Monday, May 26, 2008

your favorite words

One of my all-time favorite assignments from my Stylistics grad class (that I have since stolen and passed off as my own brilliant exercise) was first to make a list of 100 of my favorite words, and then somehow whittle it down to ten.

I don't remember all of them, but the top ten included

(what can I say? I have a thing for the short "c" sound).

Others that likely made the cut:

In my first novel, I inserted these when protagonist invited her love interest to make a similar list. I added one of his to my own: lacivious. I also added a former student's all-time favorite: boob.

The other part of the assignment was to make three-word clusters from our 100-word list, choosing seemingly random combinations, although we all seemed to try to find ones that made meaning. I recall one classmate's:
gelantinous buddha belly.
One of mine caused the class to erupt with laughter, moreso because the way I said it than the words themselves, my Long Island accent still thick at the time:
maniacal pompous rat-bastard.

At the time, I argued that rat-bastard was one word rather than two -- certainly I said as one word. However, if one of my students attempted to pass such off as one, I'd probably argue otherwise. (The unfortunate result of this is that I became known to my classmates as the rat-bastard...affectionately, of course...)

Of course, I don't have my students come up w/ 100 words. For some of them, it's tough enough to come up w/ 10. I remember having a hard time paring down to 100, much less 10. Few of my freshman students, 99% of whom are not English majors, have ever given thought to words, or the role words play in writing. For them, writing is so rote, so unconscious, that thinking about why they like a word, why they would choose one over another, is baffling to them (baffle is a good word). But sometimes one word makes all the difference in the world. There's a world of difference between ired and irked, for instance. Or at least there can be. Between cogitate and think, between died and croaked. And part of the fun of being a writer is playing w/ every last word, trying those combinations, seeking meaning, soaking in all the etymoligical (is that a word?) delight.

And so, blog readers, please share your top ten favorite words (at least for this given day). You could be like Willie Clark in Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys ("Words with a 'k' in it are funny") or you could choose it because of what it is or means (I've heard a lot of actors on Inside the Actor's Studio say their favorite word is yes), or how it looks on the page: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (oh, come on, you didn't think I could leave that one out, did you?). And so on.

Have a go. I look forward to seeing what floats your boat.


Kaa said...

For today only and in no certain order:


Don't ask me why; they're just the ones that presented themselves when I thought "favorite words" at this particular time. :)

The Purple Panda said...

Great list! Especially love "mango" and "sentient".

Thanks for sharing!

anyone else?

Sarah said...

because i like the way they feel in my mouth:
splop (and other great onomatopoeias)

because i like their meanings:

because i use them a lot:

i like watching my top 10 list develop. some of these words are veterans (ochre, defenestrate, some onomatopoeia of some sort), some i picked up in undergrad (chiaroscuro), and some speak to my daily life as a med student (epiploicae) or passions (dancing, cake, art).

it's just fun to watch it evolve.

The Purple Panda said...

I always loved chiaroscuro (although I rarely spell it right) since my high school Studio in Art days (that was the name of the class -- forgive me, the reunion is just around the corner...) and well, you know how I feel about cake, both as a word and how it feels in my mouth...

thanks for sharing!

MitMoi said...

This was hard. I love words - but favorite ones? I've always felt out when people made these lists. Maybe it's because I'm a crap speller? Anyway - I went back through some writing to find words I use frequently - or really like the sound of .... here goes:

Mock indignation

The Purple Panda said...

Yes, abysmal is a FUW (frequently used word), although I've heard teachers refer to their students' drafts as such, and that infuriates me to no end).

I thought your list was great, Mit! I just love seeing what people come up with because there's always a gem either that I wouldn't have thought of or that I love but didn't add to my own.

Thanks for sharing!

Sarah said...

i'd like to add behemoth (which i *never* spell correctly - it always starts out bohemouth) to the list.

and can you really say the alphabet backwards??