Fancy Words


I am a logophile. I love words. I thank people who use unusual words in conversation. I give out “best word of the day” awards on Facebook. Sometimes my friends try to amuse me by using unusual words. Or perhaps they are embarrassed when they use them, so cover with a call-out to me, as though to say “I’m just using this fancy-dancy word for Raechel’s benefit. Don’t blame me.”

I had a boss once who would learn a new word and then use it several times in one day, kind of trying it out, I guess. I’m not sure how we figured this out, but we didn’t really like the guy, so we decided to prime him each day with a new word and then count how many times he used it. We chose words randomly from the dictionary, and took turns doing the priming. My word was “propinquity,” which I managed to squeeze into a conversation, without laughing, in the morning. He heard it, and found three more times that we know of to use it himself that day. We stopped after a week because it was too creepy — we hadn’t imagined that we’d be so successful.

A friend was working in Washington, D.C. He and his buds cooked up this idea to plant a new word — a ‘neologism’ — and see whether it would appear in print. They started using ‘deluxe’ the way people used ‘cool’ at that time. Within a month, they were hearing the word everywhere, and within two months read it in a newspaper story quoting someone talking about something — I don’t remember what.

Another time I was working in a cubicle hive in an annex, away from upper management. We did many things to keep ourselves from going crazy, including going from one end of the facility to the other without ever using an aisle or letting our feet touch the ground. Another time we decided to come up with as many words as we could that end in “ation.” We called them out all day long for weeks.

Some words make the hair on my arms stand up. I don’t know what it is exactly. It’s like landing a metaphor. Everyone agrees it’s fabulous, but no one can really say why. ‘Individuation’ falls flat. Sounds too technical, I think. But ‘fisticuffs’ and ‘detritus,’ love those words. My sister Gretchen is a ‘plethora’ fan. I don’t care much for it, but perhaps that’s because I’ve decided she owns it. ‘Erudite’ is good, although I’ve heard it too much for it to raise my arm hair, or what’s left of it. I did once have an argument with a co-worker, who claimed there was no such word.

Throw your favorite word my way. We’ll vote on the best ones.


2 responses »

  1. I am feeling that I’d rather list the words I hate – and the people who use them. It would INFORM our discussion into why pretentious sons in law insist on modes of expression that sound like abstracts from a lackluster and rarely read paper!

  2. Ha! Isn’t it too bad that interesting words can also be employed as weapons? (Rather like humor, I think — a source of laughter, a source of pain.) The son-in-law in question, who thinks he is building a wall around his listener to remove her from sight, is in fact bricking himself into an airless cell. Fortunato captures himself!

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