I read somewhere recently that this fashionable meme thingo is the best way to overcome writer’s block (a pretension I refuse to believe in – we all get lazy from time to time, let’s just call it that eh?). I’m not so sure about the wisdom of spouting to everyone your smuggest confessions or the questionable apples of your eye, but all I know is that writing lists is FUN.
Words words words. When it comes to fabulous words, we all know that the best way to appreciate them is to slip as many as you can into everyday conversation. Thus showcasing your literary prowess and general amusingness.
But what are the qualities of these so-delightful words, that make them more satisfying on the ear than say multimedia or grout?
Sometimes it’s the way the word trips around in your mouth before it falls out, turning up the corners of your mouth, like twinkle. Occasionally it’s the sheer historical pleasure to be had by uttering it, such as bellwether. Words like pantaloons conjure up vivid cartoon-style images and an oompah-pah soundtrack. And some words are just literary look-at-me showoffy, like Orwellian. Whichever way words float your boat, here are some of mine:
1. Nautical: This is my absolute word of the month, and I don’t mean in the collars up, holiday house in Portsea, beige boat shoes kind of way. I think of old sea dogs leaning into the wind, frayed rope and creaking mizzen masts. It’s the salt tang on the air whenever you get within coo-ee of the coast, and it has that ‘ought’ sound in the middle, which is also pleasing.
2. Antimacassar: This one is tricky to insert nonchalantly into conversations. Particularly as the word has fallen into disuse, with the more streamlined, and far less interesting ‘chair cover’. What is it you say? You know that doily-thing on the back of armchairs? Apparently they were invented in Victorian times (era with the highest count of amusing words eg Pecksniffian and bathing machine), and were designed to keep a chap’s hair gloss off the demmed furniture. World Wide Words has the skinny on all things antimacassar here.
3. Glee: Oh this is just about my favourite word. It’s heaps better than just being happy. It’s eyebrows-up-in-the-hairline happy. It’s riotously over the top, and implies that you’ve got away with something you shouldn’t have, all at the same time. Just reading the word glee fills me with glee.
4. Aviatrix: For obvious reasons, see The Flying Schoolgirl (aka Boo), above. If I could spend my entire life in a white suit and flying goggles saying things like ‘chocks away’ and ‘tally ho chaps – last one in the air’s a bally rotter’ then I would. Also any word with the suffix -trix just smacks of a different time, one when words like poetess, negress and jewess were also acceptable. Why was it necessary to feminise these words? I guess we’ll never know. Hurrah for history.
5. Gobsmacked: Words starting with ‘G’ tend to be more amusing than most. How about gusset, galumphing, glutton, gander, grouse, (a personal favourite) gallant or guffaw? Gobsmacked is more than just being rendered silent. It’s literally being struck mute in the gob – a great Irish word sorely underused now that I don’t subscribe to Whizzer & Chips any more.
6. Buffoon: I think most people would agree with me on this one. It is the Rolls Royce of silly words. Also rhymes with poltroon, loon, dragoon, picaroon, bassoon, spittoon, baboon and swoon, all outlandish words in their own right.
7. Cackling: Heaps better than just laughing (anyone can do that), sniggering (a little unkind I think), tittering (sound uttered by snobby parents of girls you didn’t like at school) and chortling (implies someone very red-faced and tubby, snorting meanly through a mouthful of half-chewed Thin Captains). Do only women cackle? I suppose so. And I plan to do a lot more of it the older I get.
8. Frisky: Sounds like lambs gambolling in a field, with their woolly tails wagging. I also find this a very funny euphemism for ‘horny,’ and can imagine suburban mums saying it to each other about their hubbies while watching their kiddies play netball. I can’t say why it always makes me laugh, but I when you roll the ‘r’, it’s even more so.
9. Porcine: Up there with vulpine, asinine and equine for outstanding beast-related insults. And descriptive of truly evil people, such as Janette Howard. I learnt this one early on from my dad – he had an inexplicable dislike of the younger sister of a mate of mine in our street. He would look at me darkly and mutter ‘I saw that porcine Bianca in the street.’ And thus my vocabulary increased.
10. Solar Topee: Technically two words, but you can’t have one without the other in this instance. Very very hard to incorporate this into banter down at the pub, but if you can, you’re probably a merry wordsmith with a twinkle in your eye, and if a man over 30 should leave your number in the comments box below. Another colonial reference, implying marshy swamps and waving palms, high adventure in the dark continent and beaded G & T’s. And a dapper rogue with a full, waxed moustache and crisp white linens.
I could write this list endlessly. Anyone else got any favourites?