Feb 27, 2011

Playing Favorites

By Wendy A. Jones


The way words sound has always fascinated me. When I was in fourth grade, I had the chance to be in a special class for part of the day, where we did special 'smart kids' things. One assignment in particular sticks in my brain. We were supposed to come up with a product, with packaging and special features, and then produce a mock-up and a marketing scheme so we could film a commercial.

Let me tell you something--I was pretty well-versed in making commercials at that point in my existence. One of my favorite pastimes was to set up the video camera on a tripod in my room and sell everything from Vaseline to Sweet Valley Twins books to an unseen audience. Sometimes my friends would help, and sometimes it was just me. They are painfully hilarious to watch.

So I had no qualms whatsoever about pushing a product on VHS. My product was called "Onomatopoeia" gum, and its main selling point was the fact that it was invisible and hence a body could chew it in school without your teacher finding out. (Ah, to think on the good ol' days when chewing gum in class was the height of mischief.)

One thing I find interesting in hindsight is the product name. Obviously it was something I'd recently learned about at school, and, equally as obvious, it had nothing to do with my product. I'd chosen it solely because of the way it sounded.

Since then, I've thought a lot on different words. Some sound pleasant on the lips--like lithe and frost and joy. Others make me shudder and I try hard to keep them behind my teeth--lewd and moist and adultery. Mastication. Yuck.

Recently, I've found myself loving words like savvy and pizazz and vacuum and octupii. There's something cool about those not-often-used double letters. And anything ending in two i's. (Cactii. See?)

In high school, I was a Franklin Planner girl. I took that black leather book everywhere. At the back, on one of the blank pages I wrote WORDS. Every time I heard a great word--or one that made me laugh--I'd put it on my list. I dug out the shoe box with the list on it to look over before writing this blog post. Guess what--I still like most of the words there.

Here are a few winners:

What about you? Have any favorite or unfavorite words you want to share?


  1. For some reason I love the word plethora.
    oh and phenomenal.
    My favorite foreign word:

    [pomp le moose}] is the French word for grapefruit.

    Thanks for the exercise, Wendy. i think i am going to have to start keeping a list!

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  3. Two of my favorite words are "shenanigans" and "kerfuffle." Also, "hippopotamus," a very early favorite from my toddlerhood. "Toddler" is yet another fun one.

    I recently learned my 17-year-old keeps a running thread to herself in her Gmail account for interesting words and phrases. (She entrusts me with her password, so I can log on now to see the words she's picked. Hee hee) Among her latest word discoveries are "Defenestrate: to throw out of a window," and "Antediluvian: extremely old."

    The English language is so amazing to me! We've incorporated countless words from other languages and ancient origins, and made them our own. We can choose from so many different words that describe one thing. No wonder some linguists claim that English is one of the most difficult languages to master.

  4. When I was in college, a friend who alas I've long since lost contact with decided to write a list of sayings of college students in the late 70s. I still have that list and roar with laughter when I read it. My 2 favs: everything begins or ends with "man" and the ever famous "far out."

  5. My favorite is -petrichor

    petrichor (PET-ri-kuhr) noun

    The pleasant smell that accompanies the first rain after a dry spell.

    To me it is the smell of the coming monsoons in Phoenix ...... :-) happy times


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