Monday, January 16, 2012

In appreciation of lovely, wonderful words

I've been having a lot of discussions and reading a lot of articles on pronunciation lately. There are some words I tend to forget how to pronounce continuously. For example: Misogynistic. Maybe it's just me, but that word is horrendous to pronounce. Any word that starts with a vowel and is followed by an x or double c is pretty tricky as well. Accent. I have to cough a little bit to make the double c come out right and it makes me sound like a kitten choking on a hairball.

The thing is, people can be pretty militant about pronunciation. Foliage should be pronounced Foe-lee-a-ige and if you (heaven forbid!) pronounce it Foe-lidg, you might find yourself the victim of extreme ridicule. Believe me. I've been there.

But this entry isn't to complain about words that are difficult to pronounce, or to spark Toe-may-toe/Toe-mah-toe debates. No, this entry exists to celebrate those words that are wonderful, the ones that are an absolute joy to pronounce.

Here are a few:

Ominous - I've always adored this word. It rolls off the tongue like melted butter. Similarly, I also adore Omnibus, though I have less chances to use it.

Shirk - Yes, I've been shirking my blogging duties lately, but mostly in the interest of having an excuse to use the word shirk in a context that would seem relevant and natural.

Espresso - Ah, what a lovely break the word espresso is from all those xs and double cs. You can even hiss a little bit as you say it. If the weather is cold, a little puff of steam might emerge from your lips. "Why don't you and I pick up an essssspresso?"

Tumultuous - Has there ever been a word that sounds so much like what it describes? Whenever I hear this word, I can see the storm clouds churning.

Your turn. Have any favorites?


  1. "Espresso" is essentially a foreign word, so if that's fair game, then a whole number of French, Italian, and Japanese (and sure, even a couple of German) words commonly used in English would qualify (among other languages of origin). "Mot juste," "Schadenfreude," "Umami," "Mezzo-soprano," etc. etc.

    A few others:
    Mellifluous, for obvious reasons.

    Fickle, because it could also double as a cartoon character name.

    Onomatopoeia, since it's almost like saying a made-up singsong word.

    Jaunty, since there's a weirdly satisfying visual that goes along with it.

    Boondoggle, since it sounds like the cartoon pet name of the aforementioned cartoon character.

  2. My friend and I made a list of weird words at work! Maybe I'll post them when I find it. I really like "espresso". For the same reasons I also like "whisper". I like "loaf" because it always makes me laugh, and "feisty" because it's just great.

    I also have the words that I have always read one way, and heard another. Maybe that's just me. For example, "coiff", pronounced "kw-ah-f", and which I always read as "coy-f". Or catastrophe.

    I remember some of the strange-sounding words from our list:
    -foosty, more an urban dictionary word than an actual word

    Excellent idea for a post :)

  3. Espresso is a great word. I like the word "glistening"

  4. Oh, my goodness. It drives me BONKERS when people say ex-presso. What, is it, like, dripping faster than usual??

    Lovely blog...and I love your very diversified background!

  5. I love it when people freak out over the word et cetera.Hee hee!

  6. Mike- Anything that rhymes with Fickle is pretty awesome, too. Sickle, Trickle, Pickle. Actually, Pickle might be one of the best words ever. "Excuse me, sir. I'm in a bit of a pickle."

    Katie - I totally forgot about Schlep. That word is brilliant.

    Carrie - Nice. Another one of those words that totally sounds like what it describes.

    Barbara - Thank you for your compliment and your followship! I thought it was pronounced ex-presso for the longest time. Finding out I was wrong was the biggest relief, because espresso is so much better. :)

    Alleged - I always think of "The King and I" when I think of that word. Yul Brynner waving his arm around "Etc, etc, etc!"

  7. Ominous is an awesome word. :)

    One of my favorites is effervescent; though I rarely, if ever, come across an opportunity to use it.

  8. Ah! These are the types of fave words I was talking about on my blog (well, assuming you use these words in your writing). :D I like careen, velvety, kaleidoscope--among others.

  9. Serendipitous. I love what it means, and I love saying it. :)

  10. Serendipity was my favorite because I had a lot of children's books that were published under that label. I remember thinking it was a beautiful word the first time my mother read it to me. I'm so angry at the movie for stealing my favorite word and making it really, really popular. Ugh.

  11. Eagle - Ah, I love effervescent

    Carol - People should definitely use careen more.

    Lydia and Katie - Great word! Were those the fantasy picture books they used to print? Unicorns and baby dragons and such? If so, I totally remember those.