Top ten fabulous words

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.

And finally,
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?

24 thoughts on “Top ten fabulous words

  1. I particularly like echelon (French for rung of a ladder, it means someone’s EXACT place in society). I never wrote an essay at uni without using it and also the word umbrella.I am also fond of triumvirate, oligarchy and pillage and/or plunder.Oh, and eschatological and teleological. Inconwenience (but only when pronounced like that).And I also really like the sound of the name Astrid.

  2. Living as I do in the States under the Bush regime and with Stephen Harper in our home and native land, I find it excruciatingly easy to interject KAKISTOCRACY into my daily speech.I also love magnificent and I try not to overuse it.Another favourite of mine is used in pure defiance. I love to use nouns as verbs. Thus a Sikh who wears a turban is turbanning and an over-embiber throwing up in the toilet is sicking or wrong-way looing. And English teachers everywhere would rob us of this glorious aspect of our English tongue. Glorious, now there’s another.I cannot say English is my native language, in fact it is mt third.I first spoke Frengjabi, then French and only then English. My stroke wiped out all of them, but I have managed to regain my English with a vengeance. I suppose I shall have to go home toMontreal to regain those and Punjabi, as well.Now, I must stop as my husband is hovering (another) and disturbing me with silly questions: Are you writing a blog(blogging)? Who are you writing to? Why do you bother?*In extreme annoynce* Men!

  3. What a wonderful post. Loved the idea of you sprouting out those old sayings as an aviatrix (also love the idea of me doing that too)! I enjoy saying ‘Tally ho ol’ chaps’ quite a bit myself, or ‘pip pip’! I don’t think anyone else finds it amusing however.Solar topee recalled an episode of The Goodies for me, when they were in ‘the colonies’ – exactly as you described (plus swatting of insects … some eating of them too). Ah they used to make me cackle and guffaw, tittered a bit too.Let’s see, I agree with most of yours most heartily already as I think you can see, but let me think… Anthropomorphic has immediately popped into mind (God knows why).I’ve always like the feel and sound of pernickety or persnickety (such a word would have to have more than one spelling wouldn’t it!). Also came across hornswaggle recently. I like cheeky too, esp in reference to (usually young) wine… or boys… in my frisky manner!Jejune – although really it’s a bit dull. Persiflage is a nice one to introduce into a bit of light banter. Sobriquet and abstruse are good. Ooh, so’s malarkey. And of course I like verbose as I tend to go on and on – so I shall desist. (You know I’m just going to be thinking of words all day now!)

  4. Strangely all my favourite words seem to come from the same movie…”blaggard”, “ratcatcher” (with a long errrrrrrr), “Ravenhurst”, “Sir Griswold of Mackelwaine”

  5. A gentleman past referred to life in the merchant navy as Rum, bum, and onions. I’ll leave you to work that out. On a further nautical theme: KEELHAWL! and b’layin’pin, how about: Odds fish! or Sink me! Imshi? Deena, Tray. Zak. Spin. Fiver. Last but not least, A thick ear and Gully trap.

  6. Beautifullest. That is my very besatest word, but only when refering to My Majesty, of course.Magnificent, magnificent, magnificent, magnificent. That is another bestest word to describe My Royal, Imperialistest Self

  7. I love ‘aviatrix’ too; and i was admiringallyour choices until i got to your dad – he just blew you outta the water with ‘that porcine Bianca’. shreik!I used to wonder what a PROmacassar would be until I found out the hair oil brand of ‘Macassar’ was what the anti-Macassars were for.A bouquet of words for you -mellifluous.superfluous.phosphorescence.evanescent.ethereal.

  8. A plethora of delights here! And some I’ll have to look up too.Bek: in my school essay I’d try to insert “The Greeks are a sea-faring people” as much as poss – and look where it got me eh? Echelon is fabulous. The name Astrid however has always frightened me.Mai: Turbanning! Hilarity! I reckon you’d have some slick Punjabi in the back there as well. Most Fr words are divine as well – get thee hence to Montreal.EB: Persiflage I cannot get out of my head now – a treat. Hornswoggle? How about hugger-mugger as well!E: Oho! What about ostler? Or Brockhurst, Finsdale and Pertwee?Anon#1: Mmm-frosted. What about unctuous eh?Anon#2: Gully trap is hilarity. How about fo’c’stle? Poop deck? Barnacle?Your Thukiness: all words applied to yourself are wondrous.MK: and how would you pronounce that?Ann O’D: Phosphorecence – both the word and the item. Welcome!

  9. One of my aims in life is to turn Aviatrix into a commonishly used girl’s name. It’s too good to die out though wildly underused.So please, I beseech you, have a baby, make sure it’s a girl…

  10. NPB: what a diabolical plan. You could shorten it to ‘Ava’, which would remind people of the Gardner version. I shall suggest it to my many fecund friends.Susanna: ahhh…dipthong…music to mine ears.Mai: ruffian? Belongs in the file with other spiffing Pimpernellian words like rogue, cad, bounder, scapegrace and ….. tatterdemalion

  11. No. No. Ruffian is in a class by itself. R-r-r-roll that r and then let all three syllables escape from your mouth like a prisoner from his chains. Then you’ll understand what I mean.Oh, and also ‘intrepid’ and ‘codpiece.’

  12. Have you considered maybe a meme on (nonracist) insults. I’d love to do it, but my blog is read by Sikh grandmothers. And I’d be too embarassed in front of them.

  13. *Settles elbow upon the bar, takes sip*”Don’t you agree that the solar topee is the most unisex hat of them all?”+1 415 612 0215 (I am not a blackguard)

  14. Gubernatorial – for reasons I can’t fathom. I suppose it has some echoes of 19th century american pomposity combined with echoes of “goobers” which, according to a Goofy comic I read as a kid, is a word for peanuts…Who knows why this stuff resides in my brain?Great blog, by the wayA blog wanderer

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