Word rage wins again

« previous post | next post »

A few days ago, Michelle Pauli in the Guardian's Books Blog asked "Which words make you wince?":

'What word do you hate and why?' is the intriguing question put to a selection of poets by the Ledbury festival. Philip Wells's reply is the winner for me – 'pulchritude' is certainly up there on my blacklist. He even explains his animosity in suitably poetic terms:

"it violates all the magical impulses of balanced onomatopoeic language – it of course means "beautiful", but its meaning is nothing of the sort, being stuffed to the brim with a brutally latinate cudgel of barbaric consonants. If consonants represent riverbanks and vowels the river's flow, this is the word equivalent of the bottomless abyss of dry bones, where demons gather to spit acid."

For Geraldine Monk, "it's got to be 'redacted' which makes me feel totally sick. It's a brutish sounding word. It doesn't flow, it prods at you in a nasty manner."

Both these poets understand that the key to words that make you feel nauseous is not the meaning – it's easy, after all, to hate the word 'torture' – but something else entirely. Something idiosyncratic, something about the way the word feels in your mouth as you say it. The horrors of 'membrane', for instance. Or the eccentricity of 'gusset'.

The expression of negative lexical affect, in the form of word rage and word aversion, is a major concern of anglophone intellectual culture; and so I wasn't surprised to see that Ms. Pauli's post got 1108 comments (so far). In comparison, a post about how "The online Codex Sinaiticus changes book scholarship for good" garnered only 4 comments, a post about Dan Brown's new book got 10, and even "Tips for titillating reading", which tells us that "middle-aged women want to read books about sex more than anything else, according to a new survey", got a mere 17.

And despite Ms. Pauli's plain statement that she's talking about cases where "the key is not the meaning", but rather "something about the way the word feels in your mouth as you say it", at least half the comments are focused on senses or usages that are associated with disliked groups or ideas, or that are seen as irritatingly novel or non-literal. In other words, word rage wins, and to hell with the poets:

Leverage – whenever it is used in a situation that does not physically involve a long stick, a fulcrum and shifting a heavy weight.

way forward; national debate

Partner – when used in a non-commercial sense. If you mean wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend, then just say that.

"Like" in, like, the way, like, its used nowadays….. please just shoot me now!

On the side of huge lorries: 'logistics' and 'solutions'. Both just mean haulage. Probably.

Context is all, certainly, but I cant stand the word ‘comedic, which seems to have replaced perfectly serviceable words such as ‘funny, ‘comedy and ‘comic to no apparent purpose. Its weirdly jarring in sentences discussing the ‘comedic possibilities of a scene or the ‘comedic talents of a performer. It makes my teeth ache and must be stopped.

"liase" as a verb, also "liasing". ugh. it makes my spine go crunchy. oh, let me add "wicked" – just because I'm a grouchy old git.

'Blogosphere' is one word that makes me wince, and the phrase that has me cringing more than most is "Now, more than ever…"

Medal, when used as a verb by American sports commentators.

My favorite , among the small fraction that I've read, was contributed by greenpaua:

[…] sufficient (why not say enough? ie use one syllable instead of three)

More raw material for someone's (as yet unwritten) study of the social psychology of linguistic naming and shaming.

(The picture at the start of Pauli's post is captioned "Pointing the finger at pulchritude: 'a brutally latinate cudgel of barbaric consonants'", even though the the (stock?) photo actually shows a finger pointing at the word investigate. You'd think that the Guardian could afford a digital camera and a copy of a dictionary — but maybe there's a policy against using real pictures for feature stories?)


  1. MikeyC said,

    July 12, 2009 @ 11:45 am

    The numerous appearances of "comfort zone" and "gutted" on Masterchef.

  2. bulbul said,

    July 12, 2009 @ 12:00 pm

    it violates all the magical impulses of balanced onomatopoeic language
    Um, what?

    Slightly OT, but that Codex Sinaiticus piece reads like it was just copied from the website and slightly rephrased. Besides, you can't actually download the whole Codex from the website, you can't actually see "how the Christian narrative was constructed and revised" and "the oldest Bible" is seriously misleading in more ways than one (for starters, Codex Sinaiticus is incomplete – roughly the first half of the OT is missing). Note that the Codex website makes none of these claims, so huzzah for lazy journalism ^2.

  3. J. W. Brewer said,

    July 12, 2009 @ 12:28 pm

    Did any of the 1108 commenters in the other thread opine that "codex" is an inherently icky-sounding word (or that sinaiticus sounds like it ought to be an unpleasant sinus condition)?

