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.