For the love of language
We’re approaching the most romantic time of the year. But while we all like each other very much at 44, Hana Evans finds out why our real love affair lies elsewhere.
The shops are filled with pink – pink champagne, pink chocolate and pink schmaltzy gifts. Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and while the Hallmark-inspired season may leave you feeling numb inside, love is definitely in the air.
As a nation, we Brits shy away from those three little words, but need no encouragement to grumble about the things we simply can’t stand. Take words for example. Everyone has a word that makes their toes curl. According to one study, around 20% of the US population “may be averse” to the word ‘moist’. There are Facebook groups dedicated to it, and our own Sarah says she avoids the word entirely.
It’s sad that nobody pays as much attention to the words people love. In the spirit of this oxytocin-filled season I figured we’d delve a little bit deeper into the language we love, starting with my own favourite word.
My favourite word is ‘little’. To write it in cursive takes one smooth motion. I appreciate the beauty and elegance of the ascenders. Being only 4 ft 11ins, I relate to the word as well – and while some may think the word has negative connotations, for me it is a happy identity. My great gran used to tell me that the strongest poisons come in the smallest bottles – something that has stuck with me and made me proud of my littleness.
“My favourite word is ‘curmudgeon’. Why? Because it’s hard to say with a straight face, it describes an exclusive club of people, and you have to earn your membership over years of dedicated contrarianism. You start off as an angry young man (careful not to lose a couple of front teeth), pass gracelessly into being loudly obstreperous, stumble onto cultured pessimism with a bit of obstructionism (‘because I can’), and eventually wake up one morning grumbling at the unfairness of the alarm clock/sunrise/birdsong/the wife’s snoring, whatever, and the realisation that you are, in fact, a curmudgeon. I must admit to some tendencies in this direction but will of course deny all. It’s part of the role.”
“The only word I can think of is ‘pickle’. It’s fun to say, pickles (gherkins, pickled onions, basically anything that’s pickled) taste great, and ‘in a pickle’ is a great phrase because it makes something that’s probably bad seem a little more entertaining! Now I’ve said it too many times it doesn’t seem like a real word…”
“’Crepuscular’, meaning relating to or resembling twilight. I love long words packed with syllables that have a very interesting sound to them. The use of vowels and consonants in this word gives it such a great texture and rhythm that makes it fun to say (for me at least). I also love that time of day as well, especially when you’re on holiday, enjoying a glass of wine, watching the sun go down on a late summer evening and not having to worry about getting up in the morning. But the main reason is that I taught my daughter to say it when she was a toddler as a tongue-twister, and remembering her trying to pronounce it always brings back very fond memories.”
“I totally can’t just pick one! I like ‘expelliarmus’ which I can’t say without pretending I have a wand, and ‘champignon’ sounds so much more exciting than ‘mushroom’. But when the kids ask for a ‘huggle’ I think it’s my favourite thing ever.”
“I like to say ‘fathom’. Not many people use it any more, but I just like the way it sounds.”
“’Marvellous’ is a great word. A marvellous word in fact! I love that it can be used as a celebratory word, but also sarcastically. I also like spud, which is a good solid word. It’s what we used to call my daughter Elizabeth before she was born, and still do. She doesn’t like it so much.”
“I think ‘bumbling’ is adorable. It makes me think of posh people giving directions to Waitrose, or Stephen Fry having a disagreement with Hugh Laurie. I also like that it sounds a little bit rude.”
“’Serendipity’ is defined as ‘the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way’. I can’t think of anything nicer than that.”
Over to you…
Will you be spending Valentine’s Day with your favourite word? Eddie has serendipitously offered a prize of £25 in book tokens for the one he likes best, so let us know what it is, by dropping him an email, or getting in touch with us via Twitter or Facebook.