  4. Zeno said,

    July 12, 2009 @ 2:30 pm

    I admit that I don't like the word "liaise" (which strike me as an unfortunate anglo-french bastard), but it's odd to see people smiting "pulchritude" and "redact" because of their "ick" factor. Of course, ugliness is in the eye of the beholder (or in the mouth of the speaker). I think "redact" is a perfectly pulchritudinous word.

  5. Alan Gunn said,

    July 12, 2009 @ 2:39 pm

    Some words do seem somehow "wrong" for particular meanings, perhaps because they remind one of something totally unrelated. There's a road I use occasionally named "Smilax." It's named for a kind of vine, but I can't help thinking about laxatives whenever I see the sign. Sometimes an image of a TV commercial featuring happy old people pops into my head. Maybe it's just me, but if I were naming subdivisions or something like that, this isn't a name I'd pick. *Glengarry, Glen Ross" … much better.

    Something of the sort seems to apply even to people's names. Years ago I started reading a German mystery novel, "Die Bar in London," in which all the characters were English. All the names seemed wrong, somehow. (An aristocratic English guy named "Gus Morris" is the one I remember.) No doubt there have been many people named "Gus Morris," and probably every other name in the book, too, but each was so unlikely that the whole set of them practically screamed "these names were made up by someone whose native language isn't English." While this didn't inspire rage, it made me uncomfortable enough that I never finished the book.

  6. rootlesscosmo said,

    July 12, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

    Philip Wells says it of course means "beautiful"

    Not quite. It means "beauty."

  7. Irina said,

    July 12, 2009 @ 4:16 pm

    I hate 'stimulate' because it feels sexual in an icky way. it's not only the meaning, though I hate it most when it's used by politicians to mean "force people to choose a particular thing by making all alternatives either impossible or forbiddingly expensive".

  8. Emily said,

    July 12, 2009 @ 5:19 pm

    @rootlesscosmo: I think the adjectival form meaning "beautiful" would be "pulchitrudinous", which in my opinion is even uglier than "pulchitrude". For me, these words sound both harsh and somehow gloppy, and they also evoke "poultry", which (at least for me) doesn't fit in with ideas of loveliness.

    @Irina: Yeah, I find the word "stimulus" rather unpleasant, too– both the sound and the sexual/biological connotations are off-putting.

    My personal list of other aversive words would include: "flesh(y)", "squelch", and "exude". They make me cringe– I do, however, like the word "cringe" for its onomatopoeic effect. (Curiously, I never found that supposedly super-repulsive word "moist" bothersome until I read about it being aversive in earlier posts here.)

  9. Justin E. said,

    July 12, 2009 @ 6:29 pm

    I think it's great that "pulchritude" should make us wince; it's useful that way.

    "I found the pulchritude quite nauseating."

  10. Shannon said,

    July 12, 2009 @ 6:53 pm

    I'm disappointed that blind word rage won out again. As a linguist who began in a writing program, I am fascinated by the deeply personal connection and reaction I have to various words, and am thrilled to find that others share my distaste for "pulchritude." A key difference, it seems to me, is that the writers and others here recognize that these are personal reactions, perhaps bred of the mysterious relationships between language, emotion, memory, sound and "mouthfeel." The word-ragers declare that X word "must be stopped," whereas I will just never use the word "pulchritudinous" because I have so many other more fitting synonyms.

  11. Grammar Nazionale Socialiste said,

    July 12, 2009 @ 7:03 pm

    Perhaps npt an ugly word, but the ugly use of "choose" is annoying


    "I choose to think that cars are a menace"

    Why not "I think cars are a menace"?

    Surely the choose component is just a self-indulgent addition that suggests the speaker thinks only after making a choice.

    [(myl) It's interesting that the peevological reflex is so strong that some people are unable to avoid the automatic jerk of the leg, even in response to a post making the point that peevers are apparently unable to stop themselves from responding in contexts where it's not appropriate. Perhaps the reaction is mediated by the brain stem, without any cortical involvement at all. ]

  12. Dan Lufkin said,

    July 12, 2009 @ 7:33 pm

    I object to having my work redacted when it never got properly dacted in the first place.

  13. Everyman said,

    July 12, 2009 @ 7:36 pm

    Enough has only one syllable?

    Oh, and for me, "sucks" wins hands-down, if that's not too vivid an expression for the occasion.

  14. tablogloid said,

    July 12, 2009 @ 7:42 pm

    "Limpid" is clearly a deceitful word.

