Words/phrases we love, because, well, they feel so good rolling off the tongue
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Let’s see now, to start off, mine, as they occur to me randomly…
From slang coined in my lifetime, “chillax.” (Example: People who actually get angry enough to post complaints about others’ word usage need to chillax.) From my childhood reading, I love the mystery of determining whether it was a “spotted or herbaceous backson” who posted the notice on Christopher Robin’s door in A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner. There’s something shivery about the “brooding gloom” in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. There are a couple memorable coined words in Watership Down, hrududu (motor vehicle) and tharn (frozen like a rabbit in headlights). Oh, I could go on and on, but I wish to hear from others.
I also like words for their beautiful sound, or for their mouthfeel (to steal a wine-tasting term). I keep a selection of favourites on my profile here on LT (in fairness, I also keep a list of words that give me the creeps).
A current favourite is 'plum'. It's such a plummy, purple word. In The English Patient, the patient refers to "a plum plum." I also love its homophone "plumb" - as in "to plumb the depths." To me, "plumb" seems gray, not purple, though. Just this minute, I realized: perhaps that comes from a connection with lead, whose chemical symbol is Pb (plumbum). Neat!
From old houses I have visited and from houses I visited in books, like The Saturdays
(Aside: I could use a silent butler around the house.)
I like "glom" as in "glom onto" because it's a strong word with a vivid image, and because it's a Scots-derived word that is now apparently more common in its adopted homeland. There are a lot of GL words to gloat over. Glib, glebe, glob.
I like children's coinages because they have their own remarkable logic: "elbone" for a (bony) elbow ("Ouch! I bumped my elbone!"), "confisticate" for confiscating and *not letting go of* something, "oakmeal" (because the child believed that porridge was made of acorns) morphing to "oakmilk" (because the next youngest in the family associated milk with porridge).
I love 'girt', which I can only think of its usage in Advance Australia Fair (Australian anthem). Which goes "our home is girt by sea", learning the anthem in primary school and even knowing it now...okay surrounded doesn't have the same ring as 'girt'.
Though it's also one of those odd words that you can't work into natural conversation without it sounding a little odd.
But then I think orthography's generally fascinating. How *did* Welsh end up so mystifying? One day I will read up on it.
Although my new favorite word is the Russian for "noun" - существительное - pronounced sush-est-VEET-sel-no-ye.
I always liked "coolth" from one of Edward Eager's books (the lake one, if I recall correctly).
Two that I like because they are fun, and to me they sound nothing like their meaning -- so I find them pleasantly surprising: callipygian and defenestrate.
A recent favorite is "soffit" for no particular reason. The sound of it is just appealing, and the visual imagery that comes with it fits, somehow, and to say it carries subtle echoes of "softly", "sophisticate", "sophia", "sofa", "fit". I'm pleased by words whose meaning clusters euphoniously with other words' meanings, not through obvious etymological links but through chance or quirks of history or the accidents of sounds. Harmony or complementarity of meaning as well as of sound just tickles me. As my grandmother would say.
Gloaming is very satisfying.
A Clockwork Orange contains marvelously memorable phrases such as "Bolshy great yarblockos!"
An outbreak of c. difficile would be terrible, but I sure do like to say that word in Italian: dee-fee-chee-lay. That and stazione ferroviaria, the ridiculously beautiful term for 'train station'.
"ham", pronounced in RP, especially if special stress is put on the initial h (resulting in ridicule, perhaps, but it's worth it in an intimate setting). It sounds like a person moving their mouth and head to take a bite out of ham. I don't know if this explanation makes any sense, but try saying "ham" as 'eatily' as possible.
Another one is "ye". As in, the plural of the pronoun "you". I went to Ireland for a few months recently and found that people use "ye", even in academia. I thought it was overwhelmingly sweet and it's a favourite because it felt a bit like if everyone had just stepped out of a Shakespeare play. I had never heard anyone actually use the word (other than perhaps reading out loud). There is also another Irish English word I adored, but unfortunately I've forgotten what it is.
On a similar note, I do remember it took myself (a speaker of British English) and a handful of Americans I lived with a good while to understand that 'press' means 'cupboard'! That always gave me the mental image of a cupboard so full that you have to really push to get it to shut.
I would also like to constult some more with my close friends.
Polished Suaviloquence ...urbane, sophisticated speech
The stelliferous sky ... having, or abounding with stars
Vermiculate letters ... sinuous, worm-like
A rataplan of snares ... the sound of drumming
A flocculent smell (like tufts of wool)
...gemmily shining ... like gemstons (of eyes)
A fusty don in a turret room ... musty, stale
He maundered through the kitchen ... (in an aimless, confused manner)
I love whimsy, but also use "mimsy", which appears in Jabberwocky, and works very well when "whimsy" needs an added something or other. Is that the intented meaning of mimsy?
