Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Monday 1 July 2013

The Best Word in the World

It has been my habit of late to make Monday’s blog a bit news-related. The idea is that, since I read the Sunday papers, and, since I always have an opinion about something, I take that opinion and write about it on Monday morning.

It’s a nice way to start the week, because it means that I don’t really have to think too hard about my first bit of doings on a Monday, and it’s nice to be able to ease my way into the working week.

I didn’t read the Sundays yesterday. I never got as far as the garage to pick up a selection of papers. Heaven only knows what happened, because I honestly can’t remember. There were plans, which were scuppered, and there was a good breakfast of mushrooms on toast, provided by the husband, but there were no papers.

This morning, I grabbed the Saturday Guardian magazine in the vain hope of finding something to fill the Monday blog-slot, and I happened upon Imelda Staunton. I reasoned that bumping into Ms Staunton couldn’t possibly be anything but positive, and I began to read the Q&A conducted with her, no doubt for the purposes of plugging the Royal Court’s Circle Mirror Transformation.

One of the questions Ms Staunton answered was, “What is your favourite word?”

What a great question.

We have favourite words, the husband and I.

Words are power.

Ms Staunton could have been an entirely different sort of woman, and, had she been, I doubt the answer to that particular question would have been used in the article. Had Ms Staunton been some vacuous model/actress from some suppertime soap opera, she might have answered with the name of her firstborn infant or with some saccharine nonsense word like love or mum

Favourite words should be those that confuse the mouth or mind; they should sound like nothing else or like nothing at all; they should fail to be musical or onomatopoeic, and they should be utterly untrustworthy. Some of the best words are also the simplest, which, when said over and over just start to sound bizarre.

Ms Staunton came up with ‘tabard’, and I can just see her saying it, and the bafflement on the interviewer’s face at the other end of the telephone line. What a marvelous choice.

A Badger on a Plinth for the One and Another project
the Fourth Plinth at Trafalgar Square 2009
The husband has lots of favourite words, but top of his league table are ‘badger’ and ‘plinth’. If you didn’t know what those things were, you’d never be able to guess, now would you? And let’s not pretend that when put together, the one on top of the other makes a rather fetching picture.

Now try saying ‘black’ half a dozen times. How freaking weird is that? It messes with your head, doesn’t it? Go on, do it again... The word loses all meaning. It isn’t a colour, it isn’t a thing, it’s just hypnotic... and mind-blowing... and...

I like ‘frangipane’ and ‘traduce’.

When was the last time you used the word ‘traduce’ in a sentence? I think you should make that your mission for today.

Go on, do it, I dare you!

While you’re at it, if you’ve got a favourite word, do feel free to share it with the rest of us. That’s what the comments section is for. 

Crikey! That’s two dares in one blog, and it’s only Monday!


  1. I have a fondness for both "carborundum" and "ocelot".

    I also like "nice" when used in the more traditional sense; however, since common usage has traduced it, I seldom have the opportunity to partake.

    1. Look at you with your clever use of the word 'traduced'! Smiles.

    2. A public school education prepares you for all of the most challenging situations.

  2. I'm quite partial to 'plinth' myself. Just asking people to say it gets such a great array of facial expressions off people as they say it, from mild confusion to cheeky smiles to even some rather thoughtful expressions... yet no-one can really say why they do it. Great word.

    I'm also partial to 'corporeal', don't know why but the sound of the word makes me happy. And embiggening' which is from an old Simpsons episode (He Embiggened that role with his Cromulent performance). We use this word a lot in my house in regard to news-readers who are trying to make a news story sound more important as they desperately try and make use of the five minutes of dead space they have on slow news days.

  3. I'm fond of the word 'pandemonium'. I don't get to use it very often, but the way it seems to roll around the mouth when you say it is pleasing.

    Another one I'm fond of is 'awry', a simple little word perfect for understating those little moments when it seems to have all gone horribly wrong. "Sorry about the takeout, cooking dinner went a little awry tonight."

  4. I've always loved "discombobulate",but I'd be hard pressed to narrow my favourite words down to one. The one that got me hooked on Dutch, for instance, was their word for "to explode": "ontploffen". Isn't it great?

    1. Right... That's me off to find some Dutch lessons, then.

  5. My personal favourites are cabbage and bosky. The fact that the second one has fallen out of general usage still upsets me, and I insist that everyone I know use it from here on in.

  6. I have a number of words I'm quite fond of, pasquinade, belligerent, reticent, succinct ... I also quite like non-words (despite a loathing for many fad words) like manky, munted, or borked (which is what happens when something is so broke it breaks broke worse than broked :D).

    diction is a gift! in particular for those of us inclined towards the Hiphop. for mass application of aliteration and consonance diction is a must. lyrical contrast, sound clash, bomb blast.

  7. I always thought 'diction' itself was a pretty cool word. But I also very much like old words that you don't hear my generation say. For example 'molasses' or 'perambulator' :)