  15. Evan said,

    July 12, 2009 @ 8:29 pm

    one syllable is clearly 'nuff to pronounce 'enough'

  16. misterfricative said,

    July 12, 2009 @ 9:27 pm

    @Emily — I'm sorry you feel that way about poultry. But perhaps you've never met a silkie chicken? (OK, maybe these two are having a bit of a bad hair day, but you get the idea.)

    And if the silkies don't rate a '10', there's always the flamboyant pulchritudinosity-ish-ness of pheasants and peacocks….

  17. A Reader said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 1:33 am

    To be fair, some of the comments are rather delightful and fully in keeping with the intended spirit of the thing. So far, I think my favourite (although I don't entirely agree about the words) was this one:

    'I've never liked the words "poem", "poetry", "poet" (though "poetic" is less bad).

    Those vowels are just too airy, too feeble, too uncertain whether they should stand limply together or break just as limply apart.

    Poetic is better because it makes up for lacking a spine by growing a tail.'

    by degrus. Not quite as good as a 'bottomless abyss of dry bones, where demons gather to spit acid', but still.

  18. I did it all for the Tanooki. said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 2:57 am

    […] always-fantastic Language Log found this lovely post over at the Guardian's book blog. My only disappointment is that I agree so […]

  19. sharon said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 4:22 am

    Slightly OT, but that Codex Sinaiticus piece reads like it was just copied from the website and slightly rephrased.

    Take out "Codex Sinaiticus" and you just described a significant proportion of the entire content of the so-called "serious" British press. (It was probably taken from a press release rather than the website directly, though. A journalist would have to actually go and find the website.) Especially anything to do with science, scholarship, education, money, business, technology, etc.

  20. Troy S. said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 6:30 am

    I generally welcome the use of any words, but I had to wince the first time I heard "courie" as a back-formation from "courier". I couldn't figure out shat the person was even talking about until a few minutes later. What does Indian cuisine have to do with handling documents?

  21. Ginger Yellow said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 7:14 am

    Funnily enough, I agree on "pulchritude" but quite like "pulchritudinous". It's just so unnecessarily ornate – very gothic/baroque.

    "it violates all the magical impulses of balanced onomatopoeic language – it of course means "beautiful", but its meaning is nothing of the sort, being stuffed to the brim with a brutally latinate cudgel of barbaric consonants. "

    The polar opposite of this, of course, is "sesquipedalian", of which "pulchritudinous" would be a good example.

  22. Richard said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 7:28 am

    You'd think that the Guardian could afford … a copy of a dictionary

    Yes, but the Guardian is famous, even infamous, for its frequent mispellings, though I think they are less frequent now than they once were. The newspaper is apparently so upfront and proud of this that it even owns the domain http://www.grauniad.co.uk (a reference to Private Eye's name for the paper); so perhaps not owning (or owning up to) a dictionary is for the sake of their reputation!

  23. Bill Walderman said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 7:34 am

    "More raw material for someone's (as yet unwritten) study of the social psychology of linguistic naming and shaming."

    There's probably another side of the coin that warrants investigation, too: words people have a special affection for. But why should it be surprising that people react emotionally to specific words, one way or the other?

  24. Bill Walderman said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 8:13 am

    "it violates all the magical impulses of balanced onomatopoeic language – it of course means "beautiful", but its meaning is nothing of the sort, being stuffed to the brim with a brutally latinate cudgel of barbaric consonants.

    Has "pulchritude" ever been used in English other than ironically, at least since the 19th century? And if so, isn't it exactly the qualities that Philip Wells identifies that make the word particularly apt for that use?

  25. Jens Fiederer said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 9:09 am

    – You'd think that the Guardian could afford a digital camera and a
    – copy of a dictionary

    You'd think that would be a no-brainer case of "fair use", but most people would still prefer to avoid the potential copyright lawsuit.

  26. Bonita Kale said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 9:41 am

    Mastodon, but how can I tell if it's actually the sound, or the vague mental connection with "mastectomy"?

    And vegan. I wouldn't mind it if it had a short e and a soft g, but 'vee-gan' seems so ugly.

  27. mgh said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 9:42 am

    Mark, if you're not familiar with the 2000-year-old man's commentary on why words like canteloupe and banana are perfect and words like staircase and bed are all wrong, let me send you an mp3. I'd hate for some poor graduate students to find themselves repeating his analysis without being aware of the original.

  28. greg said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 10:16 am

    The use of 'nauseous' to mean 'feeling sick' instead of 'nauseated' makes me wince. Though I know that simply by dint of misuse, it's become a legitimate alternate definition for the word. Though to be fair, and more on-topic, 'nauseous' has more of a liquid and loosely flowing feel to it than 'nauseated', and is more reminiscent of the sloshiness of a stomach on the edge of vomiting.

