Notes for my daughter: my favourite words

words to add to your vocabulary

I love language.

I’ve always been a word-nerd – collecting them up from Famous Five books (determined; kitbag) & my mum’s weekly women’s magazines (devastate; masturbate – a regular on the problem pages, although it was some time before I could really pronounce or understand it).

I’d absorb them by osmosis – so sure that the imaginary land my soft toys hailed from – California – was my own wonderful invention. Playing with a puffalump in the garden one day, I was distraught to be chastised when my Dad overheard me say ‘bollocks‘. What did he mean it was swearing? Hadn’t I just made that word up?

Into adulthood, my vocabulary has served me well. The ability to write carried me through exams when I had only a flimsy grasp of the subject – where writing a well-worded, articulate essay is half the battle.
I leaned that words are the weapons that anyone can weild. A decade on, I still delight in the memory of my misogynistic manager’s face twitching as he tried to work out if my saying oxymoron was insulting or not. The right words can soothe and placate, belittle and deride. They can open doors,  simply by appearing in the right combination at the right time. 

For all there are times when writing a single post feels as painful and implausible as birthing a full grown elephant, when I’m fired up & passionate I know my words will fly to hand. Like a Jedi and her lightsaber, a woman’s idiolect is hers for life.

A few of my favourite words

idiolect – I just used it above – the personalised linguistic system of an individual – vocabulary, intonation, speech patterns, etc.

gelid – Very cold, icy.

topography – the features of a landscape or area

orient to familiarise with new surroundings or circumstances (think, orienteering!)

anathema – detested or loathed

cadge – to beg or borrow

peremptory – imperious, leaving no opportunity for denial or refusal.

concatenation – linked together

disabuse – to free someone from deception

disingenuouslacking in sincerity,  

moribund – in a dying state; near death.

invidious – calculated to create ill will, offensive.

perspicacity having insight into things; shrewd.

sacrosanctsacred, not to be entered or trespassed upon.

scurrilous – grossly or obscenely abusive

temerity – reckless boldness; rashness.

unexpurgated – complete and containing all the original material; uncensored. 

visceral – from instinct rather than intellect, from then gut.

widdershins – anticlockwise, in the opposite direction to the natural one.

alacrity – cheerful readiness

Wont – customary or usual behaviour.


What’s your favourite word? Got any examples of when you kicked ass with the right language?