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Post-A-Day 2011: What’s your favorite word?

10/02/2011

As Jason Mraz says, “It’s all about the wordplay.” Words are the best means of communicating our thoughts and feelings to the world around us, because let’s face it — grunts and hand signals are really only useful on the highway. Words, like other trends, go in and out of style and are often created on the fly to address an unfamiliar situation or sensation. As a writer, I have a love affair with words that words, ironically, cannot describe, and so to choose my favorite is incredibly difficult and also a situational question.

In an effort to procrastinate (a word that is on my Top 100), check out Cracked.com’s “10 Words and Phrases You Won’t Believe Shakespeare Invented”, posted in February 2008 but still pretty awesome. None of the words on the list may seem out of the ordinary to those of us who use them regularly, but just consider a world in which those words did not exist. Bam. Mind blown.

At any rate, I think I’ve tarried long enough. Below are my two favorite words of all time:

  • Clusterfuck — According to Urban Dictionary, a clusterfuck is “Military term for an operation in which multiple things have gone wrong. Related to “SNAFU” (Situation Normal, All Fucked Up”) and “FUBAR” (Fucked Up Beyond All Repair). In radio communication or polite conversation (i.e. with a very senior officer with whom you have no prior experience) the term “clusterfuck” will often be replaced by the NATO phonetic acronym “Charlie Foxtrot.”

    “Today, however, “clusterfuck” is commonly used to descriptively generalize any situation with a large scale of disarray.” (two separate definitions to rule them all…)

    I first heard this word in a graduate paper that one of our high school’s English teachers presented. He guest-taught one of my English classes as part of his research, and so we were invited to the presentation and to read his paper. You have to love graduate study, since “clusterfuck” appeared within the first two pages. It’s not only universally understood, but also applicable to so many different scenarios. This will reign as my favorite word until somebody comes up with something better.

  • Pulchritudinous — The adjective form of “pulchritude”, meaning “physical comeliness”. It derives from the Latin prefix “pulchr-” or “pulcher”, meaning “beautiful”. (Merriam-Webster)

    I love this word not only because it’s a haughty way of telling someone they’re attractive, but also because it sounds suspiciously like a swear word. I learned this word when I was twelve years old and studying for the South District Spelling Bee (which, for the record, I won). I liked it and thought it was an appropriate word for a pretentious seventh-grader, so I told my mom she was “pulchritudinous” — she immediately threatened to ground me, which gave me the excuse to never, ever compliment her again.

    (Totally kidding; I compliment her twice a year and whenever she makes really good meatloaf.)

There are others, of course; typically, if it makes me sound like I read the dictionary for fun or as if I don’t know what I’m really talking about (you know, so I can turn around and prove that I do), it’s up there on the list.

Since I’m sure you’re wondering, my least favorite word is “moist”. It’s just effing gross, no matter the object to which it refers. I vote for its removal from our vernacular, immediately. (Ha, “vernacular” is one of my favorites too.)

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