Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ten Favorite Words

I've been listening to Anne Lamott's audiobook Word By Word.  Anne narrates it herself, presenting a portion of her inspiring Bird By Bird, about writing and living as a writer and incorporating writing into our daily lives.  At first I consumed the audiobook in great gulps, listening at double speed, before I realized I'd better slow down to properly absorb the wisdom. 

Near the end of the audio presentation,  Anne announces she's going to give us writing assignments to do later.  The first assignment is to make a list of my ten favorite words.  I immediately pause the audio presentation, eager to attack this assignment while my mind is sharp and elastic and itchy. 

Ten favorite words...sounds simple, but how shall I determine they're my favorites?  On what basis am I supposed to judge these words?  I could use words I often use (doesn't this indicate a favoritism of sorts?): fabulous, cinch, scandalous. 

I hate questions like this because I'm hardwired to provide the correct answer and when there is no correct answer, I try to read the mind of the person asking the question to discern which answer they're expecting me to give, which is probably an incorrect answer because it won't reflect my style, but theirs.  If someone asks me what my favorite color is, for example, this is what happens:

Okay, I think to myself Mike just asked me what my favorite color is.  I don't have a favorite color, but that sounds lame. Everyone has a favorite color!  Scanning his clothing and mine, I notice our shirts both have red accents.  I grasp at this one similarity and nearly shout with relief, "Red! Yes, red.  What's yours?"  I'm already thinking if I like red so much, how come I don't have a red car?  Red socks?  Red shoes?  He's going to think I'm lying and I am!  I'm a fraud!  "I don't really have a favorite color," Mike says.  Somehow it doesn't sound lame when he says it. 

Back to the list of ten favorite words.  I'm flummoxed.  Ooh!  Flummoxed should go on the list!  Let's see, it is fun to say, it sounds like what it means, I don't overuse it but I'm comfortable using it, and most people know what it means so it doesn't require translation.  Here's my full list:

1.  Flummoxed (see reasons above)
2.  Neologism (I heard it on TV recently, and I'm trying to work it into conversation without sounding pretentious)
3.  Bamboozle (is this too close in meaning to flummox?  Does my listing two words meaning 'mental chaos or confusion' point to a mental illness I'm unaware I have?)
4.  Solstice (I like the meaning; I like the balance and beauty of the word; it's fun to say, and it's scientific!)
5.  Malapropism (I like the meaning, and I like to collect malapropisms.  Maybe my next list will be the ten funniest malapropisms I've heard)
6.  Synergy/Synergistic (great meaning, fun to say, not too popular)
7.  Phooey (a nod to my grandma, and the only curse word worthy of a favorite word list)
8.  Integrity (an important word; a weighty word; the word by which I choose my friends and those I respect and admire)
9.  Caliginous (shades of the Wizard of Oz; who doesn't watch and wait for opportunities to inject this word into everyday conversation?)
10.  Sagacious  (more scholarly than 'wise', something I aspire to in my dotterage)

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