Are you a logophile, lovely reader?
By that I don’t mean do you love logos, because if so you’ve come to the wrong place (as my distinct lack of logo would indicate), but do you love words?
I do. I still remember discovering “conglomeration” in the pages of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang a very long time ago indeed, and it sent me off to the dictionary. I loved that word. I loved that it said so much, all on its own. I also loved that I’d never seen or heard it before. I resolved to use it whenever I could. And so a mild word fixation was born…
I mean, I’m a reader and a writer (and have been for as long as I can remember), so of course I like words in the sense that I like what you can do with them. I love that you can build worlds and work magic with them, that you can put someone in a different reality, a different time, a different skin (whoa. Not like that. I mean, I enjoyed Hannibal too, but no). I love that words can lift you, make you aspire to something different to what’s in front of you, just as much as they can make you laugh or cry or want to throw things.
Words are powerful. They should be treated with respect and used with care, lest they suddenly get away on us and start building things all of their own. They should certainly be spoken with a little more care (and rather less volume, in both senses of the word), than tends to be the case.
Words are slippery. They can be taken in so many different ways. Not just in the fact that one word can have multiple meanings (I don’t mean to be mean), but in the way shifts of emphasis and tone can render the same word so different (it’s fine. It’s fine). This can get tricky in the written word, when we don’t have visual clues to help us out, but no less so in the spoken at times, if we’re not so good – or too sensitive to – those cues in the first place.
Words are dangerous. Too many, too few, the wrong one, the wrong tone – friendships break over less. We oversell or undersell ourselves, talk ourselves into corners, pass the word to the wrong person, misinterpret and stumble over them.
And words are complicated. I can’t talk to other languages (my attempt to learn French has, um, not been particularly successful, although I did better than I did with Spanish), but English is truly odd. Never mind the rules that only apply half the time (i before e, I’m looking at you), how about the order of adjectives that means a green old sock sounds all wonky, while an old green sock doesn’t? And that’s not even mentioning how “ough” can be pronounced so many different ways I can’t even remember them right now.
But here’s the thing. Words are flexible, too. I like good grammar and proper English. It matters to me, because of what I write and how I write it (I don’t mean this blog. This is where thought-stuff happens. There will be an abuse of proper English occurring on a regular basis. Consider yourself warned). But I also love that language is in a constant state of evolution. Yes, English is, as the old joke goes, the sort of language that follows other languages into dark alleyways and mugs them for their words. But not only does it borrow from other languages, it allows words to be portmanteau-ed and shortened and swiped from nouns to become verbs. And some of them can be so perfectly descriptive, it’d be a shame if we turned our backs on them because they’re not “proper” English. I mean, how else can you so succinctly – and relatably – say you’re peopled out, so you’re staying in tonight to bingewatch a series? Or procaffeinating so long you end up hangry. I love that words can be mashed together to make new things, and I love even more that they are so instantly recognisable and understandable. That we relate to these new words so easily.
Although, if I ever end a text with “LOL”, assume I’ve been kidnapped. For some reason I can’t come to terms with that one.
Then there are collective nouns. Be still my heart! Collective nouns are words at their most playful, in my mind. A nuisance of cats. A aurora of polar bears. An exultation of larks. A bloat of hippopotami. An implausibility of gnus. And, of course, a brew of dragons.
And what about those singular, beautiful words that sum up so much in a few syllables? That evoke a mood or capture a moment? Petrichor. Melancholy. Serendipitous. Susurrous. Gloaming. Tintinnabulation. Discombobulated. Insouciant. *Sigh*
All of which is a long way around that I am indeed a logophile (TL;DR – I like words). And I love the fact that there are people out there that share that passion. So tell me, lovely people – what are your favourite words? Do you have a collective noun you particularly love? Let me know below!
collective nouns, English, reading, words, writing
Like you, I find words fascinating and fun. I briefly confused “petrichor” with “petechia”, which also is a singular word, summoning up not beauty but strangulation (I read a good many mysteries.) Enjoyable blog post.
Hmm. I feel the smell of petechia would be a rather less pleasant thing to encounter, but it’s my new word for the day so I’m very happy with that! I’m so pleased you enjoyed the post – thank you for taking the time to comment!
Haha I love the way you put the TL;DR at the very end.
That word list! I laughed so hard I almost couldn’t see through my tears. “A flurry of yeti.” And the “I Love Lucy” segment is one of my all-time favorites.
When I was around eight years old, I received Alice in Wonderland and Hans Brinker for my birthday from a favorite aunt. They were annotated classics, and I absolutely loved having definitions right there in the margins for words I may not have known. Even as an adult, I often had a small dictionary on my nightstand for quick lookup of words I wasn’t familiar with, or words I could mostly grasp from the context but wanted to be sure of.
Collective nouns are the best! I love them – and that list made me giggle, too. Although I still had to turn to twitter for my furnace of dragons… 😀
And what an awesome way to get small you into a passion for words! No wonder she was a favourite aunt – that’s a fantastic gift. I admit that when I’m reading I tend to just guess most words from context rather than interrupt myself and grab the dictionary, unless it’s something that really confuses me. I’ve found my Kindle has given me a measure of curiosity back, though – it’s so easy to select a word I’m unsure of and get the definition. Although I’ve started doing that so much that I found myself trying to select a word in a paperback the other day…