Friday, August 21, 2009

What's Your Favorite Word?

I'm not sure most people really have a favorite word, or have even considered the idea of having a favorite word. To many, words are just tools, and having a favorite word would be like having a favorite size of wood screw. (Not that a person couldn't have a favorite size of wood screw. But as a musician, logophile, and male who is more apt to use the phrase wood screw to refer to an eighteenth-century sexual device, the idea of having a favorite size of one seems somewhat ludicrous.)

But hey, if you find this blog interesting, then you're probably the type to have a favorite word.

My first favorite word was phantasmagoric (dream-like), which I heard for the first time in fourth or fifth grade when we were reading Edgar Allan Poe. I seem to be attracted to words with -asm in them; they're all fun to say. Try it. Repeat after me: "The orgasmic spasms were phantasmagoric, but set off my asthma." See? Isn't that fun?

So phantasmagoric was my favorite word all through middle and high school. In college, I discovered and fell in love with sesquipedalian (literally, a foot and a half long, but normally used in reference to lengthy words). Sesquipedalian is a great word because it's self-referential, like susurrous and multisyllabic. It's really hard to work the word into a sentence in everyday conversation, though.

My elder son, who just started fifth grade, says that his favorite word is onomatapoeia. I think the fact that he even has a favorite word shows that we're raising him right. Onomatapoeia is up there in my top ten, too, for its outstanding use of vowels. (And here I'm talking about vowel letters, not vowel sounds.) Not only do the vowels outnumber the consonants two-to-one, but you don't often see four consecutive vowels in a word. (Queue, queuing, and homoiousian are the only ones that come to mind right now.)

Currently, my favorite word is slubberdegullion. I think I like it so because, even though there aren't really any recognizable affixes or common etymological cues to latch onto to figure out what it means, the various parts of the word are close enough to other, recognizable word to understand that calling someone a slubberdegullion isn't a compliment. It almost contains slob, slobber, bird egg, degrease, and onion.

A few of my other favorite words:

  • tintinnabulation
  • exsanguinate
  • bailiwick
  • snort
  • ovoviviparous
  • sacerdotal
  • mugwump

Do you have a favorite word? What is it and why?