a logophile’s quandary

For the longest time now – like, seriously, I can’t even tell you how long – I’ve been meaning to write a post about some of my favourite words. At one point I even started compiling a list, but then I realised that there were just too many words for one post. Then I thought of that A-Z blogging challenge that some of the bloggers I follow participate in from time to time, and I thought that’d be a good way to space it all out, but then it’s so much effort…

Let’s be realistic here – it’s probably never going to happen.

And I can’t just write about my most favourite word because that always changes, and mostly it’s just too hard to pick just one word at any one point in time. What I did notice along the way, however, is that I seem to have an affinity for words containing the letter C, or words that have a C-like sound in them. This does not, however, mean that I like all words that fit this bill. I’m also not sure if the presence of the letter C is just a coincidence (which it could be because I also like words that are C-free).

Often, I learn new words from the books I read, and sometimes I’ll remember that I learnt it specifically from that book, particularly if it’s a pleasant-sounding and/or pleasant-looking word. The one example that stands out the most for this is the word “alacrity”, which I learnt from reading Pride and Prejudice in grade 12 English. I believe Jane Austen also taught me the words “obsequious” and “complaisant”. (Note how they both follow the C rule.)

Similarly, I was introduced to “insouciant”, “equanimity” and “reticent” by F. Scott Fitzgerald in Tender is the Night, and now I always associate these words with that book (particularly “insouciant”).

Have you noticed that a lot of these words are adjectives? I noticed that too. I have the sort of mind that likes to find patterns and logical explanations. But they’re not all adjectives, so I don’t think I can really include that as a criterion. (Side note: I just realised that I don’t really like the word “criterion”. Not entirely sure why. “Criteria” I don’t mind, but “criterion” is getting a solid no from me.)

I think the definition of the word matters a lot too. I don’t necessarily have to like what the word means or represents, but the word should sound like it means what it means (if that makes sense…) Basically, the word shouldn’t be misleading.

Probably the word shouldn’t be too simple either. I’m struggling to think of a short word (of, say, five letters or less) that I really like. And if I wasn’t sitting here listening to The Script as I’m writing this, I’d probably struggle to think of a monosyllabic word I like too.

On the topic of scripts, I’ve also noticed that I like a lot of literary words – words like “chronicle”, “archive” and “compendium”. But I also like the words “anthology”, “biography”, “bibliophile” and even “literature” itself, and none of these have a C in sight or hearing.

This is rather exasperating.

Which reminds me! I also like a lot of words starting with “ex” (which coincidentally creates a C-like sound). “Exasperating” is one, but I’m also partial to the words “exorbitant” and “exhaust” and even “excommunicate”, which, to me, looks like a word I wouldn’t like (maybe it’s the double M? Maybe it’s because it looks like it should have something to do with communication, but it really doesn’t?) but I like it anyway. And I’m going to include “inexplicable” here because even though it doesn’t start with “ex”, it’s close enough to the start, and so much in life is inexplicable, such as why I like the words I like.

Maybe this is sort of like having a preference for a particular style/genre of music, or having a favourite artist/musician, but that doesn’t guarantee that you’ll like every song in that genre, or that you’ll like every song that that artist releases. And maybe there’s no real explanation for that other than the song doesn’t sound quite right to you, or the meaning behind the lyrics doesn’t resonate with you.

I actually feel good now that I’ve finally gotten around to writing about this. Maybe it’ll play on my mind a bit less now, and once I stop thinking about it so much, I’ll discover the secret formula my brain uses to judge all these words…

2 thoughts on “a logophile’s quandary

  1. Long words are fun, particularly the ones with surprising meanings. I get a lot of enjoyment out of ‘defenestrate’.

    But I *love* short, simple words that are somehow just right. Like ‘moon’. Who came up with that? It’s perfect.

    • Ooh “defenestrate” is a new one for me (had to look it up!) Don’t know when I’ll ever use it, but it’s certainly worth a good chuckle.

      Haha I get what you mean about “moon”. I think I tend to overlook those sorts of simple, everyday words, but there is something satisfying about it.

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