  29. Ben said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 11:47 am

    Funny I've always felt the same way about "pulchritude", and "pulchritudinous" seems even worse. I would venture that it's simply, at a very quick scan, pretty close to "putrescent". Also, it's entirely possible that I've never actually heard the word spoken aloud and I'm sure that's true for others as well, which must have something to do with it.

  30. parvomagnus said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 11:50 am

    @greg – the OED's definition of nauseated – Originally: causing nausea, cloying, rank (obs.). Now: suffering from or characterized by nausea.

    I guess originally people just said sick?

    And on pulchritude being used (apparently) unironically – 1976 C. JAMES in Observer 20 June 21/3 The late Kenneth Slessor, in his prose as much as in his poetry, probably came nearest to evoking the sheer pulchritude of Sydney harbour.

    I really kinda like Phillip Well's description though. I think I'll start a band called "sepulchritude".

  31. Boris said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 12:32 pm

    Grammar Nazionale Socialiste,

    It's more than that. Choosing to think implies the person acknowledges that his opinion will not be swayed by facts. "I choose to think the earth is flat" conveys a much different meaning than "I think the earth is flat" (to choose a relatively non-inflammatory example).

  32. J. W. Brewer said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 12:51 pm

    For the locus classicus of the other side of the coin Bill Walderman wondered about, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellar_door.

  33. Dan T. said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 1:52 pm

    "Pulchritude" resembles "punch" and "mulch" to me. But such superficial resemblances don't prove anything; to me, "harbinger" resembles "hamburger", and "alpine" resembles "airplane".

  34. HECK said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 2:25 pm

    I echo Bonita Kale's comment about 'vegan'—it grates to my ears. In the opposite direction, I like the sound of words beginning with 'dw-', as in 'dwelling'—I find them euphonious. (I also find 'euphonious' euphonious.)

  35. Sam said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 3:25 pm

    @ Dan T.: ""harbinger" resembles "hamburger"" – I have this irresistible urge to DO SOMETHING with this connection now that it has been brought to my attention…

    @ Emily: I love "exude" – such a decadent, luxurious word…

    The onomatopoeic impression I get from 'sensible' has always made me vaguely uncomfortable. Perhaps because of its inherent deception – it feels like a companion to 'exude' in its soft, relaxed sound; but its job is to encourage all things just so. And the stark and sterile hard consonants of 'blanket' leave me cold – 'comforter', while less precise and more pedestrian in its transparency, is much more intimate.

  36. ulyssesmsu said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 4:44 pm

    There are many expressions that I hate, but one of my most hated words is "unbeknownst." It's archaic, obsolete, and clumsy.

    Why not just "unknown"–?

  37. Ariel said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 5:10 pm

    I agree about 'vegan'. I always call them [vey-gaenz], anyway, as though they arrived recently from a planet in the constellation Vega.

    I'm surprised that so many comments mention word similarities according to sight. 'Pulchritude' is just plain clunky-sounding to me.

  38. Jonathan said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 5:41 pm

    "Unbeknownst" does not mean the same thing as "unknown" though it does mean the same as "unbeknown." Neither is obsolete or archaic. Curiously, the less archaic-sounding phrase "unbeknown to" gets fewer google hits than "unbeknownst to."

  39. Catanea said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 6:16 pm

    Holy shit, the Codex Sinaiticus is online? And the link says something about "raking light" which might mean we can actually SEE it! Well, thanks for that! Language Log rules for the televisionless and otherwise out-of-touch. Thank you. I've seen it, I've shot it (in the dull light available…) I'll be there, now.

  40. Catanea said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 6:22 pm

    Well, it's not working too well from a Mac…Maybe wait a while.

  41. parvomagnus said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 6:50 pm

    Man, you really can't even mention word rage without it raining down on you from the heavens, all mana-like.

    re unbeknownst – according to the OED, 'unbeknownst' is the newer of the two, and "Orig. colloq. and dial."

  42. Haamu said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 6:51 pm

    For whatever reason, I can't stand envisage when used to mean envision. The latter seems to me far less awkward.

    To envisage something ought to have something to do with a visage or face, as its etymology and first meaning ("to look in the face of") in the online OED suggest. I'd settle for "to give a face to" — similar to another OED definition ("Of an object: To present itself under a particular aspect").

    But there's no reason to turn two so similar-sounding words into pure synonyms, as popular usage seems to have done. Why not retain some nuance in the language?

  43. alyxandr said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 9:39 pm

    If it's not too meta, i've never liked "English"; it sounds like you just stepped in something you'd rather not know about.