Speaking of which, lookingglass, with its two 'g's, is one of my favourite words. As is favourite, spelled with a u.
serendipity (such a happy word)
evanescence (nothing heavy or solid there)
Gloria in excelsis Deo (esp. beautiful when pronunciation is church Latin rather than school Latin)
On the same note, grammargoddess's "brooding gloom" in the oroginal post in this thread only really gains its power because of the build-up of intensity and the symbolic depth of Conrad's presentation of darkness.
So my argument would be that, delightfgul as some individual words are as words, it is words in context that really hold a charge of power.
From Dubliners: "But my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires."
From Ulysses: "Flapdoodle to feed fools on."
From Heart of Darkness:: 'And this also', said Marlow suddenly, 'has been one of the dark places on the earth.'
From Lord Jim: "Imagination, the enemy of men, the father of all terrors."
Also, "the impalpable poesy of its crepuscular light."
Also, "those who do not feel do not count."
From Moby Dick: Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me."
But the best word is Joyce's "steelyringing."
Also, falafel, mimeograph, libidinous, scrumping and smithereens.
I also like bleb. As a word only, I hasten to add.
His other favourite word is a snorting pig sound. He likes oinking so much that he carries around his stuffed piggy all day to talk to it. This is such a fun word that it's too good to keep just for pigs, so he uses it for flamingoes too. A man of few, but highly appreciated, words, our Lenticchia.
'oxymoron', for its undertones of unknowing
and 'fustigation', for its tutelary assistance.
I like assonance, 'cos it sounds like a sword taken out of its sheath.
Compare also with "tendril": attaches itself to or twines around some other body, so as to support the plant.
Whitman makes good use of the word in Leaves of Grass: "Tenderly will I use you curling glass." Elvis Costello offers a witty take in the line: "You won't take my love for tender."
Also, as referred to elsewhere here, I've always loved Homer's "Wine Dark Sea." I don't live near the sea and only visited there twice; but, I can't create a mental picture of any wine that I've ever seen (red or white) that matches the colour of the sea. Possibly, Homer is emphasizing and depth/complexity of colour in his imagery here. One needs to consider also the inadequacies of translation and historical distance when attempting to derive meaning from a text this ancient.
But a meal in itself.
The wine, not the sea.
The Russian word for high-heels: туфли (TOO-flea).
Let be be finale of seem.
Первой на войне погибает правда.
PER-vii na VOY-nye pa-gi-BA-yet PRAV-da
Ah, but Homer used that in conjunction with "rosy-fingered dawn", so put the two together and I guess everything was bathed in a reddish morning glow. Lovely!
I love this :
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.
But most of what Lear did is fine with me.
As for sounds rolling off the tongue and into the brain, I can never forget that Swedish secretary in the original "The Producers" movie, answering the phone with
"Bialystock and Bloo-oom"
My friend invented a lovely word. Nonebrity. If ever a word "does what it says", that one does! I see nonebrities on my TV every day, mostly presenting some ludicrous show or other. The Nicole Kidman part in that wonderful satire To Die For.
"It's de-lightful, it's de-licious, it's de-lovely!"
Пожалуйста sounds like "po-ŽAL-sta," with "Ž" sounded as in the name Žižek (or Zsa Zsa), and a liquid Russian L.
Some asked for a translation, so:
Первой на войне погибает правда.
PER-vii na VOY-nye pa-gi-BA-yet PRAV-da
Roughly: Truth is the first to die in war. (Sounds better in Russian.)
One sound you never hear in the English is the honey-dripping Russian "L." It is something like an English "W."
Another is a series of consonants like the "-vstv-" in the middle of здравствуйте. Enough to drive an English-trained brain around the bend.
Our instructor emphasized to us that speaking Russian would require the use of facial muscles we had never used before. So it would seem unnatural.
The most difficult sound to master was Ы. It's like the result of trying to say "oo" and "uh" at the same time, and failing at both.
For the "l" sound in пожалуйста, it really is more of a glide. Just put your mouth in the shape for an "l" without concretely making the sound and let it pass... that's the best way I can describe it. It is similar to a "w."
When I studied abroad in Russia I took a phonetics class, and she taught us how to position our tongue for every sound. It was REALLY helpful. I could never have made a soft "l" without it.
My advice for ы - pretend you're an old farmer. "Ы! Get offa my property!" Also, knowing German helped because I think ы is really just an i-umlaut. (ï) I mean, assuming "i" is "ee."
