Word Nerd: Favorite Words.

posted in: Word Nerd 36
Hello, Meadow. Photo: Wikipedia.
Hello, Meadow. Photo: Wikipedia.


The winners of the essay contest will be announced by Wednesday. The winners have officially been selected and I promise to do the big announcement on Wednesday. Until then, I would like to talk about favorite words. It’s sort of related.

Have you ever been asked what your favorite word is? Have you ever thought about how you’d answer such a question? In my life, this comes up at least a few times a year. I’m not sure if that’s true for you. You might be scratching your head right now. Maybe the concept of choosing (and remembering) a favorite word is something only word nerds do. Why, just today at the newspaper office I overheard a conversation about favorite words. Word nerds hang out in places like newspaper offices and bars.

I have been known to resist the idea of a favorite word. As a writer, after all, one really can’t play favorites. Or maybe a writer can, but a writer’s favorite word is going to be any word that could be classified as the right one at the right time, and what’s “right” changes with the sentence. Furthermore, since the most important thing a writer can do is read (yes, a writer should read more than she writes), she’s bound to come across new words as well as old words used in terrific ways, which means her favorite word(s) really ought to always be changing. If she’s absorbing things, you know?

Maybe I’m overthinking it. I usually am. Therefore, in the spirit of being wrong, here are three of my favorite words:

dimly [aware] poky

“Meadow” is obvious, isn’t it? To begin with, the word starts with “M,” which is a very smart letter to start a word with, e.g., “Mary.” More importantly, a “meadow” is a word for possibly a perfect thing; a pure, sun-dappled thing. A meadow is a place where fawns leap and prance in the bluebells; a place where cows named Buttercup eat buttercups and faeries zip around and charm little girls into naps where they go on adventures and meet magical creatures who let them bury their faces in their fur. Yes, I love a meadow. I knew meadows in Iowa because for every cornfield and timber in Iowa, there exists a meadow — or two. My sisters and I played in forests and oak groves and meadows. So, yes: “Meadow” is a good word.

“Dimly” is great on its own for awhile, but for the full punch, you’ve gotta pair it with “aware.” To pair “dimly” with “aware” is to pair wine and cheese or chocolate and peanut butter. Look:

She wondered, “Is he trying to insult me?”
She was dimly aware she was being insulted.


Eventually, he thought, he would need to go to the dentist about the crown. Until then, he continued to eat ice.
He crunched his ice, dimly aware that his dental work was in danger.

Is not the second sentence in each of the above examples better than the first?? (I realize I don’t have an editor to confirm this; welcome to blogging.) But I believe there’s an intelligence conferred when someone — anyone — is “dimly aware” of something, which is interesting since “dim” usually means the opposite of intelligent. I’ve heard that the mark of intelligence is being able to hold two opposing ideas in one’s mind at the same time, and maybe that’s what I like about “dimly aware.” It’s like, you’re thinking one thing but you’re also sort of vaguely thinking of this other thing, and that makes you a person who thinks. Maybe I like dimly because it rhymes with “grimly” and the tone that usually comes with being “dimly aware” of something is grim or resigned.

And then there’s “poky.” Oh, my lil’ poke!

There are two spellings of this word and they’re both good. Let’s consult the oracle, aka, the dictionary:



noun: pokey
  1. prison.
    “25 years in the pokey”
adjective: pokey
  1. 1.
    annoyingly slow or dull.
    “his poky old horse”
  2. 2.
    (of a room or building) uncomfortably small and cramped.
    “five of us shared the poky little room”

I know, right?? It’s so good. A slow horse that you love. A way to describe prison that isn’t a horrifying nightmare. A hotel room that is so bad but you can make it sort of funny instead of a vacation-ruiner. And I also think of my favorite Little Golden Book, The Poky Little Puppy, which is so sweet and good, I think angels wrote it for my grandma to read to me over and over until I knew all the words.

Speaking of words: What’s your favorite? You can choose…three. And you’re entitled to change your mind.


36 Responses

  1. Vicki Reiter
    | Reply

    Mommy….no more beautiful word has ever crossed my ears (or my heart :0)

    Home…..the sound of it is just so soothing – so safe – so accepting

    engaged…..to be connected and involved with your surroundings

  2. Christine Houghton
    | Reply

    Awesome, glade, and debonair. Food for thought! The debonair man sat under a tree in the quiet glade, looking out at the awesome meadow.

  3. Sandy Sellers
    | Reply


  4. Sally Hart
    | Reply

    Acetylsalicylic (acid) aka aspirin

  5. Kelly Ashton
    | Reply

    Mellifluous (because it flows like honey off the tongue as it’s being said.)
    Buzzy (because saying it tickles my teeth.)
    Joy (because I smile every time I say “joy”.)

    Hugs to you, Mary!

  6. Heather
    | Reply

    I’m so glad that I’m not the only person who has favorite words!

    In no particular order, my favorites (for now) are:
    – winsome
    – snuggery
    – dingledodies

  7. Diane
    | Reply

    One of my favorite words is ablutions. I always give a little cheer when I see or hear it used as I did in your blog a few days ago! It’s a word used regularly in our house.

  8. Peggy
    | Reply

    Myriad and plethora (yes, I realize they both mean the same thing) but they are my favourites. “She has a plethora of fabric.”

  9. Katie
    | Reply

    Too many to pick just three, but three words that are so overused/misused these days that make me cringe: awesome, absolutely and literally. Come on, get a thesaurus, my fellow humans!

