Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter
ozma914

Next Week's Column: One Good Word Deserves Another

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK


America's number one favorite word is “defenestration”.

Yeah, that’s what I thought, too.

As a person who loves to write, I enjoy learning new words, but I’m far from the leading expert. That person works for Merriam-Webster OnLine, which conducted a survey to uncover the top 10 favorite words, of which number one was, indeed, “defenestration”.

That’s derived from the Latin word for window, and means “throwing of a person or thing out of a window.” Seriously.

Well, nobody said it had to describe a funny thing, although it is a funny word. On the other hand, throwing someone out a window can be funny, depending on whom that someone is.

Of the other words in the top 10, number 4 if discombobulate, which is what I was when I read the list. (upset or confused.) Are they seriously claiming they surveyed the public at random, and there were enough people who knew these words to vote them into the top ten? Surely they came across some ex-pro wrestler whose answer was: “Duh . . . rutabaga?”

Maybe they only surveyed Mensa members. Oh, Mensa’s not a word; it’s an organization of really smart people and means … um … well, I don’t really know what it means. They rejected my application.

Wait, I looked it up – turns out I can spell “Google”. Mensa means table in Latin, so there you go.

No, I don’t get it either. Maybe it’s connected to “defenestration”. I wonder what the Latin word for “Latin” is?

Although it isn’t spelled out, this list must be only for words that have made it into the English language; otherwise we’d see words pop up such as “Uhuru”, which means either freedom or nice legs in a short skirt (it’s an inside joke, let it go), or “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, which means expensive Disney movie with lots of dancing and songs you can’t get out of your head.

I’m not going to quote the article verbatim – which means an exact reproduction, and everyone knows I’m never exact. However, other words include:

Serendipity, which is what happens when a valuable or agreeable thing that you’re not looking for happens to fall into your lap. I’m not familiar with the effect, but I’m told it’s very nice.

Onomatopoeia, the use of words whose sounds suggest the senses. Comic books users are familiar with this effect: “Bam!” “Whoosh!” And my favorite from the Sgt. Rock comic book, the sound of a machine gun: “Budabudabuda” -- which I don’t think sounds like a firing weapon at all, but I’m not going to argue with a guy carrying a machine gun.

Plethora: excess, profusion, abundance, or superfluity. Oh, here’s another one: superfluity, which means plethora. Example: I’ve got a plethora of superfluous ideas, but a dearth of ability to make them happen.

Juxtapose: to place side by side. I juxtaposed my life plans to my actual life, and didn’t like the result.

Persnickety: fussy about small details. There’s a problem I’ll never have.

Kerfuffle: disturbance or fuss. Why not say disturbance? Or fuss? Why create a kerfuffle over the deal?

Flibbertigibbet: A silly, flighty person. You know who you are.

And finally, my personal favorite, Callipygian: having shapely buttocks. You know, that could save me a lot of trouble. “My dear, you have a lovely callipygian”. By the time she’s looked it up, I’m safely out of slap distance. Do they have another word for nice legs?

As interesting as these words are, I doubt very much if any would appear on the average person’s top 10 list. For one thing, the average person is too busy trying to keep his head above water to learn long words that haven’t been used in a conversation since Shakespeare trod the boards. Here is a more realistic list of favorite words:

“Sleep.” There’s nothing funny about it, we just wish we had more.

“Chocolate.” See above.

“Banana.” It should be pointed out that some words are fascinating directly in relation to the consumption of alcohol by the person considering them.

“Cumquat.” Don’t ask why. It just is.

“Flatulence.” And its cousin, which I’m not sure I can say here.

“Viagra.” The butt of many a joke. Well, maybe butt isn’t the right word.

“Lottery winner.” Technically it’s two words, but with that kind of money you can buy all the words you want.

“Prophylactic.” It’s the dirty connotation.

Speaking of dirty, there are numerous other words that are considered funny, or at least favorite words, purely for their shock value. As in anything, overuse blunts their effectiveness ... but then, people with such limited vocabularies don’t usually have the necessary imaginations to discombobulate people with a plethora of more serendipitous words, and the rest of us would just like to defenestrate them.

If you have a favorite word, send it to me, and maybe I’ll start a new list. But don’t be persnickety about it.
Tags: new era, slightly off the mark, weekly column
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