“FAVORITE . . . . One chosen as a companion by his superior; a mean wretch whose whole business is by any means to please.” — Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language, 1755
Thanksgiving and gratitude go hand in hand. And with that come many reflections on the things, people, and situations for which we are thankful.
I was reflecting on the great variety of Thanksgiving dishes I saw shared online in the past couple of days, ranging from the ever-popular green bean casserole and sweet potatoes (with or without mini-marshmallows), to any variety of stuffing (or dressing), whether it’s plain, contains mean, shellfish, or any number of roasted vegetables.
I even saw folks who pushed aside the traditional turkey dinner for something a little easier or perhaps enjoyable such as tuna tartare, pizza, or lobster pot pie.
We all have different tastes. But everyone has favorites.
As I was reflecting on the emotional pull that favorite foods have on us, and as “Off the Clock” often focuses on language, it made me curious about favorite words.
You’ve got a favorite word, right? One that you deliberately try to work into a conversation or one that just makes you smile every time you use it.
My inquisitiveness about favorite words led me to — where else? — Merriam-Webster. Lo and behold, they had an article about People’s Top 10 Favorite Words. If you’d like to read about usage and history of each, check it out.
Meanwhile, I’ll share the list here, with my own commentary.
Definition: throwing of a person or a thing out of a window; or a usually swift expulsion or dismissal.
I lived in an 18-story tri-tower dorm for four years as an undergraduate; two years of those were as an R.A. We were well-versed in defenestration, as it occurred frequently during finals week.
Definition: fussy about small details; fastidious.
Sounds like a Pepperidge Farm cookie. And the Pepperidge Farm guy would seem right at home saying it.
Definition: disturbance; fuss.
This one caught a lot of use in early days of social media, when one brand or another seemed to find itself in the midst of some kerfuffle. Or at least that’s what the marketing pundits called it.
Definition: having shapely buttocks.
The classics major in me gravitates toward this. Plus, it’s a fine way of sounding sophisticated while being subversive.
Definition: luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for.
I like to stretch this out when saying it. Ser-en-DIP-it-y.
Definition: having a smooth rich flow.
I’ve often been accused of having a mellifluous voice. As Sideshow Bob replied when Bart complimented his singing voice, “Guilty as charged.”
If you’d like to hear it, the Timeless Leadership podcast is always available.
Definition: a silly flighty person.
This one’s just fun to say. And yes, you can picture the Pepperidge Farm guy saying this one too, but in something of a pique of frustration.
Definition: upset; confused.
Every year at Summer Orientation at Boston University, the orientation leaders chose a word of the summer—one they would work into skits, off-hand comments, and such. This was one of them.
It’s a fun word, and its construction is almost onomatopoeic. But have you ever heard of something being combobulated?
Definition: writing material used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased; or, something with diverse layers or aspects apparent beneath the surface.
I’ll be honest with you: the only reason I know this word is thanks to Sherlock Holmes. It first came to my attention in “The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez”:
“It was a wild, tempestuous night towards the close of November. Holmes and I sat together in silence all the evening, he engaged with a powerful lens deciphering the remains of the original inscription upon a palimpsest, I deep in a recent treatise upon surgery.”
Upon seeing it there for the first time, I headed straight to the dictionary.
Definition: long; characterized by the use of long words.
Hopefully this newsletter hasn’t been trodden with an overabundance of sesquipedalian vocabulary.
These are fun words indeed. What are some of your favorite words?
Leave a comment and let me know.
Thanks and I’ll see you on the internet.