Do you have a little restaurant that you go back to again and again? Is it because the food is really that good? Is it cheap? Or is the reason because it is comfortable; because you know exactly what to expect? The waiters all know you, the menu doesn’t change, you have a particular table that you get seated at often. There is a local Thai restaurant that checks all those boxes for me. Their Drunken Noodles with Beef are a must-have.
Like the local favorite haunt, I have favorite words. They may not all get used often, but they are comfortable to me, nonetheless. Take the word “crepuscular” for instance (pronounced kray-PUS-que-lar). It is a term used to describe the rays of slanting sunlight poking down through the puffy clouds, often referred to as “God light.” How often does that come up in conversation? Besides, every time I use it I have to define it. Still I love that word. I think that I love it more for the sound than for the meaning.
I like the hard “c” at the beginning as well as the one in the middle. I like the emphasis on the second syllable of “pus,” giving it a slightly sinister sound. I like the way the word comes to an easy end on the fourth syllable, which almost gets swallowed.
There are other words that I like for their sound. They are not unique or esoteric words, they are normal, garden variety words. “Scratch” and “click” are words that I like for their onomatopoeia value. The words make the sounds they describe. Again, I am drawn to the hard “c” and the “ch” sounds. I like the way the “t” in the word “scratch” forces the “ch” sound that follows to be voiced more abruptly than in the word “church” for example.
I like the term “tank top.” It has some pleasant alliteration going on with it. The sharpness of the the two t’s and the k sound in the middle followed by the pop of the “p” at the end all intrigues me. Words like “shoe” or “harm” are not very exciting and lay on the tongue like a bitter pill waiting for water to wash it down. I don’t like words that are hard to say. I never know what to do with words like “macabre” or “chipotle.”
I like words with crunch and character. I listen to a lot of different kinds of music and I find myself attracted to artists who use percussion in new and unique ways. Words seem to do the same thing for me. “Crutch,” “crotch” and “catch” all grab my ear for the same reasons that “scratch” does. Seriously, I think about these things.
What are some of your favorite words and why? Do you listen to the sounds they make or are you more of a definition hound? Let me know what you like. In the mean time, I’ll mull over a few more words myself. Cantankerous… Originate… Vivisection… Flagstaff… Magnanimous…. Conflagration… Itch… Etcetera…