Some words I like, others not so much…

One of things I love about the English language is it’s ambiguity. One of the things I hate about the English language is it’s ambiguity. English is a wonderfully expressive language, consider some of these popular examples:

  • I wandered lonely as a cloud.
  • For sale, babies shoes, never worn.
  • Through autumn’s golden gown we used to kick our way.
  • I have always been of the opinion that a man who desires to get married should know either everything or nothing.
  • Satan hasn’t a single salaried helper; the Opposition employ a million.
  • Bury her memory, Sinclair. Bury it, and salt the earth.
  • Now is the winter of our discontent

Beautiful and evocative every one.

Note: other languages may be just as expressive and ambiguous as English but since I am pig ignorant of all other languages I wouldn’t know. Feel free to correct me.

Of course, over the centuries the language has accrued a number of bizarre complexities and anachronisms. I cannot enumerate, or even know for that matter, the full list but I’ll provide, as supporting evidence, a few examples for your bemusement. Let’s start with context, words can often change meaning depending on how they are used in a sentence. I’m sure you can, given a moments thought, think of many examples. Or what about multiple words that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings? Or, as I was discussing with Rebecca the other day, why there is such a difference in pronunciation between single and double letters, for example “kept” and “keep”, or “snow” and “snoop”. Why do you never see triplicated letters? Or the ever infuriating “i before e except after c” rule. and keep in mind the list of exceptions And have you ever tried to learn English grammar? No wonder I became a computer programmer.

Despite it’s vagaries and insanities I find I’m drawn to certain words from the motley crew of 600,000 (this factoid kindly brought to you by the enigmatic Wolfram Alpha). Whether it be the way they tumble around your mouth when spoken or the mental imagery they evoke, some words I find interesting and intriguing. So I thought I’d share some of my favourites. I wouldn’t describe them as common words, I’ve rarely had occasion to use most of them but I’m hoping to find a place for them in my own writing at some point in the future.

In no particular order (and by no means a full list):

troubadour

stevedore

matriculate

mendacity

cogent

melange

susurrus

onomatopoeia

bifurcated

zoetrope

solipsism

palindrome

quiescent

recondite

Authors note

Link to the featured image.

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