This week’s prompt is book-adjacent, but a fun prompt for me as a poet. It’s about favorite words. And actually limiting it to ten was extremely difficult, so I have chosen (with much narrowing down) a dozen to share with you.
Have you ever repeated a word so often that it loses all its meaning? All the significance is gone and you just have the sound. You begin to question the spelling–and if you keep going, you question the sound too. Have you been mispronouncing, misunderstanding this word all your life?
The famous Shakespeare line “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” suggests (rightly according to much of literary and linguistic theory) that the word and the thing bear no real relation except the associations that we as speakers make. These associations are deeply held, but we’ve seen throughout history that words can change meaning, take on new meanings, and be invented altogether. Language is fluid and dynamic–it evolves with us and can’t be taken for granted.
All this rambling is to say, I chose these words for the sounds, for how I feel about the sounds and the way they feel in my mouth rather than their meaning alone (but of course meaning creeps in). I also like the way many of these words suggest other words or suggest moods. It’s hard to stop at 10, so here are 12 I really like, deliberately not in alphabetical order but rather the order in which they came to mind.
Starting off with a three syllable word. Something about it feels luscious or luxurious to me. The first syllable lingers in the mouth so the rest feels like a secret.
So onomatopoeia is when a word for the sound tries to imitate a sound, and I almost feel like lounge does that. Doesn’t it sound like it just wants to lie around all day?
Say this word out loud. Then tell me if you thought of close as in close the door or as in hold me close. Interesting right?
This word has energy, it moves up in pitch when you say it, and I love how it contains the flight of wing. I have my own personal memories attached to this word too–swings and my childhood seem inextricably linked.
I mean this word is obviously short, but it’s short when you say it too, has a skid and stop quality, like it’s full of false starts.
I think this word doesn’t really sound all that elusive or hard to grasp, like scandalous it lingers–I like the word because it’s kind of sensual and the syllables are pleasing. But a word like rural seems way more elusive to me in terms of its pronunciation.
I love both interpretations of this word, from the dappled sunlight under a tree to throwing shade. Either way, it covers you.
Another word I feel is more elusive than elusive. This word wants to hang on, but instead it slips away. It’s soft too, like a whisper or murmur.
I think I like v sounds, and -ine is great too. How possessive mine feels or entwine. But vines themselves? I can take them or leave them. Ivy is pretty. And a pretty word too. Too bad I swore I’d stop at 12.
I love these sounds. That double oo is just wonderful to read.
This word’s sounds fit the meaning for me, quick and weaving
I actually don’t like they way most of the -all words sound, I think the ‘f’ softens it a bit and gives it a less uniform texture, even for a word that’s so short.
I’m a word addict and I can’t help myself!
I have this memory of my cousin ordering pralines and cream at Baskin Robbins when I was a kid. (pray-lean was her pronunciation) and it just sounded so decadent. She was acting in a local troupe at the time and she’s always had a marvelous voice. But in that moment I thought that was the coolest ice cream order anyone had ever made.
This one is just too much fun. If you’ve listened to the soundtrack for the show, maybe you have also fallen in love with the way Idina Menzel pronounced this word.
Let me know some of your favorite words in the comments!