Favorite Words

A young Aidee Ladnier without a care in the world.

Despite my mother assuring me that my first favorite word was “No,” I’ve cultivated a few more over the years and tried to understand what it is about a word that is so attractive. A favorite word of mine has to meet several criteria:

  • It has to accurately capture a thought in my head
  • It has to sound like the thing it means to me
  • It has to feel good in my mouth

Most words are able to capture thoughts. We actually use words to disseminate and share

information. Words are vital to how humans have lived and learned for thousands of years. So the first thing on my list–most words are able to do this. One of my favorite examples of this is the word “insouciant.” It means “showing a casual lack of concern.” In other words, it doesn’t mean careless because that would mean the insouciant person was taking chances. It doesn’t necessarily indicate malice, just that the person is not concerned. But it does mean that the person has a certain confidence in their lack of concern–like someone who hasn’t yet seen enough of the world to be afraid or like someone with enough power to know the world cannot hurt them. There is something playful and powerful about being insouciant.

My next standard a favorite word must meet is that it sound like the the thing it means to me. Of course all onomatopoetic words fit this bill. Some of my favorite words are imitations of actual sounds around me–like “zoom” or “cuckoo” or “boom!”  But I also like words that don’t necessarily seem at first glance to sound like what they represent–like Love.  Saying the word “love” starts out with opening your mouth and ends with your lips and teeth meeting. This sounds to me like the word version of a hug: you open your arms and then close them around the person you love.

And this leads to the last thing a favorite word should do–it should feel good in my mouth. Just as I write words on paper or keyboard, words are also an essential spoken form of communication. I want a favorite word that I speak to be lively and pop out of my mouth excited–like the word “apple pie”. There’s something fun in the repetition of the “p” and the strange “le” construction or maybe in the sighing finish of the “ie.” I love saying “apple pie” just as much as I love eating it.

So tell me, do you have a favorite word?
Do you like the meaning or just the way it feels in your mouth?
Does it hold a special memory or remind you of something from your past?

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Aidee Ladnier

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