Ya Vas Lublu
I believe there's an example in Tchaikovsky's 'Yevgeny Onegin'.
My wife and I have adopted the Middel English "awhaped" into our idiolect. That's a-HWOP-ped, three syllables, meaning "extremely surprised, astonished, floored."
Middle English has a number of words I could wish had stuck around.
#47 Sometimes nothing else will do but "harumph."
#64 I assume "awhaped" has no relation to the noise of a spaceship from the planet Krikkit sounding like 100,000 people suddenly saying "wop."
'awhaped' - love it. These days, though, it might suggest membership of the SM persuasion!
Interesting that we've neologised 'gobsmacked' - perhaps just in UK?? - suggesting that the need for the concept hasn't gone away completely during the intervening centuries.
Just off to find some briefly attired young ladies in search of some friendly ahwaping!
Ever since reading that, I have vowed to find some way of using that phrase in casual conversation some time soon....
Ugly as a mud fence.
Pseudo-grecian, as in scornfully declaring "Enough of the pretentious pseudo-grecian phrases."
Sonofabitch. Feels great everytime I say it and even looks good in writing.
(Somehow, this DOES get everyone's attention.)
When I was taking Spanish in high school, my little sister heard me studying "mantequilla", butter. She loved the word so much, she just kept saying it and even named a stuffed animal or something Mantequilla. And she's right! It somehow reminded me of the song "Maria" from West Side Story. "I'll never stop saying Mantequilla..."
I had this tongue twister I liked to say in elementary school, don't know where I got it from, it went something like specifically special species of spurious speckled sphinx...love that word spurious.
And m&ms. I had a foreign professor who mentioned the candy in class and he didn't know where to stop...emineminemineminem!
>79 atiara: mantequilla is good, so is quesadilla!
. I like"flojera" (laxness, looseness). Que flojera! one says of a bunch of slackers.
. That Himalayan Salt Sea Mastadon (From Moby Dick)
. I like Tolkein's "Mathom" Something you don't want to keep, but can't throw out either. The Hobbiton museum was known as the Mathom House.
, The whole posse of words like shlameil , shlamozel, schmendrake, and so on. For them as like bad puns...
Moby DIck starts with "Call me a shlameil!"
Oh yeah, and "drizzly November in my soul" works too.
. Vote for Yetta and things will get betta.
. Oh! How could I forget "gaspillage" (sp?) its French (I guess) meaning wasteful spending. "Du hast verfludgevet mine gelt" (you have extravagantly spent my money) "Do speak a known language man!"
Oh, Sorry, "Quelle Gaspillage!"
A word I like: eavesdropping. "An eavesdrop is a small open hole under the eaves of a house which allowed a servant to listen in on the conversations of people awaiting admission at the front door." I just discovered that today, it is the kind of gem I want to hold in my mouth like a precious glass marble.
#82: Ha-ha! "Call me a shlameil!"
From the book: Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because of our Earthling assumptions) as color means to a blind man.
I've always assumed that this would become a common term, and yet it hasn't taken off.
It's so much more intimate than "love," because it's so complete.
Interesting - I've actually heard the word "grok" used that way, but nothing to do with Heinlein. Maybe it DID take off, after all?
It's hard enough when a word is common currency in a place, and is then popularised my a person or popular movement. I have in mind 'grotty', which caused a stir in the 1960s, particularly across the Atlantic. This was supposed to have Liverpool origins, as a shortening of 'grotesque' (OED) although its meaning differs.
Yeah...in Washington DC, the word is just "tourists" - but carries all the negative connotations. "Oh. It's coming up on tourist season..."
I've never seen anything about how Heinlein came up with the word. I wonder if he thought about the sound of it?
Reminds me of the irregular noun (was it from Bernard in "Yes Minister"?): I am a traveller, you are a tourist, he is a tripper.
Grok is also used quite a bit by hackers* and was pretty common at quite a few computer science departments at one time.
Of course by hacker I mean those people covered by definitions 1 to 5 listed by the Jargon File* and not the 'person who breaks into computer systems' definition which has taken hold (due to years of misuse by the press and media going back to the mid 80s).
Of course grok also appears in the jargon file too.
* Versions of which have been published as The Hacker's Dictionary and The New Hacker's Dictionary
Yes, I was recently startled to discover that the early computer pioneers (Gates, Wozniak, Jobs, et al) regarded themselves and described themselves as 'hackers'. Meaning - as you say - something rather different than what it's used for now.
I think one of my favourites there is "cellfish" - isn't that just so true? I'd add "cellf-centred" to that, as people who almost knock you over in the street because they're staring at their tiny screen, not looking where they're going.