  10. Shannan
    | Reply

    Detritus – what a pretty word for garbage
    Conflagration – a very sexy word for a big fire…
    Tenderness – also the title of my favorite poem (Stephen Dunn) – look it up. I love the line from that poem to describe Tenderness, “It’s a word I see now you must be older to use, you must have experienced the absence of it often enough to know what silk and deep balm it is when at last it comes.” Amen! Preach!

  11. Nancy Neely
    | Reply

    Whoremaster (because it always makes me laugh)

  12. Maureen
    | Reply

    I like window, umbrella and crystal.
    I very much dislike the word fresh. It sounds too much like flesh and seems to be applied indiscriminately to room deodorizes, nail polish, toothpaste and anything else that would otherwise be trite and tiresome.

  13. Annette
    | Reply

    My three all star favorites are….

    yank (as in “let me yank that bandaid off”)

    charmeuse (because I can’t say it without trying to feel it)

    gobsmacked (sheer perferfection…because when you are, you are)

  14. Trena Johnson
    | Reply

    Monkey – my endearing term for my daughter, as she climbed over and on everything around her;
    Warm – summer heat enveloping, seeping in through my skin
    Galaxy- Brilliant beautiful objects above Earth. Knowing there is something bigger than us, older than us, humbling in its expanse.

  15. Karen Cyson
    | Reply

    We might also discuss the words we find repugnant (which is a very good word!). Lately for me they’ve been “eatery” and “functionality”. I find them to be beyond annoying. I have a very good friend, a philosopher mathematician, who claims the most lovely words all have the letter “u” in them.

    • Barbara
      | Reply

      I agree with you Karen. Also I feel the word ‘huge’ is used much too often to signify something wonderful. When did that start?

    • Shannan
      | Reply

      I’ll second that… the word gentrification is really starting to pi$$ me off.

  16. Beverly Letsche
    | Reply

    Such a difficult assignment. I have a series of poems titled “Words Fun To Say Part” I-IX (so far) So…three favorites: scofflaw, aardvark, perambulate.
    Words Fun to Say Part IV

    I contend that to perambulate
    Is so much more elegant
    Than to simply roam, stroll,
    Mosey, amble or even to saunter.

    Why if one were to perambulate
    Perchance, one would have ample
    opportunity to contemplate
    The perplexing, nay the perturbing,
    Pervasive paucity of persimmons in
    Performance Art.

  17. Lindsey
    | Reply

    Apparently I have trouble counting!

  18. Heidi
    | Reply

    filthy: I especially enjoy this word while listening to a radio evangelist.
    copacetic: Not just a name for a group of men who tap.
    Smudge: From make-up to those who love ashes.

  19. Diana Black
    | Reply

    We call this game ” giggle words” at our house, spicket and trousers are few of our favorite ones.

  20. HelenMarie Marshall
    | Reply

    I’ve always liked the sound of the word, “linoleum”. Please don’t hedge.

  21. Katie D
    | Reply

    Discombobulated- makes me giggle.
    Peruse- apparently a favorite word of many people I know, because they say it a lot, but they don’t know what it means. Drives me bonkers (bonkers- I love that word!). I say peruse to mean reading thoroughly or carefully (it’s the standard definition- it means read but typically means reading with care), but they think it only means reading lightly or quickly glossing over.

  22. Jodie K Moore
    | Reply

    More of a saying, but great words

    Endeavor to persevere.

  23. Pam
    | Reply

    Plethora, aforementioned, & stellar

  24. Barbara
    | Reply

    I have a few favorite words, and I don’t hang out in offices, or bars. My, just about favorite,, is ‘serendipity’, for the way it sounds and for what it means; ‘bittersweet’, for the same reasons; ‘midway’ as at a carnival; and ‘whipporwill.’ I enjoyed hearing your favs.

  25. Pip
    | Reply

    Susurration, boondoggle and copacetic are three favourites that come to mind, some great words mentioned in the comments and I do agree with Katie’s comment about overused words.

  26. Mary M
    | Reply

    Benign. A fine word and it means so much to each person who is awaiting results.

  27. Linda
    | Reply

    *Schenectady…because it’s just fun to say!!
    *Grandma…because hearing one of those little folks call me that does wonderful things to my heart!!!
    *Meatloaf…because that has to be one of the most comforting foods on the face of the earth!

  28. Kathy Darnell
    | Reply

    Serendipity, a spontaneous joyful occurrence. Can we go wrong if we were to SEGUE to another joyful experience with KINDRED SPIRITS?

    Thanks for asking for my favorite words. Mine just make me GRIN!

    • Barbara
      | Reply

      Kindred spirits is also one of my favorites, so loving and so warm!

  29. Andrea
    | Reply

    I love words that are EVEN when you type them. My two favorites are “sleigh” and “eighty”. Go ahead, type them out and feel the balance of the words on the keyboard….ahhhhh.,

    Also, defenestration because of the definition.

    • Barbara
      | Reply

      I just typed them in my lap, you’re right!

  30. Kathy Morrison
    | Reply

    Doodle, because it sounds like the action
    Persnickety, so fun to say
    Verdant, more poetic and peaceful than green

  31. Pam
    | Reply

    Penultimate has long been my favourite word. I have to actively seek out opportunities to use it and apparently I am successful as a former co-worker recently found me on LinkedIn to say that he thinks of me often as he, too, now seeks out opportunities to use it. Apparently favourite words can be contagious. As they should be.

  32. Joan Huehnerhoff
    | Reply

    my favorite word changes as the wind blows.
    I heard this word in a song the other day and realized that in has become and uncommon word, with the exception of religious use. I think it speaks to our changes in society where we are no longer at fault and to ask for mercy is to admit fault.

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