Words! Words! Words!
On the whole, we take words for granted. But think about it. How many words have you spoken today? How many have you heard? How many have you read? How many have you written?
I don’t think many of us could begin to estimate the answer to those questions, except maybe the last one.
I stood in a bookshop the other day and imagined what it would be like if all the words held in the books escaped like flying creatures, zooming around our heads while the books fell back gasping, their pages blank.
Then I got to thinking about words I really like and words I hate and words that I don’t react to – the bread and butter words, like: the, and, because, people, things, doing…
I feel strongly against ‘absolutely’. It’s not really a bad word, but it is so overused. I found myself counting the number of times it was used on an interview on the radio one morning. Grrr!
Some words are music to my ears, for example: remiss, endearing, slothful, piquant. They’re like waves of warm water around my ears. It’s like relaxing in a bath or floating in a swimming pool under a hot sun. Aah!
One word made it to the top of my hate parade the moment I first heard it. Luckily, I don’t hear it used very often. But this week, I heard it on the news on the radio! It’s escaped and is freely out there now! Argh!
Discombobulated – it isn’t a word, it’s a caricature of a word. I imagined how it came about. No-one would purposely invent such a word, so I worked out its possible origin...
Character A had gathered a handful of multisyllabic words from several of the tomes that lined the family’s private library shelves. (The family never had books, they had leather bound tomes, making an impressive display.) Walking across the polished, hardwood floor, he stumbled as he caught his foot in the ragged edge of an ancient Persian rug that had been there since at least his great-grandfather’s day if not before that. Reaching out his hands to break his fall, the words he had been holding were scattered across the floor, bouncing like marbles as they broke into single syllables and some single letters. He grabbed at them, pushing the readable ones together in a mishmash. The crushed odd letters and the few syllables remaining he stuffed into the waste paper basket under the previous day’s newspaper. Hurriedly placing the newly formed word on the table, he sat back in an overstuffed armchair just as there was a light tap on the library door. Character B entered carrying a tray with a cup of freshly ground coffee and the daily newspaper, neatly pressed.
Character B fixed one eye on Character A, noticing the slight sheen of sweat on his forehead. Her other eye roamed around the library, seeming to take in a sense of disarray.
‘Your coffee and newspaper, sir.’
‘Thank you. And B, there’s a new word available.’
Character B picked up the new word gingerly. ‘And what would you like me to do with it, sir?’ As she spoke, her wandering eye alighted on the waste paper basket. Her raised eyebrow repeated the question.
Character A cleared his throat. ‘As always, B. It must go in the lexicon.’
‘Must it? Sir.’
Character A squirmed inside his heavy tweed jacket; a slight blush suffused his cheeks. ‘Yes, B. Yes, it must.’
Character B placed the word on the now empty silver tray, her top lip rising in an almost imperceptible sneer. ‘Dis-com-bob-u-late-ed. Hmm.’
Character A picked up his newspaper. ‘That will be All, B. Thank you.’ He held up the paper to shield his eyes from her disapproving shoulders as she left the room, closing the door a little more firmly than usual.
Now I’m going to have to make a list in my head of all my favourite words to clear that word from my brain!
What are your favourites words? And the ones you can’t stand?