For a long time, I never had a favorite word, just a lot of words I really liked.
Some words I like because they sound grand and impressive: “rampart,” “myriad,” “panoply,” “diadem.”
Others, for me, evoke a high and graceful beauty: “sanctum,” “paean,” “orison.”
Some are more interesting for their obscurity, like “nycthemeron,” an arcane word for the twenty-four-hour cycle of day and night.
Still others are just fun to say: “aurora borealis” rolls off the tongue, “blitzkrieg” is agreeably guttural, and “boondoggle” is somehow hilarious to me.
A few of my favorite words aren’t words at all. I knew a guy once who referred to the word “fuck” as “the Effenheimer.” Meanwhile, J.R.R. Tolkien’s invented word “Silmarillion” makes one of the loveliest sounds I know; somehow it’s like a Celtic knot, curved and interwoven and complete unto itself.
Though I’m surely in the minority here, I like some words for their etymology. “Chortle” is something Lewis Carroll just sat down and invented one day, while “fiasco” – for some unfathomable reason – originally meant “bottle.”
Only today I learned “chelonian,” a Dictionary.com Word of the Day. It means “turtle-related.” I feel like somebody who can drop chelonian in casual conversation is a person worth knowing.
And of course, lots of words have a plain and simple beauty, but don’t get much attention because they’re used so often: “snow,” “gray,” and a thousand others.
But enough prelude. My all-time favorite word is one I only learned in the last year or so, during one of my occasional attempts to build up my vocabulary. I think it was another Dictionary Word of the Day, though I’m not sure. But here we go:
sockdolager – noun, “older slang” – something unusually large or heavy; a decisive reply or argument; a heavy, finishing blow.
In other words, something that goes BAM.
Man, where do I begin? I love that “older slang” is even a category: like, here’s a list of crazy words people said in the 1830s. I love the etymology: “Americanism, of uncertain origin,” which is dictionary-speak for “God only knows what the Effenheimer those people were thinking, this word is a boondoggle.” And I love the meaning: essentially, a sockdolager is anything that can be followed by the words, “Yeah! What now?!”
Until today, I always pronounced this “SOK-da-logger,” which sounds absolutely epic in my head. I was disappointed to learn the pronunciation is actually “sok-DOLL-a-jer,” which sounds 30% wimpier to me. I guess I could still say it the old way, but then my internal editor would grumble every time. Really, the deeper issue is that I’m not using this in conversation at all. Need to remedy that. First world problems.
I’ve rambled enough. What’s your favorite word?