Favourite Words

Posted on April 29, 2013

I love learning different words, there are so many that I either neglect or didn’t even know existed; it is a never ending list. Apparently the English Dictionary carries 171,476 words in current use, 47,156 that are obsolete and 9,500 words that are derivative and included as sub-entries.  Over half of these words are nouns, about a quarter adjectives, and about a seventh verbs; the rest are made up of exclamations, conjunctions, prepositions, suffixes, etc.

Wow that’s a lot of words! It’s hard to estimate how many of these words are used by someone like me who was essentially taught how to be thick in an early 80’s secondary school education, but it is almost certainly not as many as Stephen Fry, who, I reckon, knows every one of them.

Or perhaps he doesn’t? Maybe he just makes them up as he goes along, safe in the knowledge that we mere intellectual mortals are not brave enough to challenge him. Stephen Fry’s brain must be at near capacity with words, while many of us are probably only operating at more like 5-10 per cent.

I find that best way to a greater vocabulary is to read at a level above my own perceived limitations, pick words I don’t understand and Google their meaning. This results in either learning new words or making more use of my own daily favourites with enough confidence to be able to ‘walk the walk’ if quizzed on their meaning.

Of course, trying out new words can also be littered with danger; my girlfriend said something a few weeks back that I, in an effort to be clever, described as an ‘interesting terminisation’. She joyfully leapt on to my stupidity like a kestrel on a mouse, which resulted in her having a very enjoyable afternoon of fun poking at my expense.

As a result of always searching for new words, I tend to go through phases where I over use my favourites. In recent years, I have thoroughly enjoyed words such as dogma, plethora, preposterous, apathy, dubious, cataclysmic, tenuous, ludicrous, obligatory, irrational, perpetual, pomposity, conduit, penultimate, catastrophic, socio-economic, ineptitude and my recent favourite, omnishambles (I have now omitted terminisation for my own good).

Brilliant stuff: Blackadder challenging the detail in the English Dictionary

Of course, the good old traditional use of ‘fuck’ is still a major part of my language; though as the years pass it is something I am trying to moderate to match my alleged maturity as middle age takes its toll. However, I challenge anyone reading this post to come up with a better word to describe something that is broken (“It’s fucked”) or where pain has been administered courtesy of a stubbed toe (“Fuck, fuck, fuckety fuck!”). Fuck is vital word in our diction sometimes, though perhaps it should be rationed slightly more; I think they even use it on Blue Peter now (“This sticky back plastic is fucking great”)

I have to be honest and admit that in comparison to the likes of Stephen Fry, I still possess a pretty limited albeit growing vocabulary, though writing regular blogs certainly enhances it because when I research something, there often new or neglected words to be picked up along the way. However, despite my own limitations, I take a lot of solace or even pleasure from the basic lack of vocabulary in others.

As an example, I was in a pub in Basingstoke (a mecca of elite literature akin to the corridors of Oxford) the other week, when I joked to a barmaid that the beer price should actually be a penny less courtesy of the recent budget. Rather than a hearty laugh, the response I got was “What’s a budget?” My razor sharp wit inspired me to inform her that it was a cross between a budgie and a parrot; a quip that was greeted with a heady mixture of confusion and utter disdain.

Surely not knowing what a budget is, is quite alarming isn’t it? It is difficult to know whether I was conversing with someone who was deemed normal in British society or whether I was just going through my daily routine of somehow being magnetically attracted to someone who was educationally retarded. I have to say, I was quite taken aback as she was about thirty, so several decades of budgets had occurred in her life.

Whatever her mental condition, what made this whole scenario so alarming is that this was an individual who really did not know what a budget was? This person retains the right to vote and sit on a jury that potentially condemns an innocent man to a life behind bars.

I’m officially concerned by this and in my own mind it is mere confirmation that key decisions in this country should be made by elected politicians and not referendums demanded by the tabloid press that is obsessed with rabid xenophobia (xenophobia…ooh I like that one!). It can’t be difficult to convince someone who doesn’t know what a budget is, that a sponging, black, Polish, Muslim lesbian is about to steal her council house.

So I will keep persevering with my growing word collection as I have learnt many things trying out new ones. Of course, I have learnt that terminisation does not exist, but as a consolation, it at least means my girlfriend is listening to my ramblings. I have also learnt that ‘baloney’ is a word that means pretentious nonsense and is not a description of the disappointing length of a female skirt.

Anyway, enough of that nonsense, if I do not email my penultimate invoice, my general apathy could cause a plethora of unpaid bills that cause me cataclysmic socio-economic issues that could leave me in a bizarre situation where a weekly omnishambles is almost obligatory.

Fuck that.

1 Reply to "Favourite Words"

  • Nick
    April 30, 2013 (8:59 am)

    Your challenge to find a better word than ‘fucked’ to describe something broken reminds me of a conversation I had with my nan (sadly now deceased). I was about twenty, she about seventy. I was visiting her and we were chatting over a cup of tea. We were discussing her garden when she told me her lawnmower was ‘fucked’ (or so I thought). My reaction was to nearly spit tea over her as I had never heard her swear in any way ever. Turns out she was using the word ‘phut'(look it up if you don’t believe me) which I think is a better word than fuck because it sounds the same but grandparents can say it.

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