My favorite words, Volume 1.
And now, for something a little different.
Like a lot of people on this site in particular, I like words. I like words a lot. But this wasn’t always the case.
When I was a kid in grade school, my dad would sit me down after dinner, and make me learn 12 vocabulary words a week. He too, after all, was and is an avid reader, but he often ran into words that he didn’t know the meanings to. So whenever he did, he would write them down, and make me learn them too. I hated it at the time. Come on, what 10 year old wants more homework?
But as I got older and (questionably) wiser, I realized what a smart idea this was. As my reading level advanced, the more I noticed words I already learned from all those times spent with dad at the dinner table. Although my writing life has taught me that simpler is often better, there are still fewer better things for a person to have than a robust vocabulary.* So I got to thinking – why not list out some of my favorites here? Some of them, I learned from dad. Others, I learned from local vernacular. And the rest, well, I just learned from reading.
*In my opinion, long, complicated words should be handled as carefully as adding cayenne pepper to your dinner. Just a touch will do, and will still be easily noticed. Much more than that, and it’s unbearable, and you start sounding like Mary Shelley.
Here’s 5 of my favorites!
1. to batter severely; strike
He tried to clobber me with his club.
2. to defeat decisively; drub; trounce.
3. to denounce or criticize vigorously.
What a great, great verb. Growing up, I would hear my mom use this word often. Most people, however, will naturally think of The Thing from the Fantastic Four saying it before he thundered into a fight.
Predictably, it’s vernacular from the 1940s. Why do I like it so much? It’s just fun to say, and it’s the perfect word to use when you want to threaten someone without making it sound menacing. Alternatively, it’s just not used all that often anymore, so it just sounds fresher. Also, depending on what you plan on doing your clobberin’ with, it’s almost onomatopoeia.
1. to affect with sharp irritation and resentment, especially by some wound to
She was greatly piqued when they refused her invitation.
2. to wound (the pride, vanity, etc.).
3. to excite (interest, curiosity,
Her curiosity was piqued by the gossip.
4. to arouse an emotion or provoke to
to pique someone to answer a challenge.
5. Archaic. to pride (oneself) (usually followed by on or upon).
6. to arouse pique in
an action that piqued when it was meant to soothe.
7. a feeling of irritation or resentment, as from a wound to pride or
8. Obsolete. a state of irritated feeling between persons.
Wow. 7 different uses? Highly unusual out of something derived from a romance language. Of course, the third use is the most common. It’s actually kind of an inside joke between my wife and I to always spell it out when using it that way. But this is a cool word, and familiar enough to actually be useful in a regular conversation. And if you use it in the more negative context, it’s a way to look pissed off and educated. Not to mention, it’s a sound that doesn’t show up often in the English language. Good fun, this one.
Just look at that adorable face.
1. a domesticated animal.
2. any creature.
The definition makes total sense, that it’s just a bizarre branch from the root word of creature. But honestly, that’s kind of a boring way to use this word. The most fun you can have using this word is by taking a few liberties with definition 2. I personally define it as “any creature that I don’t directly know the name of, but need to point out.” I also use it when I know there’s something that’s outside, but I don’t know exactly what it is.
Big, ugly bug flying around? That’s a critter. Something scratching against your outdoor trash can? That’s a critter. Use it with flair!
Pussyfoot. [poo s-ee-foo t]
1. to go or move in a stealthy or cautious manner.
2. to act cautiously or timidly, as if afraid to commit oneself on a point at issue.
3. a person with a catlike, or soft and stealthy, tread.
I wish I could say I enjoy this word for its roots, for how archaic it is. You almost need to be wearing a top hat and monocle to not sound weird using it. Neither of which I own. A character flaw, I know.
No, my favorite part is how close it gets to sounding dirty. It’s not uncommon for the word “pussy” to be used in the definitively non-sexy way to denote that someone is lacking testosterone/manhood. As in, “You’re scared? What are you? A pussy?”
The brilliant part is that this word basically has the exact same purpose. “Are you afraid? Why are you pussyfooting around, good sir?” You say the exact same thing, except you sound infinitely more educated and pretentious. Which is usually a bad thing, but not really when you’re taunting someone anyway, right? I love it.
1. the heart, liver, gizzard, and the like, of a fowl, often cooked separately.
It sounds like it should be the name for some bizarre race out of a sci-fi/fantasy novel. But it’s just a word you get to use to describe the stuff you pull out of a turkey before you roast it for Thanksgiving every year. It’s so funny to say that I enjoy using it. That’s all.
Anyhow, that’s it for this installment. I’ve got plenty to go, though. English is a weird language.