Words we love and words we hate

Book, tea and candle

My favorite way to read in the winter, with a good light and a cup of hot tea. Cozy, hmm? Image courtesy of mconnors, Morguefile.

One of the most fun things about being a copywriter (and a blogger) is the opportunity to tailor what I say to suit my audience. In the course of my career, I’ve written for adults, teens and kids. Depending upon the audience, I choose my words carefully to suit the comprehension level of that group and pay attention to their wants and needs. I’ve looked at the “About” page of many people that follow my blog, so I’m aware that my audience is international and ranges from teenagers to senior citizens.

I’ve also written for different cultures. If I’m writing for a different culture, I do my best to pay some attention to the moral values of that culture because it can flavor my writing. For example, family and community are particularly important in both Hawaiian and Hispanic/Latino culture, so I bear that in mind when I’m writing for that audience.

Another fun thing about being a copywriter is the chance to pick the word with just the right shade of meaning. Take the word “laugh,” for example. You can chuckle, chortle, titter, giggle, jeer, snicker, snigger or snort. Each word conveys laughter but in each case, the word conjures up a different image in the reader’s mind and may have a positive or negative connotation.

Words have punch. When you go to the movies and see the preview for a new film, the words that you see and hear tantalize you and evoke your interest in seeing that movie.

Words often reflect not only the writer’s character, but also a culture. Jane Austen used complicated words with a light touch of irony here and there. Her stories remain popular because we can see ourselves in them, I think.

Words are particularly important on social media websites, since we’re communicating with each other and judging each other without the benefit of seeing others’ facial expressions or hearing their voices (unless they use pictures or video). I enjoy being a blogger because it allows me to play around with words as much as I like and to visit talented writers at their blogs to learn from the excellent writing they provide.

Some of my favorite words are “discombobulate” (I like the musical sound of it), “defenestration” (it tends to stump people) and “aglet” (it also stumps people). Other words I like include “flustrated” (a word combo of “flustered” and “frustrated” that I’ve sometimes heard in the Shenandoah Valley) and the German word “winken” (it’s pronounced “vinken” and is a verb meaning “to wave”). Some words are almost like music when they’re paired just right with another word. American poet Ogden Nash understood this: Who else would come up with the phrase “preposterous rhinoceros”? (Say it five times, quick! And don’t trip over your tongue.)

Words I hate usually involve profanity or are harsh-sounding when they’re spoken out loud. I don’t judge others for using these words on blogs or in books; I just prefer to avoid them myself because there are so many other great words to use in their place.

Words have so much power. They persuade, dissuade, disappoint, hurt, heal, encourage, flatter, annoy, terrify, give joy, entertain, educate, convince, deter, delight and comfort. When words are used right, they can change someone’s life or even the world.

(Okay, can somebody hand me a ladder now? I need to climb down off my soapbox.)

Readers, what are some of your most favorite and least favorite words?

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43 Comments

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43 responses to “Words we love and words we hate

  1. Martha Graham

    Oh, what a delightful post! One of my favorite words is connotation. I remember learning about it in 8th grade and realizing how one word can fill a space with just the right color. In fact, that’s how I’ve always remembered it: connotation=the color of a word, rather than the definition. I realized writing this that most of my favorite words have lovely connotations, double meanings, alliteration — or they are just plain interesting. Some of my favorites are synesthesia, mumble, whisper, architecture, astonish and legerdemains. My least favorite words are those that are vulgar, trendy or mean.

  2. My favorite word is facetious. I had a high school English teacher who used this word a lot and it stuck.

    Also, your post reminds me that I need to update my about page. I wrote it during the first couple days I was blogging and haven’t updated it since.

  3. Words can have such a powerful impact and meaning if they are chosen carefully, with all sensibilities in mind. I try to make sure I do not overuse a word or words, trying to include a varying range of different ones so that my readers can grow their vocabulary a bit at a time.

  4. “Self-righteous” seems to be such an assertive word when used appropriately! And the word “superb” has such a haughty tone to its superlative nature. ~ Kat (I like the word “discombobulate” too — although every time I see it in print I have to look twice because it always appears misspelled! :-) )

  5. A few favorites: Incidentally, simultaneously, trepidation, salvation, eyeteeth, quivers, and ruminate. Some of these words have earned their position as personal favorites by virtue of the number of points they have won me in Scrabble games. Others are just lovely and/or highly useful words.

  6. I mentioned favourite words in a recent blog post, and there I said that ‘serendipity’ is one of my favourites, it sounds like a magical made-up word!

    I agree that discombobulate is a good one – an old work colleague used to always say “Ooh, I’m all discombubulated!” and it used to make me chuckle.

    I know I have other words that I really like and some that I really dislike, but I can’t think of them right now!

