Monday, May 12, 2014

Favorite Words

Despite my mother assuring me that my first favorite word was "No," I've cultivated a few more over the years and tried to understand what it is about a word that is so attractive. A favorite word of mine has to meet several criteria:
  • It has to accurately capture a thought in my head
  • It has to sound like the thing it means to me
  • It has to feel good in my mouth
Most words are able to capture thoughts. We actually use words to disseminate and share
A young Aidee Ladnier without a care in the world.
information. Words are vital to how humans have lived and learned for thousands of years. So the first thing on my list--most words are able to do this. One of my favorite examples of this is the word "insouciant." It means "showing a casual lack of concern." In other words, it doesn't mean careless because that would mean the insouciant person was taking chances. It doesn't necessarily indicate malice, just that the person is not concerned. But it does mean that the person has a certain confidence in their lack of concern--like someone who hasn't yet seen enough of the world to be afraid or like someone with enough power to know the world cannot hurt them. There is something playful and powerful about being insouciant.

My next standard a favorite word must meet is that it sound like the the thing it means to me. Of course all onomatopoetic words fit this bill. Some of my favorite words are imitations of actual sounds around me--like "zoom" or "cuckoo" or "boom!"  But I also like words that don't necessarily seem at first glance to sound like what they represent--like Love.  Saying the word "love" starts out with opening your mouth and ends with your lips and teeth meeting. This sounds to me like the word version of a hug: you open your arms and then close them around the person you love.

And this leads to the last thing a favorite word should do--it should feel good in my mouth. Just as I write words on paper or keyboard, words are also an essential spoken form of communication. I want a favorite word that I speak to be lively and pop out of my mouth excited--like the word "apple pie". There's something fun in the repetition of the "p" and the strange "le" construction or maybe in the sighing finish of the "ie." I love saying "apple pie" just as much as I love eating it.

So tell me, do you have a favorite word?
Do you like the meaning or just the way it feels in your mouth?
Does it hold a special memory or remind you of something from your past?


AIDEE LADNIER is a short story writer who loves quirky characters. You can visit her website at or meet her at some of her favorite social media sites:  Twitter  |  Tumblr  |  Pinterest  |  Facebook


Larynn Ford said...

My history instructor in college liked the word influenza. He said he liked the way it rolled off his tongue. Yep, he was weird.

Aidee Ladnier said...

I love that, Larynn. No doubt it was the way the word made his mouth pucker.

Ali Hubbard said...

Great post! I never thought about "love" like that! I relish nuance (maybe one of the reasons I struggle with foreign languages - I'm always worried about nuance).

One of my favorite words is "sequoia." It contains all the vowels. It refers to two huge coniferous trees. It is a derivative of Sequoya, a Cherokee scholar. When I say the word, I feel the Native American heritage and the use of all the vowels, which link it to our modern English. It feels quite grand on my tongue too! Much like the trees, I suppose.

Aidee Ladnier said...

That is a great word, Ali! I like sequoia, too. It forces your mouth into syllables that are just as expressive as the word.

Cari Hislop said...

It's easier to think of words I don't of my least favorite words is "milk" or "ilk" any word with that l-k sound...saying those words always makes me feel like I'm being choked (an unpleasant sensation).

Words that flow are nice. I find when I write that words have to feel right. Nice is a nice word. It tends to get a bad rep these days (having suffered some abuse by sarcastic wordsmiths), but I like it. I thought it was a modern word, but it's actually late 18th c early 19th c.

Lovely post! I've long wondered at the word love myself...and came to a similar conclusion! ;)

Aidee Ladnier said...

I totally agree about the "ilk" words, Cari. Especially since I'm now lactose intolerant. No milk for me!