriented blog!

It's all good though, because I'll take you just the way you are and yes, that's just YOU.

Laura Hyde said...

Right now, my favorite word in Rain :)

Cindy Oakes Schilling said...

Let me start by saying I like your writing. Must be the nuns - LOL.
Now...for my least favorite word...I'd have to say it's "aint". I simply abhore the use of that word in any fashion. I reaks of ignorance and I literally cringe when I hear it used.
As for my favorite word: Philosophically. I guess it speaks of who I am. I have been told that I "think too much". Maybe, but I doubt it.

Dawn Feliciano-Reyes said...

Favorite word: "congruous" It has appealing philosophical, ethical, and geometric connotations. I think a nun, Sister Kathleen Feeley, who was the president of the College of Notre Dame in the 1980s used it in a high school commencement speech.

Detested word: "piggyback" As in, "Piggybacking on that comment of Marilyn's..." Workplace jargon, yuck!

Christine Forest, M.D. said...

My creative writng teacher hates the word "things" when it trys to replace other words with specific meaning. I find that sometimes it could have its place, a proper place, not just replacing something else. Like: "I grew up. I now know things."
But my favourite word is "WA" which can't be really translated all that well in English from Japanse, but it has a complex meaning of "inner peace." Many Asian people value this concept and try hard not to disturb each other's wa, so they try to be kind, polite and, when they can, loving to each other. How about your wa today?

L.T. Elliot said...

I love so many words that it would be hard to pick just one. I love the word fruition. The way it sounds is beautiful but I also like its meaning.

Dislikes? I don't care for the word apathy. Not just because of its meaning but because it's used so often in music and literature. I swear that every popular song has that word in it twice, if not more.