  7. prathima

    This is such a cool post!

    P.S. I am a trainee copywriter. Now I’m even more glad to be following your blog. :)

  8. mistymidnite

    Hi! It is nice to meet you… love this post. Stumbled across this word although I don’t use it…. deterritorialization (phew). However, I like nemesis, continuum, justification, and a plethora of izations and isms are usually good to add onto other words I love. Poetic justice has been around but sounds lovely. I’m glad your blog is here, really appreciative!

  9. I have a couple of favourites in the Italian language…one of them is scombussolato (discombobulate). I also love scervellato, which is flibbertigibbet…a word not used often enough. Mozzafiato means breathtaking and sounds wonderful. Casalinga sounds so much better than housewife.

    I can’t stand the word hubby, and if one more food writer says ‘washed down with’ I think I will scream. What is wrong with ‘drink’?

  10. It wouldn’t bother me if I never heard the word “like” again. It’s one of those words that has no meaning or place in conversation English.

  11. I’m like you. I hate foul or course language. What words do I like? I love any alliteration (they just make me smile when I come across them in novels or hear them in conversations). Conundrum sounds cool.

  12. Interesting that you liken copy editing to writing. Yes, you must understand writing and be a writer first, but to me copy-editing is much more difficult. I did this for years with various documents, newsletters, etc. and mostly it left me very nearsighted. Good post. Dianne

    P.S. my favorite words are many. As a Toastmaster, I learned how to avoid filler words, generally conjunctions, such as ‘but’ that negate everything that came before it and Uhh which I hear a lot in TV news reporting.

    • I’d agree that copyediting is more difficult than writing, since I’m both a copywriter and a copyeditor. The editing part is harder because you’re ensuring consistency, judging tone, making sure that the logic is sound and double-checking facts.

      And I must check out Toastmasters one of these days. I’ve heard so much about them that I’m intrigued.

  13. LOVE discombobulate! I also like frenetic, disingenuous, and legitimacy.

    Fantastic post! It brought a big smile to my wacky face. :)

  14. Another fine post. I thoroughly enjoy reading most (if not all) of your work here. I love all words, fair or foul, and once upon a time would just sit and read the dictionary. Alas, that habit passed long ago and my readily available lexicon has diminished over the intervening years. What I dislike is spelling. I used to be pretty, but using a keyboard for some odd reason has created a gap over which it is difficult to leap at times. I often have to drag out pen and paper and write something by hand to recall the proper spelling or drag out a dictionary, yet on those days when a word completely eludes me . . . I throw up my hands and play a video game. :-)

  15. Words are such a joy to play with – wish more schools saw value in them – and allowed kids to explore and tumble with language.
    Lovely post.
    Hope the New Year brings lots of laughter, adventures, and inspiration…and you find time to share all that with us!

  16. Great advice. Chortle, titter? Never heard those before.

  17. I remember thinking defenestration was a funny word. Read about it during a trip to Prague…reading about the city’s history. Seems like for a while it was a preferred method for doing people in. Knowing fenêtre is window in french helped me remember it. :)

  18. Another vote for discombobulate! I also love pony, crescent, and pretentious. I don’t like the word moist.

  19. Love this post and I, too, love words. I always have my thesaurus by my side so I can use the best word for the job.

    I abhor cuss words. They are the lazy way out. It takes finesse to ream someone out or express vitriol without using these all-too-common terms.

    Words I love? Oh there are too many to name!

  20. Love the word “nebulous.” Loathe the f-bomb in all its forms. (For every 500 times it is used, maybe one instance can be justified. I think of it as a more vulgar and revolting form of “um.”)

  21. LOOOOOOOOOVED this post. My first time here – I share your love for discombobulate for similar reasons! I also like chauffeur coz’ it has a posh swing to it everytime I say it or maybe my english teacher influenced my love for it!

  22. Very nice post! I like words that have to do with nature—sparkling, crystal, vibrant, serene, majestic, clear, delicate. There are some pretty cool “color” names too—aquamarine, apricot, fuchsia, crimson, azure, coral, lavender…

  23. Such a wonderful post that made me explore & evaluate the words I find myself choosing over and over again. Thank you, Eagle Eye! I love ‘y’all’ because it’s so warm & welcoming… can’t stand ‘hegemony.’ I’m embarrassed to admit it, but (deep breath) I actually do enjoy an opportune F-bomb. Sigh. Perhaps someday I’ll grow up. ;)

  24. gwenlovelace

    Just stumbled onto your blog and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have many words I enjoy, but I wonder how many more generations will even be having discussions such as these, since we seem to have some up-and-comers who prefer “LOL”, and “j/k” or “IKR”, “IMO”, “IMHO” etc.. Sickening and sad that they are missing out on the finer joys in life – communication.

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