A Words Lover’s Alphabet

[Updated 20 November 2014 to add some links and to fix some errors that slipped through when I published it a year ago.]

Even before I began writing I’ve loved words. I love that a word can mean something specific, and as long as the person you’re speaking to know the word the way you know it there’s no chance of mis-communication because the words (usually) always means what it means.

Earlier this year I was thinking of some of my favorite words, and earlier this month I decided to come up with a list of my favorite words, one for each letter of the alphabet. Some of my favorite words may have a special meaning to me, and some words have come to mean something different from when I was growing up back in New Orleans, but they’re my favorite words and I’ll admit that a few have my own special little twist on them.

  • Acquaintance – Not quite a friend, but not a complete stranger. Folks I call “good acquaintances” other people may call friends, but to me the word friend indicates a relationship that I can’t say quite applies to some people I know.
  • Beautiful – This has little to nothing to do with what society in general calls beautiful. My definition of the word is more than physical attractiveness, and I don’t agree with people who say “Everyone is beautiful.” I’m sorry, but if that’s the case what word to I use to describe someone who is truly more lovely than most others. If not than the rest?
  • Chavez Ravine – The home to my beloved Los Angeles Dodgers. A place I really need to visit one of these days.
  • Dumsquizzled – This is a term I picked up from the good folks over at Television Without Pity (back in the pre-Bravo buyout days). The Urban Dictionary defines it as “Shocked senseless by the beauty and/or wonder of something” and that pretty much sums it up.
  • Éclair – How can you not love a delicious chocolate éclair? I’m just saying.
  • Family – This isn’t just people related by blood. Some friends are such good friends that I consider them a part of my family, and I care about some of them than I do about some people who are related to me by DNA.
  • Gullywasher – This word is probably before some of your time but it describes a rather short torrential rainstorm. I heard it watching westerns when I was growing up and the term simply stuck with me. I know it’s an old-fashioned word but I’m a pretty old-fashioned guy.
  • Homebody – This is simply what I am. If I could I’d never leave my place, but as a writer I really do need to get out around folks to get inspiration for stories, characters and places.
  • Indeed – Usually when I say this I find a way to include a verbal “™ Teal’c.” Ever since I first heard him say it his inflection is the way I love pronouncing the word the best.
  • Just what it says on the tin – I know it’s a phrase and not a word, but I read the phrase in a book years ago and immediately fell in love with it. It’s short, to the point, and really hard to misunderstand.
  • Kitteh – Yes, I know it’s not a proper word to some but as a lover of felines it’s how I prefer to say and spell the word. Normally I use it as part of a reference to a large group of people, as in “guys and gals,” “dudes and chicks,” and “cats and kittehs.” (Before anyone fusses at me about the words “gals” and “chicks” let me stop you right there. I’m an older fellow and I use older terms. If it bothers you that much please see what George Carlin said about free speech.)
  • Love – This is a word that is better than damned near any other word I know. Unless said with a qualifier (such as saying, “I friend love the hell out of you”) it’s also one of the hardest words for me to say because it means I’ve given it a ton of thought and no other word expresses how I feel about them. I know a lot of people use this as a cash card (“I want this thing, and if I tell someone I love them maybe they’ll get it for me. (Looks over affectionately and bats their eyelashes) I love you.”) but personally I think the word is best used to tell someone who they mean so much to you that everything you are and everything you have is theirs. Simply because you love them that much.
  • Mugwump – Mark Twain described himself politically as a mugwump, a person who cares more about a person’s ideas and character than his political persuasion. Since Ross Perot ran for president as an Independent in 1992 and 1996 I have developed a strong distaste for being called a political independent. When I read Twain’s comments about being a mugwump in his autobiography I knew I had the perfect word to describe my political leanings.
  • Nuns – As in “hating something (or someone) with the heat of a thousand nuns.” I’ve been known to shorthand this to simply referring to “a large group of devout women” and hoping the person I say it to knows what I’m talking about.
  • Oysters – One of God’s perfect foods. Whether you like them raw, fried, or prepared in some other way there are few foods I love more than oysters. It’s a bloody shame I can’t get good gulf oysters up here in Boston because there’s something about the oysters back home in New Orleans that the oysters up here can’t match. One of these days I’ll need to get some Gulf of Mexico oysters to see how they are since the BP fiasco.
  • Penguin – Obviously I’m going to love this word since it’s the root of my nickname (Peng). Why am I called Peng? Many moons ago I ran a blog called “You Did WHAT???,” a site for all those times when someone does something so incredibly stupid that you wonder what on earth they were thinking. The mascot for that site was a variation on the penguin from a Flash game called Yeti Baseball, but in the variation the penguin got sick of being hit by the yeti and the yeti suffered a massive blunt force injury to his head. A friend of mine started calling me Peng after the ticked off penguin (meaning it in a very good way) and when I became a Linux user back in 2007 I learned that the mascot for Linux is a fat, happy penguin called Tux. Needless to say the nickname stuck and when I introduce myself I’ve been known to simply say, “My friends call me Peng.”
  • Queenie – My late ex-wife’s nickname, and the nickname of Leigh Harris, singer in the New Orleans group Little Queenie and the Percolators. They contributed a song to the first season of HBO’s Treme, “My Darlin’ New Orleans.”
  • Respect – This is another case of having a rather different definition than a lot of people, and in this case I consider it something to be earned, not just being given to every Tom, Dick and Harriet who simply happens to still be taking air into their lungs. See also Supply and Demand (the Law of).
  • Supply and Demand (the Law of) – If something is freely available to everybody and their brother it would seem to reason that it can’t have that much value. So why do people get so bent out of shape if they don’t think they’re getting something their neighbor is? If everyone else was getting a free ticket to take a flying leap off the nearest tall building, would they want that as well?
  • Trollop – A woman of little class, and often used to refer to a prostitute or call girl. It’s a fun word to drop into a conversation and see what reactions you get.
  • Ubiquitous – Everywhere, all the time. When the Barq’s Root Beer folks started selling their delicious beverage nationwide they used the slogan “Ubiquitous. But is it root beer?” Personally I think it doesn’t matter when the beverage is this good. Although I seem to recall it tasted better before the folks over at Coke took over.
  • Varmint – Basically it refers to a small pest or animal. Yosemite Sam tended to refer to Bugs Bunny as that dang-blasted varmint.
  • Wisdom – I don’t use this word to refer to a lot of smarts. I use it to refer to the hard-earned wisdom that can only come through hard times in life. Some younger folks can gain wisdom but I always feel bad for them because nobody under 35 should be in any kind of position to have gained much wisdom like that. And being over 50 I wouldn’t mind if I had a little less wisdom myself.
  • X – This one is a real tough one. How often do you use a word that begins with “X”? In the end I have to go with Xenon, as in the xenon arc lamps we used when I did audio/visual support for commercial meetings and conventions.
  • YMMV – Your mileage may vary, a phrase used by gasoline companies back in the 70’s and is now used to refer to any instance where results that one person is able to get with something may not be the same as what another person gets.
  • Zaro – I picked this word up when I was a beta tester for Mozilla Firefox. If you do a search for a particular bug and nothing is found the site tells you they found “zaro bugs.”

How do they compare with your favorite words? Do any of mine show up on your list? Does one of them mean something completely different to you? Let me know in the comments.

Special thanks go out to Phrontistery’s dictionary of obsccure words and the good folks over at My Favorite Word. Both sites were a huge help in putting together this list.

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