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Feb 12 2014

Favorite Words

Lux, here!

I figured I could ease into blogging here by starting with random thoughts about language before hitting the big super complex gender stuff that’s also been floating around my brain. It’s an adventure!

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Lots of people have a favorite color, favorite song, favorite season, favorite holiday, etc. Being a nerd of many trades, I have a soft spot for words, syntax, and language in general. My favorite English words (being my native tongue) are: spontaneity, clever, and exacerbate.

Recently, I noticed I had the word “ameliorate” popping up in my head. The more I mulled it over and thought about the definition–laughing at myself because it’s the opposite of “exacerbate”–I realized that I like this word as much as the others and can consider it one of my favorites.

There’s not really a set standard for why anything becomes my “favorite” something. For words, it’s often a combination of liking the definition, the way the word expresses the definition, and the way the word sounds/feels phonetically. Oh, and there’s almost always a sentimental reason as well.

Spontaneity is my top favorite because it literally means “randomness”. It’s just a fancy-pants noun for “random”, which is an adjective I took to heart during some of my most formative personality-building years. It sounds awesome and it’s cool to say.

Clever is one of my favorites, to be completely honest, partially because the Doctor uses the term a lot. He says things are “brilliant” too, but it just doesn’t ring the same way for me. I’ve also been complimented as being “clever” and felt very flattered, so that probably factors in.

Exacerbate is on the list because it’s incredibly amusing to me. I first heard it on Shaun of the Dead, then almost immediately again while reading the book Eragon by Christopher Paolini. (Fucking excellent book series, if you don’t mind my saying.) I guess it just tickles me that a succinct word exists to describe making things worse.

Ameliorate mostly just sounds really cool and rolls off the tongue well. Plus, it ties in with the amusement from the previous word.

Am I just super weird for having favorite words? What are some of yours, if you have any? I’m normally not great at being active in the comment community, but I will try to do better so LET ‘ER RIP.

20 comments

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  1. 1
    richardelguru

    I take it you don’t like ‘moist’

    :-)

    1. 1.1
      Lux Pickel

      I’m pretty ambivalent about it, actually.

  2. 2
    carlie

    You are not alone – A Way With Words’ Word Wall.

    I take it you don’t like ‘moist’

    Nobody wants to be moist, the song.

  3. 3
    sisu

    Copacetic has been one of my favorite words since I first heard it. I love both its sound and its meaning. :)

    1. 3.1
      Lux Pickel

      Ooo, yes, that’s a good one. I had an orchestra director who used it often, so it always reminds me of him. (Pretty cool dude. Excellent violinist.)

  4. 4
    besomyka

    I like the word ‘conflate’ because of it’s precision. Most people would say ‘confused’ instead, but that implies a lack of general knowledge, whereas conflate presumes some level of knowledge that got weirdly blended together.

    I use it more often to describe my own line of thinking rather than other people. “Oh! I see where I went wrong, I conflated the animation channel with the action channel! Everything makes a lot more sense now.”

    1. 4.1
      Lux Pickel

      Conflate is a word I use quite often, perhaps because it’s a behavior I see people engage in all the time. :p But yeah, it’s succinct and more precise than any other word I can think of in trying to describe that phenomenon.

  5. 5
    maudell

    I only have momentary favourite words. I’ve been enjoying statistical terms these days. Top of the list: heteroskedasticity. Spelled with a k.

    1. 5.1
      besomyka

      Oh! Speaking of which, how about stochastic? I’ve been using that one a lot in relation to how people gender me (and others).

      1. Lux Pickel

        Haha, I had to look up stochastic. Pretty amusing in that context XD Sorry if you didn’t mean for it to be funny, it just came across like people gender you randomly, blurting out pronouns with no thought.

        1. besomyka

          Sorta! The only difference (making it somewhat less funny), is that generally once people have decided on one or the other, they stick with it and don’t re-evaluate.

