Obsequious liaising and moist phlegm

There are lots of blogs about writing out there, but Storytelling Nomad is among my favorites. Today, Katy posted

a very small collection of the few words that I think could do with a bit more exposure, and those that, were they to crawl into a cave and die, would undoubtedly be doing the world a favour and likely improve the chances of world peace.

Here are some of the words she labeled as “good:”

Discombobulate – I wish I could use this word more often. It just sounds, well, cool!

Magnanimous – This one makes me think of minions talking to their master. And I do like minions.

Racecar – ‘Cause everybody loves a good palindrome.

Wednesday – Because I like how I sound it out in my head every time I write it.

And here are a few of her “bad and the ugly:”

Chagrin – Twilight anyone? This word, sounds ugly, looks ugly…and what the hell does it mean?!

Moist – Last year it was concurred amongst friends (and some random people at the pub) that this is one of the ugliest sounding words, ever.

Colonel – I sound somewhat challenged every time I stumble over this word when reading aloud.

Phlegm – Look at it!

Bookkeeper – Double letter overload.

I’ve written before about why we’re drawn to some words and repelled by others. (My boss still hates “exquisite,” “granular,” and “robust.” So naturally, I try to squeeze them into my copy as often as possible. And then there was the time I discovered that I was overusing a much-hated word. Amazing.)

But today I’ll spare you my meditations on etymology. Instead, I’d like to invite my readers to submit their most hated words—and explain why you hate them. And in a couple of weeks I’ll publish the results. Deal?

C’mon. Play along! You know you want to.

Need a little inspiration? Here are some of my own least-loved: Obsequious. Liaising. Phlegm. Linkage. Robust. And soccer. I don’t know why … but I just hate the sound of “soccer.” Probably because the game is called “football” in the rest of the world, as God intended.

But I digress. Even if you don’t want to play, at least read what some of Britain’s most beloved poets—and the British public—have to say. You’ll never look at “boobs” quite the same way.


  1. My mother’s favorite word is ‘discombobulated’, so I understand that one right off the bat. I feel that way most of the time, myself, LOL.

    “Loan”. It’s a word that makes me feel lonely. “Graft” rhymes with shaft. Those are two of my least faves.

    As for favorite words, I am reminded of the Leslie Caron film, “The Glass Slipper”, where the fairy godmother meets her by a lake and discusses favorite words. “Sasparilla”. Here’s a scene from the film, as I can’t find the one I’m looking for:

    Enjoy anyway. 🙂

    • Thanks for playing, Lis! And thanks especially for the wonderful video clip! Never have I been more glad to live in an era when it’s OK for women to wear pants (trousers, slacks … whatever). Can you imagine spending your days strapped into a corset and a bustle? *Shudder.* Though she does make a rather grand entrance, I must say …

  2. I did a post about words a while back. I dislike the word ‘metastasised’ both for the meaning and the sound, but mostly the meaning I suppose.

    I have to defend the word ‘moist’, especially when applied to ‘chocolate cake’ 🙂 mmm…

    • Oooh! Metastasised! (Or, if you live in the States, “metastasized.”) A very dreadful word indeed. Thank you!! (She says, as she wrings her hands with verbiferous glee …)

      And thank you for weighing in on “moist” as well. My husband doesn’t find it offensive, either, for the very reason you cite. But to me it connotes slimy slugs on the forest floor. Maybe we’ll have to add a sub-category in which we can all vote for or against “moist.” 🙂

      Anyway … now you have me thinking about chocolate cake. I’m off to explore the refrigerator (ice box, cooler, whatever …) Thanks for playing!

  3. Ooh, great game! I’ll play!

    Sorry, Knotrune, I have always loathed ‘moist’. We used to mouth it to each other at school and collapse in giggling revulsion – and I haven’t moved on from that stage! Similarly ‘mauve’ and ‘beige’, which are desperate words however you pronounce them.

    I’m going to be thinking about this all day now…meanwhile, how about favourites? I do like ‘discombobulate’ for its comedy value, likewise ‘gruntled’ (opposite of ‘disgruntled’). My favourite word in Scots, which is full of good words, is ‘hochmagandy’. Its English equivalent would be ‘rumpy-pumpy’ or ‘jiggery-pokery’, which are entirely serious words, of course.

    Did you know that Tolkien wrote that the most beautiful phrase in English (purely in terms of its euphoniousness, not its meaning) was ‘Cellar door’. Soft, sibilant and wonderful.

    I’ll come back to this, no doubt…

    • Hello, dancingbeastie! Somehow I knew you’d fall for this game. 🙂 Couldn’t agree with you more on “mauve” and “beige.” The names are as frightful as the colors. Ditto for taupe. My entire office building is decorated in taupe. It makes me feel like I have the plague.

      And omigosh … if we’re going to include our favorite words in Scots, I must submit “snorl.” Doesn’t snorl just sound like the tangled mess it describes? I love Scots … I think it must be one of the most colorful and mellifluous languages on the planet. A bawbee mi’ buy ye a wee blash o’ haggis, lassie! 🙂

      But I digress. I’m off to repeat “soft, sibilant, cellar door” to myself a few hundred times. Why, even *thinking* those words is relaxing …

      • Agree with beige and taupe, but mauve can be a nice colour, except I’m no longer quite sure exactly what colour except it’s a shade of purple. I always thought it was a light shade, a slightly greyish colour, until a TV advert had some people refer to a very rich deep purple as mauve and then I was just confused.

