The Brilliant Thing About Words
Penned by our resident wordmaster Allan Watts
All writers love words and all writers have their favourites: long ones, simple ones, rounded ones and sharp ones. I keep a little store cupboard of bon mots that I pull out at a moment's notice when I have to rustle up something simple yet satisfying, like a meal made of staples and left-overs.
My store cupboard is neat and tidy, with spicy words I keep for robust rejoinders on the top shelf, sweet words for a little personal persuasion in a special jar and plain English ones in baskets for those moments when you want to communicate with the minimum of fuss and bother.
My love of words comes from reading and performing Shakespeare but I know that's not everyone's cup of darjeeling so I thought I'd share some words from across the ages that I think are just brilliant. I'm going to start before old Will himself with that master of early pornography, Geoff Chaucer.
Chaucer was the father of English literature and he invented a few phrases we still use today, such as 'nothing ventured, nothing gained' and 'patience is a conquering virtue' but my favourite is 'What is better than wisdom? Woman. And what is better than a good woman? Nothing.' So true.
My next hero of the English language, Will Shakespeare, left us with more than a million words of text, many of them completely new to the English language and several of them probably not even understood by the playwright himself. After all, they smoked a lot of strange things in Tudor times! In Hamlet alone Shakespeare added 600 words to our vocabulary including: frugal, horrid, leapfrog, lonely and zany, along with countless others, including countless (with thanks to another great wordsmith, Bill Bryson).
Words are one thing, complete phrases another. How about: pomp and circumstance, blinking idiot, budge an inch or vanish into thin air? All WS; all still used now.
The really brilliant thing about words though is that we keep coming up with new ones and they stick. Some come from objects that man in his brilliance has invented, like hoover, or microwave (both objects that have become common verbs). A whole language has arisen from social media - such as Google! If you don't believe me, go Google it.
But some of the best ones have come from the street - language developed as it has always done, through conversation and popular culture, the media of regional understanding. How about 'fluff' which in New Zealand is slang for breaking wind, in Australia is rubbish or nonsense and in the UK means a pretty but vacuous woman! Be careful how you use our words when travelling...
A great one from the Urban Dictionary at the moment is 'rendezbooze', getting together with friends for a drink after work, which just happens to also be one of my favourite pastimes.
So what are my favourite words that I like to pluck from my store cupboard on a regular basis? Too many to mention but my five pop picks (thanks Alan 'Fluff' Freeman - not sure which fluff that is) are:
Wonky - it's just so playful and yet simple in its descriptiveness
Rump-fed Ronyon - from Macbeth, such a delicious insult and just really great to say
Delicious - saying it always brings something really tasty or satisfying to mind
Brave - because I am not particularly so it is full of aspiration for me
Plum - because I can never say it once! I always try it several ways and each way makes me giggle.
I think everyone should have a cupboard of words, which they should open on a regular basis and try to make something new and different with.