Take my word for it


I’m a fairly irrational person. Blooming daffodils in the park can make me as happy as any piece of good news. Likewise, I will get as angry with a stranger who pushes past me as I would if a friend were to kick me in the shins (this has never happened).

This illogically spills over into many other situations and objects, no more so than with words. ‘But what’s in a name?’ I hear you cry. Well, to me, it’s not just the name or sound of the word that’s important but the meaning, the associations and the feelings it evokes. Some words make me grind my teeth with anger, while others bring a beaming smile to my face – all for a number of reasons.

So, in no particular order, here are my five favourite words – and why:

gobbledegook: As a hater of jargon, I adore this word. It perfectly sums up the pointlessness and ridiculousness of a piece of unnecessarily complex writing or oratory and dismisses it as utter gibberish (another truly brilliant word).

sizzle: To be honest, this could have been a number of onomatopoeic words, e.g. flutter, murmur, jangle, fizz, bubble etc, for which we probably have Shakespeare to thank for most of them. This one, of course, relates to food of which I’m generally a fan. 

serendipity: I’m afraid I’m being rather populist here as this word has previously been voted the most beautiful by people of the UK  I think it’s the combination of the soft consonants, lilting finale and the most pleasant of meanings that make it skip so lightly off the tongue. Lovely. 

giblets: Completely revolting but the annunciation of this word gives me the giggles every time.

pastoral (literary sense): A feeling of immense calm comes over me as I hear this word and I’m transported to my ‘happy place’: under a giant oak tree in a field, feeling a cool breeze tickle my face as I shelter from the midday sun on a picnic rug. There are no insects in my happy place.  

And now to my five bugbears:

bath: To clarify, this is for reasons of pronunciation only and not because I’m a wash dodger. This is the word used by English men and women to measure how northern / southern they are. Loosely speaking, if you are northern you pronounce the a as in back, if you are southern it’s more of an ah as in park. I come from the West Midlands and have moved around a bit and, frankly, I’m never sure how it’s going to come out. Baaaath? 

aspiration: It’s the concept that I have a problem with here. There’s nothing wrong with having hopes and dreams but aspiring is the idea of being something ‘better’ than you are and the people around you, which – for me – gives it an uncomfortable association with the class system. And I’m fine and so are my friends, thank-you-very-much. 

hubby: A sickly abbreviation of husband. I have uttered this only once, just casually to a work colleague, and felt immediately ill afterwards. Never again.

scum: Unpleasant in every single way.  

gusset: I know there is no alternative for this functional word but it’s so old-fashioned that I feel like I’m being smothered by a giant lavender-scented pillow.

So those are my loves and loathes from the dictionary. What are yours? Let us know in the comments section below.



  • Loved this post! I know what you mean about ‘bath’. I risk exposure as a northerner every time I say it! Two words I overuse are, ‘absolutely’ and ‘gorgeous’ but they are each dramatic in their own ways…

    Posted by Claire Pye on March 22nd 2013

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