Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Campaign for Good Words... by Barbara (Ruth)

This evening I completed my inaugural “walk home from work” of the season. It’s a little over 7km from downtown Toronto to my home in the Beach neighbourhood, and so you can imagine it covers a variety of sights and sounds.

As I walked I contemplated potential blog topics for tonight. I thought of the odd mix playing on my iPod (Metallica, Tim McGraw, the Bieber), of the various smells en route (in order: exhaust, weed, KFC, curry, mud, fabric softener, BBQ, and pine needles), and of the increasing “seedy” factor of my usual route (I may have to try a new one next time).

In the end, I landed on the topic of Good Words.

Some words are just superior to others. It's true! For instance, I have always hated the word “bridge”. Say it out loud 4 or 5 times. Go ahead. I’ll wait... Isn’t it awful? Instead, why not use “overpass” or “span” or “trestle”?

How much more exotic is it to say you are suffering from “ennui” instead of “you’re bored”? Similarly, either “meadow” or “heath” is much nicer than “park”. And wouldn’t you rather say “podunk” instead of “backward” or “old-fashioned”?

My family has a geeky little habit of adding (GW) after any “good word” that is used in an email. It doesn’t need to be something with 10 syllables, but it should be a really good way to describe something.

I searched my Gmail archive for (GW), and found words like:
  • Ensconced (Meaning “settled in a comfortable place”, this is often used in a sentence like “I’m happily ensconced in the Muskoka chair on the deck.”)
  • Amiable (I blame Pride & Prejudice for this… it means having a friendly and pleasant manner. Elizabeth Bennett says of Mr. Darcy that he does NOT appear to be very amiable. How wrong she was… sigh… but I digress.)
  • Mercurial (I love this word. Like mercury, which changes shape so easily, it means being subject to sudden or unpredictable changes of mood.)
  • Dearth (Meaning scarcity or lack of something, I think it has a very descriptive and foreboding sound when you say it out loud.)
  • Convivial (This word describes an atmosphere or person that is friendly or lively. It’s a happy sounding word, probably because it sounds like jovial.)

I think you get the gist (GW) of what I’m trying to say. In some future post I’ll have to talk about cromulent words (if you’re a Simpsons fan, you’ll know what these are. If not, then check here: In the meantime, I challenge you to add a (GW) or two to your next email! You’ll freak people out!


  1. Too soporiphic (GW) to look up cromulent, although I will say that there are some languages which seem especially predisposed to GS's. Take German - Schlange... Now there's a word that sounds like the slithery, slippery creature it represents. I guess that's not so much a GW as it is onomatopoeia (also GW)...

  2. I love good words. You've challenged me to think of a few!