Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Words: A Love Affair Still Going Strong

By Rose Strong

My grandmother instilled in me a love for books when I was growing up, which in turn spurred  my love of words. I enjoy words as individuals, set apart as singular combinations of letters. They don’t have to tell a story, as some words are simply beautiful or fun to let roll off your tongue. For example, say the word frittata…I’ll wait. Go ahead. Say it a few times, rolling those first two Ts across your tongue with a Latin-type accent. Fun, isn’t it?

I’m always interested in learning about the new words added to the Oxford English Dictionary each year and as a self-proclaimed klutzy bookworm, I follow few sports but I look forward to the Scripps National Spelling Bee when it’s on ESPN every May. And as an ardent listener of National Public Radio, I’m a fan of the Weekend Edition Sunday puzzler hosted by crossword puzzle master Will Shortz, who also is editor of the New York Times crossword.

The power of words is amazing. They can influence our emotions, change our thinking or call us to action. As a child, when I came home crying about kids calling me names because of my visible birthmark, my mother would sing-song the old cliché, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Although trying to make me feel better and give me a tough skin, it wasn’t long before I knew how powerful words could be. Lucky for me, it was before social media, as this article by Wendy L. Patrick, Ph.D. for Psychology Today’s blog sadly points out how words can be a potent poison when used to cause pain.

Subliminal messages, those words and images of which we are not consciously aware, typically are sent through broadcast media such as commercials, movie theater ads and computer pop-ups, where they flash across a screen so quickly, we don’t know we’re even seeing them. However, their influence to make us purchase a product is strong and proven to work, as this article by Ian Zimmerman, Ph.D., for Psychology Today notes.

When we share words in a public forum such as social media, we want to use words that can create the greatest impact and be shared with the greatest number of people. Each social media platform has its own set of key words that will get you noticed. This infographic in Kevin J. Allen’s post on Ragan.com explains which words work best on which platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIN.

I have a soft spot for a few words I truly enjoy. Although words such as palindrome, homophone and onomatopoeia aren’t often used in sentences on a regular basis, it just gave me joy to put them all here. This interesting list of words describing word play is a handy resource.

After reading this post by Kristen Wright on Ragan.com with some fantastic words not seen in everyday writing, I thought to share my own words that have made it on my ‘use more often’ list. Perhaps you’ll find one to add to your vocabulary in the coming days.

  • Plethora: a very large amount or number; an amount that is much greater than what is necessary
  • Serendipity: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for
  • Lollygag: to spend time doing things that are not useful or serious; to fool around and waste time
  • Flummoxed: confused
  • Gloaming: twilight or dusk
  • Haberdasher: a person who owns or works in a shop that sells men's clothing
  • Throes: a hard or painful struggle
  • Swoon: to become enraptured
  • Zaftig: referencing a woman: having a full rounded figure; pleasingly plump
  • Couscous: a North African food made from wheat in the form of very small, round pieces
  • Impetuous: marked by impulsive vehemence or passion

Are there any words you find fun, enjoy pronouncing or find ways to use in your writing? If so, send them through in the comments. I’d enjoy seeing what words you like.

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