After writing a popular post about words that I find to be incurably dumb, I was asked to write a follow-up about my favorite words. There’s no way I could create even an approximation of an exhaustive list, so here’s a representative sample of what I consider to be our mother tongue’s finest.
Words That Sound Dirty But Aren’t
Case in point: masticate. If you’re trying to live in the world but not be of it, these words are your loophole. Nothing will make your tablemate spit out his dinner faster than your casual, “Would you not be so obvious about masticating in public? It’s kinda gross.” Go for it. Tell ‘em I sent ya.
See also: hardcore, linguistics, forthcoming
Words Having Rare Application
Case in point: impecunious. The benefit to finding oneself perpetually penniless is the opportunity to use a gem such as this. The words comprising this group are delightful in their specificity of meaning and dearth of occasion.
See also: fortuitous, obviate, defenestrate
Words That Jolt
Case in point: f-ck. (I have no desire to jolt you at this moment, so I’ve tempered this bad boy with a dash.) There tend to be three groups when it comes to strong words: The “only use ‘good’ words” group, the “it doesn’t matter what words you use” group, and the “use the best word, even if it’s a ‘bad’ word” group. A staunch member of the third group, I like to employ jolting words at only and exactly the right place.
See also: crucify, holocaust
Words That Are Better Than Their Definitions
Case in point: dastardly. I liken this group of words to incredibly well crafted movie villains– they’re delicious at being rotten.
See also: treacherous, scoundrel, insidious, whore
Case in point: awesome. Although some purists reject the use of awesome for anything less than the characterization of sacred wonder, it is a defining marker of Gen X. We, the people of slap bracelets and candy cigarettes, employ it as a synonym to our rad while calling each other “dude” regardless of gender. Period words such as these instantly hearken back to the era whence they came.
See also: gams, icebox, fortnight
What words would you add to these categories? What are some of your favorite words? I hope you’ll be forthcoming.