Lists are fun, right? Magazines are full of them: 26 winning ways with couscous! 19 new styles for long hair! 46 reasons to shave your head this winter!
Coming across one of them the other day (the 50 scariest books of all time – it really is a good list – see http://flavorwire.com/419194/the-50-scariest-books-of-all-time/view-all/) I thought it was time I produced my own. So here it is: The Top Ten Delicious Words That Ought to be Used More Often.
10. Fissure – just because I like the way the double “s” sounds. I always used to pronounce it as a “sh” until I heard people say it as though they were hissing – a great improvement! You can almost see a snake slithering down that crack in the sun-baked rock! [Note: Having typed this I thought I should probably check the pronunciation. I am gutted to discover that the Oxford English Reference Dictionary claims the double “s” should be pronounced “sh” after all. Pah! What do they know?]
9. Ought – as in “Top Ten Delicious Words That Ought to be Used More Often”. Poor old “ought” is losing ground daily to “should” – but why should (dammit!) that be? Ought is so much more prim and proper, so perfectly suited to its meaning. And the way the letters look together – just lovely! You could write “ought” in lovely cursive handwriting, curlicues all over the place, a great, sweeping horizontal line across the “t”. You don’t get that with “should”, which – now I come to think of it – also sounds like a telephone directory being dropped onto floorboards. Relegate it to where it belongs! Bring back the beautiful “ought”!
8. Thrice – don’t we do things three times any more? Is today’s life really so fast paced that only once or twice can find room in our vocabulary? It’s not good enough. I say it again! In fact, I say it thrice! Return “thrice” to everyday usage and the world will be a better place.
7. Preposterous – regular readers (ha!) will know I have a bit of thing for this word. Sadly, I had to edit out most of the twenty-odd occasions it appeared in the first draft of my novel – some nonsense about over-use – but that just goes to show how easy it is to use it regularly if only we take the trouble. It’s impossible to say “preposterous” without spluttering, and that’s just as it
should ought to be.
6. Discombobulate – Isn’t it lovely and visual? I think it’s that “bob” sat there in the middle. I always imagine some poor soul shifting from one foot to another, head bouncing up and down, not sure where to put themselves they’re just so discomfited. And it’s another word that can be used surprisingly often. Really, I find myself discombobulated on an almost daily basis. Join me!
5. Perplex – where on earth did this one come from? It sounds like it should be some kind of hi-tech programming language, or perhaps a new performance fabric for outdoors types (“14 Reasons to Try Perplex on Your Next Hike!”). If you need another reason to use it more often – hard to please, aren’t you? – there just aren’t enough verbs ending in an “x”. Case closed.
4. Vex – another of that endangered band of x-ending verbs, but that’s incidental. Why must it only be Jane Austen characters who can find themselves sorely vexed? Knocks spots off just being p*ssed off. The “Urban Dictionary” (the what now?) informs me that “vex” is making a comeback amongst Young People, but there is danger… As well as its original meaning, “texted vexed” apparently now covers the situation where two people are instant messaging one another and simultaneously receive the message that the other is typing, so both hold off sending their message. The Urban Dictionary helpfully provides this example usage: “I was talking to Bob last night on AIM, when we got texted vexed, and I spent an hour staring at the screen with anticipation.” If there were the slimmest of slim chances that anyone using the term “text vexed” would also use “anticipation” I’d be more optimistic about the future of our language.
3. Ensoul – thank you to Countdown for this little beauty. If, like me, you’d never come across it before, it apparently means to endow something with a soul. I’m relying on Dr Susie Dent to be telling the truth here – and would she ever lie? – because my dictionary doesn’t have an entry for it. Perhaps that means its decline is terminal – not that surprising, given what must be a rather limited application – but it’s still a lovely-sounding word. Surely there must be enough YA writers out there penning tales of mournful vampires and angsty teenage girls for this one to make a comeback.
2. Mellifluous – the Queen of Onomatopoeic Words. That is all.
1. Smite – with thanks to the very talented Psyren and her brilliant blog post “The knuckle sandwich epiphany” (http://howthelightgetsinblog.com/2013/10/14/knuckle-sandwich-epiphany/), I submit to you “smite”. Not as in “I am smitten with my kitten”, but as in “Lo! You have failed to change the loo roll for the last time! Verily, I shall smite thee but good!” And “smote” is even better. I’m going to have to do it just so I can use it.
The writing challenge for today: use at least three of these in a paragraph. The battle to save them from extinction starts here!