        I’d like to throw “puce” into the pot and see what you all make of it 😀 It sounds like an icky colour, but it’s another mystery as to exactly what colour it is! I read it first as a description of a drab dress, so I assume it’s not gorgeous, but I’ve always wondered about it. Anyone know for sure?

        • As a general rule, I like colors. 🙂

          It appears that there’s quite a range of colors that could be called “mauve” and “puce“. And oddly enough, they’re strangely familiar. I’ll take “mauve” over “puce” any day, though … the latter sounds like something that would require immediate medical care, or maybe a strong pesticide. 🙂

  4. Since my mother passed away almost two years ago, there is no one left I can talk to without editing out the Scots words that sometimes come first to mind when I am trying to express myself. And having thought of the Scots word, sometimes that perfect jewell blocks all my attempts to find an equivalent in English (or Sassenach, as we wid ca’ it at hame).

    I know that I am missing the point of the exercise but my favourite word in German (because I recently learned it, much to my delight) is: hafenschlepper which means a tug boat. In French, I like the word sournois which means sly or sneaky. In Japanese, I love the word ISHINDENSHIN which is often translated as ’empathy’ but means much more than that.

    As for words I hate, I try not to think about them so unless I hear one and make a note of it, I’m not going to be able to complete the exercise. Sorry

    • I’m very sorry to hear about your Mum, XpatScot — and that your beloved language has accompanied her loss.

      I understand what you mean when you describe yourself “defaulting” to your native Scots. The same thing happens to me occasionally when I think of the absolute perfect word in Spanish but can’t come up with a Sassenach equivalent.

      Absolutely LOVE “hafenschlepper,” by the way. That’s grand! (And a serious contender to replace one of my favorite German words, “Schadenfreude.” It’s as fun to say as it is to experience! Although I also like “Haselnuss.” It’s one of the few words I remember after spending four weeks in Germany as a kid.)

      Anyway … no worries about not having some hated words to contribute. I think the rest of the ladies and I will have plenty to share. 🙂

      All my best to you, and thanks for your comment!

  5. Couldn’t resist another go… German and Scots both have some wonderful words. I like the crunchiness of German, contrasted with its surprising outbreaks of lisps and snuffles: schluessel, for example, delighted me for weeks when I discovered it. (The word, not the key.) Hafenschlepper is new to me but another delicious example of German at its snuffliest. (Cheers, expat!)

    I won’t start on Scots as I could go on all day. Coming back to horrible English words, I’ve always thought that words with a double ‘e’ look creepy (see what I mean?). I think it’s because the ‘e’s look like sly narrowed eyes peering (see?!) sideways at me. And leering. It’s a bit eerie.

    Having now freaked myself out, I have to give you one good Scots word to bring the atmosphere back to normal. ‘Clishmaclaver’, pronounced clishma-CLAY-ver, meaning gossip. I don’t use it in conversation myself, but I love the clashy sound of it, like cymbals. I used to do an occasional Scots ‘word for the day’ when I first started my blog, and this was one of my favourites. 🙂

    • Holy cow, dancingbeastie! You’ve outdone yourself here! Your description of German is the *best* I’ve ever heard (“I like the crunchiness of German, contrasted with its surprising outbreaks of lisps and snuffles: schluessel, for example, delighted me for weeks when I discovered it.”). Brilliant!! And what can we say about Hafenschlepper? It’s but one example of the wonderful things that result when you smash words together, like atoms in a large hadron collider. (I thought you’d like the physics reference. Grin.)

      Your comment about ee’s made me laugh out loud, by the way. And then it freaked me out a little, because I’d never thought of it that way — and because you’re absolutely right. From this day forward, the words teepee and peewee will hold special dread for me. Eeek!

      As always, thanks so much for your wonderful, hilarious, thoughtful comments. They’re often better than my original posts, but I don’t mind. 🙂

  6. Just seen this post H, thanks so much for your kind words and linking to my blog! And good to see other people contributing to the good and bad list! 🙂

    • You’re very welcome, Katy! Your posts have been a great source of inspiration, so I was happy to share your blog with my friends. Keep up the great writing! 🙂

      • I’m so happy to hear that! Thank you! I have been slightly absent the last few days due to work commitments but will try to keep up the writing (no pressure!). Looking forward to reading more of your blog!

  7. I found this blog post by searching for “visceral hate of certain words.” The one I have to contribute is “nourishment.” It makes me want to punch the speaker in the throat so she can choke on whatever is providing her with so much low-octane tempe-textured self-righteous fuel. It’s what a drug free neo-hippie says to describe the occasional shrimp (she’d purge if it didn’t, like, disrespect the sacrifice) in the otherwise vegan diet she came up with after taking an animal law class to satisfy her liberal arts school’s logical reasoning requirement, uttered as an explanation (that she doesn’t have to give anyway but as a favor to the unenlightened will TRY) to anyone who hasn’t, like, signed the newest slew of petitions on change.org and, like, donated their student loans to Jill Stein’s campaign because the two party system is going down in this election. Nourishment. Sign here. If she doesn’t see you at the cleanse later she’s going to be SO disappointed.

    • Wow, Elisabeth Sara! I must commend you on the brilliantly vivid description of your most-hated word. I think I will forever associate the word “nourishment” with neo-hippies and the occasional sacrificial shrimp. Thanks for starting my day off with a big smile. 🙂

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