Here’s a little trick. Pull up a new Word document. Type the word “sprightly.” Then look up synonyms for sprightly by right clicking on the word. Once you have the list, check out the fourth one. See, wasn’t that fun? I challenge you to find a funnier synonym for any word than “full of beans.”
Words amuse me. They can be arranged in an infinite number of ways and the outcome can be humorous, assaultive, sleep inducing, or educational. Our language is dynamic, always changing. Because of this, there is not an agreed upon total number of English words. There are estimates ranging from a quarter of a million words to one million plus words, depending on how one counts things like plurals, verb tenses, and prefixes and suffixes. New words are added to the dictionary every year. (News flash: “Mani-pedi” made the cut this year.)
Occasionally (daily), I hear people misuse and abuse words. For example, there was the time someone was trying to tell me how “erotic” he was about his record collection. You can guess what images formed in my head as I tried to process this conversation. And why it was necessary to stab out my mind’s eye when it was over.
For several years, I have winced every time someone has uttered “flustrated” in my presence. My internal monologue would scream “You idiot! That’s not a word! That’s a bastard hybrid of frustrated and flustered. You shouldn’t be allowed to speak!” One day, however, after hearing this monstrosity spoken by someone I believed to be very intelligent, I decided I should check my facts. As it turned out, I’m the idiot. I’m glad it was only my inner voice that had a conniption every time someone said it or I might have embarrassed myself. Or been fired.
I read recently that there are nearly 7000 active languages on the planet, not including Igpay Atinlay. Is that not amazing? My love of words makes me very interested in learning other languages. The problem is that after 4 years of high school Spanish, all I can say is “Mi llamo Becky. Yo tango azul mesa en la biblioteca.” The parts of these sentences, if you will, that are grammatically correct are simply not true, according to the waiter at our favorite Mexican restaurant. I’ve chosen to look at it this way – I’m so proficient in English, my brain won’t allow for a new language.
There are some words that are just more fun to use than others. Here is a list of a few of my faves along with some information about their meanings. (Special note: “faves” is not recognized by Microsoft Word and so the squiggly red line will not go away. However, it has been in the dictionary as a short form of “favorite” since the 1920’s.)
Colossal – This is equivalent to using the words “big as$” to describe a noun but it sounds much more vivid. As in “I have a big as$ pile of paperwork to do.” versus “I have a colossal pile of paperwork to do.” See, colorful without being offensive.
Velociraptor – A velociraptor is a type of dinosaur. I’m not at all sure why I like this word so much but when I hear or read it, I can’t help but giggle. For example, “This is a velociraptor free work zone.” or “A velociraptor ate my homework.”
Soliloquy – You might have first learned this term in high school literature while reading Hamlet or Macbeth. It is a dramatically delivered speech one gives to one’s self. I often find myself making soliloquies when I attempt to talk to my husband about things like the position of the toilet seat, the location of the laundry basket, or how I feel about the size of my derriere.
Gnarly – This word is fun because the “G” is silent, which is just a silly use of a high scoring Scrabble letter. And its definition includes the following terms: misshapen, outstanding, remarkable, disgusting, and unpleasant. Just how can a word mean all of those things at one time?
Gnome – Again with the useless letter. But I like to say this one with the “G,” as in “Have you seen my new garden guh-nome?”
Philharmonic – I had no idea what this was until today. I always thought it was talking about a specific orchestra but actually, it means devoted to or appreciative of music or in relationship to a symphony or orchestra. It made this list because I think it would be a great band name for a guy named Phil who plays the harmonica.
Husbandry – I know this has to do with animals and agriculture and such but I prefer to think of it in terms of a skill set. As in, “Larry is really good at husbandry; he’s been married 4 times.”
The fun to be had with words is endless, boundless, ceaseless, knows no limits, interminable, inexhaustible. I could do this all day as there is actually an endless supply of synonyms for “endless.” But I’ll close with my favorite sort of word play:
Someone told me recently that they were being textually harassed. Isn’t that punny?