“Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words!” ~ My Fair Lady
Or, as defined by my dictionary:
Word (n): the smallest single meaningful unit of speech or writing
Clearly, the song lyrics aren’t entirely apt as a girl who begins every blog post with a song lyric and a dictionary definition is more than a little fond of words. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t read or wasn’t fascinated by words. My parents and probably older siblings read to me when I was a baby. I can remember the first book my mum stopped reading to me when I was in bed and left me to read myself (Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson, if you’re curious).
My mum also instilled in me a great love of crosswords. There’s the ‘little crossword’ you know, the easy one. And then there’s the ‘big crossword’, which is the cryptic one. I love getting my head into the mindset of the cryptic one and every answer I get feels like a result to me. My crowning achievement was managing to get 7 or 8 in The Times without any assistance. (Yes, I know, I have a long way to go). But doing the little crossword is always fascinating as I have a passion for new words. If you have to look it up in the dictionary to find out what it means then so much the better for me. Especially when you get a history of the word; from Greek or Latin, for example.
Of course, when we’re young we all get told that “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Sadly anyone who has ever been bullied, insulted or verbally humiliated (and that’s everyone, right?) will know that’s not true. Words are incredibly powerful things. The ability to use and manipulate language to one’s own ends is one of the greatest powers we have.
The way the meaning of words change is also something that also interests me. The BBC carried an article on the changing meaning of the word ‘disgust’ here. Not a word I had previously contemplated but a prime example of how language evolves.
I used the word “discombobulated” on Twitter the other day. It is such a funny looking word I wondered about its etymology. I had several response, all of them different, but it appears to have turned up in the early 1800s, with a possible link to a coin and maybe stemming the word ‘bobbery’. It mainly means to discomfort. It’s also one of @LegalBizzle‘s favourite words, along with ‘cavil’ and ‘serendipitous’. Other Twitter favourtite words are ‘disingenuous’ (@Chairforce1) and ‘pettifoggery’ and ‘pandiculate’ (@InHouseHotshot). @StephenFry‘s favourite is apparently ‘plinth’.
Some of my favourite words are:
Manifesto – unusual, I know. It appears in this by Sultans of Ping and I’ve loved the word since first hearing that song.
Onomatopeia – no idea why. I hardly ever say it but I love the way the syllables roll round your mouth.
Gorgeous – again, I love the way this word feels as you say it.
Lieutenant – pronounced properly way, naturally.
Feckless – Favourite. Word. Ever. If I were to ever have to describe myself in one word, it would almost certainly be this.
So there you. A little ramble about words and language. Not quite sure where it’s going. Maybe my thoughts on this, like language itself, are constantly evolving? Do drop me a line about your thoughts on language & your favourite words on a comment box-shaped postcard.