If you spend enough time reading and writing, you’ll find that you suddenly and inexplicably have favorite words and much-hated-words. The question is when do these words become a problem in our writing? Do we describe the same things the same way over and over again? Take a look at this list of frequently used words that should be avoided. Then use color-coded editing to get rid of them.
Most people hate the word “moist.”
Now and again, there’s a craze over “defenestration” and “kerfuffle.”
Favorite words gain their distinctions for a number of different reasons. We like the way it sounds, we like the definition, he obscurity, the consonance, the origin, the usage.
Favorite Words (of me and my lovely coworker):
- Acquiesce (my favorite)
- Sluice (coworker’s favorite who mispronounced it “slew-iss”)
- Ruminate (I also like contemplate, pontificate, ponder, and think)
- Octothorpe (#octothorpe)
- Chortle (Sometimes I hate this word. It’s on the fence.)
- Selfie (now in a dictionary near you!)
At my job (technical writing intern), I look through technical documentation done by engineers. Here are the Engineering Words (words that engineers use and we think are funny):
- Unfailed (this one causes us to be giant squids of anger because WHY NOT JUST SAY SUCCESSFUL)
- Deleterious (this one had the definition of “damaging” alongside it, so what was the point of using this word at all?)
- Shadowgraph (AWESOME. It’s an X-ray)
- Supercompressibility (because… science!)
- Winterization (my least favorite implication of cold)
- Nonsegmentable (unlike my love of chocolate)
- Untonable (quiet?)
- Disbonding (science again)
- Cargotainer (cargo+container, we think)
As mentioned, my favorite word is “acquiesce.” It means to agree or relent. (Remember that fancy-word-filled dialogue of Pirates of the Caribbean 1: “I am disinclined to acquiesce to his request.” = “I don’t want to say yes to his question.” Isn’t language awesome?)
Contrary to pop-culture pirates, I didn’t learn the word there. I read it in a book a long time ago (6th grade?). And I just fell in love. It’s a beautiful word, lovely to say. It’s sharp (ac) and then soft (quiesce), almost autologically so. Sharp, then soft. Contrary, then agreeing.
My love hate relationship with chortle. It doesn’t sound nice. It means to laugh, but the word isn’t as pleasant as it’s definition. It was coined by Lewis Carroll, and it’s probably a portmanteau of chuckle and snort. So, maybe it isn’t intended to be all that pleasant. Love it or hate it, I can never quite seem to get a character to successfully chortle without me replacing it somewhere in revision. Sigh. Words can be tough.
What are YOUR favorite or least favorite words? Do you know why you love or hate them?