          I guess what I mean by it is that gender is fuzzy. People habitually categorize others into ‘male’ or ‘female’, but there’s no single thing that we can point to that delineates one from another. People takes many things as inputs, but even knowing what those are doesn’t mean you can deterministically calculate what someone is going to decide. It’s more like a probability distribution that’s influenced by a few hundred variables, most of which you’re unaware of and have little to no control over.

          Before HRT, when I had a beard, I was still called ma’am on occasion. My cis sister is called sir on occasion.

          That can be frustrating for trans people, since it can feel like you’re doing everything you can and making it obvious, but people are still misgendering you. But it’s also nice to know because sometimes a small thing like wearing a v-neck shirt can tip the balance from male to female. But it’s not THAT which made people start to think ‘female’, it’s sorta the average of all the various marked things tossed into a brain that isn’t consistent.

          I’d also say that there’s not a lot of middle room in most people’s heads. It’s REALLY hard to truly appear androgynous. People tend to resolve it one way or another.

          Anyway. I should probably edit this so it’s more coherent and less rambling at some point.

          Do y’all think I’m too far off base?

      2. maudell

        Yeah, I like stochastic. I guess I like the dryness of some of those terms.

  6. 6
    rikitiki

    I like a word that I made-up:

    SNIZZLE = that point where it’s just cold enough that the rain on your windshield isn’t yet snow but splats ’cause it’s more than rain.

  7. 7
    Zinnia Jones

    Stelliferous – star-bearing, full of stars, abounding with stars. It just sounds nice.

    1. 7.1
      Lux Pickel

      It’s definitely nice to say. There’s a feel of, like… buzzing potential energy. Maybe I’m just strange XD

  8. 8
    suttkus

    I don’t know that I have a list of favorite words, but I do like certain words. I like $50 words. That’s what my grandmother called them anyway.

    Not $500 words, words that send innocent people screaming to the dictionary or, worse, just turn them off whatever you’re trying to say. Not words like “glabrous” or “pruinescent”, words that I need for my nerdery, but which can’t comfortably be dropped in a conversation. Words that are only “fun” in the sense that you can show people you know more than they do.

    I like $50 words. Ameliorate is a good $50 word. So is exacerbate. $50 dollar words are just uncommon enough to say, “This person reads a lot” and connect to other people who read alot. By using them, you encourage other people to learn new, useful words, that they can fit into their conversations. The words that when you learn what they mean, you say, “Wow, I always needed a word that meant just that. I’m glad I found you, great word!”

    I like words that bounce. I don’t know what my life would be without “discombobulate”. Is there a word that is more fun to say than “discombobulate?” If there is, I don’t know it. Say it right now!

    I like words with fun histories. Did you know that “villain” meant “banker” not too long ago? A surfeit (*ching*, $50!) of movie bad guys that were bankers changed the popular perception of the word. Of course, the word only came to mean “banker” because bankers were the people who owned your house, which is the original meaning of the word, house-owner, from the same root as “villa”. So, when you accuse someone of being a villain, you’re calling them a home-owner. This makes me smile. It makes me feel part of the web of history. Who knows what “villain” will mean in another 100 years!

  9. 9
    Alex

    As a non native, I have had several favourites which may appear trivial to native speakers. When I first learned of it, I thought “therefore” was really cool. I also like “ameliorate”, actually. My favourite however is “to render (sth sth)”.

  10. 10
    Alex

    Also, “voluptuous” has such a wonderful dirty sound to it which perfectly emphasizes the meaning.

  11. 11
    left0ver1under

    I don’t have specific favourites, but I like words that:

    (a) using different and many parts and sounds within the same word
    (b) have many vowels and varying consonants
    (c) have generally positive definitions or uses

    soliloquy
    indubitably
    erudite
    colloquial
    syzygy
    erstwhile
    prosopopoeia, onomatopoeia
    filial
    obstreperous
    tangential
    superlative
    serendipitous
    icosahedron

    I could write a longer list, but these make the point.

  12. 12
    Vincent

    I like your favorite word ‘Clever’, Lux. It fits you. :) I think all mentioned words should be added at this interesting project named favoritewords.com, it’s created for those who love words and can help connect them.

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