August 15, 2010
Use More of Your Words
A follow-ups to last week’s column
Three e-mails came in post-deadline as a response to my request for favorite words. I need to share.
Betty was traveling for work and didn’t have an opportunity to drop a note. (Betty’s a maven in the Vegas hotel industry.) In this charming story, she relates how her all time favorite word is mildew. “I always had a baby doll that I named Mildew as I liked the feeling of my mouth when saying the word. I had no idea what it meant — just that it was a word I had heard and liked, and still like.” Imagine what her mother thought.
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! As Kate says “who cares if it's not really a word? It's just plain ol' downright fun.” According to the 1964 Walt Disney film, it is defined as "something to say when you have nothing to say". Richard M. Sherman, co-writer of the song with his brother, Robert, explains that the word was created in two weeks, mostly out of double-talk.
The roots have been defined as follows: super- "above", cali- "beauty", fragilistic- "delicate", expiali- "to atone", and docious- "educable", with the sum of these parts signifying roughly "Atoning for educability through delicate beauty." OK, WTF does this mean? Sounds a lot like that -ese talk that I hate.
My high school boyfriend Dan (hey, it’s an internet “connect with old friends” thing and Bill knows we correspond.) offered mud-lucious which isn’t in the Merriam-Webster either, but has been in his head since he read the e. e. cummings’ poem about spring.
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little lame baloonman
whistles far and wee
and eddyandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's
when the world is puddle-wonderful
old baloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump-rope and
In a mental 180, Dan also put forth three onomatopoeic body-related words: giggle, hiccups and phlegm. From the delightful to the yucky! Not on my favorite list, but along the same line of thinking, are others high in Onomatopoeic Yuck Factor: pus, upchuck, mucus, and smegma. For you girls who don’t know just how gross the last entry is, look it up.
Talking about a disgusting: while I lived in Yellow Springs (home of Antioch College, the Berkeley of the Midwest), I worked temp for a professor, typing his scholarly treatise on the variety, origins, and cultural applications of the synonyms for feces: crap, turd, poo, poop, excrement, dung, manure, cow pies, defecation, dump, doo-doo, ca-ca, number two, BM, guano, the runs, the trots, and lest we forget, shit. The list goes on. What is with our preoccupation with this bodily business that we give it so many names?.