  44. Lee said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 10:05 pm

    I'm in the boat with the poet (and I think with the majority here) on the subject of 'pulchritude.' Its partner in crime for me is 'crepuscular.' Why, when we have pretty and evocative words like 'twilight' and 'gloaming', do we need the nasty, scabrous-sounding 'crepuscular'?

  45. Lee said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 10:06 pm

    Oh, and 'corruscating' always makes me think of 'corrugated' and so really doesn't work for me. But it's not as icky as 'crepuscular.'

  46. misterfricative said,

    July 13, 2009 @ 10:22 pm

    Alyxandr, if you don't like 'English', I'm wondering how you feel about 'En-gland'.

  47. davek said,

    July 14, 2009 @ 6:24 am

    I'd like to nominate "guesstimate" for expulsion. It's wrong in every way – as well as being a thoroughly ugly and dissonant word, it is meaningless. It's either a guess or an estimate. Make your flipping mind up!

  48. Noetica said,

    July 14, 2009 @ 8:04 am

    Why, when we have pretty and evocative words like 'twilight' and 'gloaming', do we need the nasty, scabrous-sounding 'crepuscular'?
    Couldn't agree more; my least favoured also. But I don't mind coruscating (note the spelling). Sounds more scaly-skinned and serpentinely sinister than glittering or scintillating does. Evocative.

  49. Nat said,

    July 14, 2009 @ 8:08 am

    @ Lee. "Twilight" is lovely, of course, but it's run into some trouble of late, so we'd better be glad of alternatives. "Gloaming" is fine for owl-flight, though otherwise it's a bit portentous. Without "crepuscular" how would we know what it's like to walk through a forest matted with dry leaves while surrounded by cricket susurrations?

    Also, I'm afraid I can't condemn "limpid". First, it always makes me search for "pellucid" which is a gorgeous word, although a bit too aware of it's own attractiveness. Secondly, "pellucid" only applies to streams on Mt. Olympus. Limpid streams can be realistically found in the mortal world.

  50. Ginger Yellow said,

    July 14, 2009 @ 12:24 pm

    "Crepuscular" is a great word, although I admit it works better in French or Latin.

  51. Blake Stacey said,

    July 14, 2009 @ 1:19 pm

    The constellation Vega? Vega is the brightest star in the constellation Lyra (hence its more scientifickal name, α Lyrae).

  52. dance said,

    July 14, 2009 @ 2:30 pm

    In defense of "redacted" (and "didactic") to me they carry the rhythm of officialdom and bureaucracy, like the sound of keys striking on an old typewriter.

  53. The Editrix said,

    July 14, 2009 @ 5:54 pm

    Although I speak and write English well, I am not truly bilingual and my relationship with the English language is not as instinctive and sensual like that of a native English speaker with his language. (I am German.) I generally tend to dislike the Romance terms and to prefer the Germanic ones. Scent, not perfume, jam, not preserve, cake, not gateau, false teeth and not dentures, underwear instead of (shudder) lingerie. I always feel that the Germanic ones are less pompous, less pretentious and more straight to the point. I INTENSELY dislike Americanisms like "to romance" or "to relate to somebody". And what a beautiful word is "kingly" when compared to "royal" or "regal".

  54. Noetica said,

    July 15, 2009 @ 1:14 am


    And what a beautiful word is "kingly" when compared to "royal" or "regal".

    Well, perhaps. But what a beautiful trio they make, as a classical illustration of English three-tired vocabulary. (To add Greek basilic would be to go too far.)


    Limpid is lovely. So is pellucid, which I have to restrain myself from squandering by frequent use. But may I commend lucent to your consideration, along with dusk and damask? Among verbs, limn is similarly to be held in reserve as a fine treasure; from the rare verb lumine, itself from French luminer.
    I have already issued an extended paean to chiaroscuro, in another thread. (Be still, my trembling auditory cortex!)

  55. Noetica said,

    July 15, 2009 @ 1:16 am

    Ahem. "… of English three-tiered vocabulary."

  56. The Editrix said,

    July 15, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

    Noetica said: "Well, perhaps. But what a beautiful trio they make, as a classical illustration of English three-tired [tiered] vocabulary."


  57. Emily said,

    July 15, 2009 @ 7:12 pm

    @Noetica: I never thought of "coruscating" that way before, but it does sound very evocative and somewhat mysterious(even if I have trouble remembering what it means).

    I also like "gloaming", which reminds me a bit of the language of Jabberwocky. However, I don't much care for "limpid", probably because of the "limp" sound; it doesn't evoke transparency for me, but the rather damp, liquid nature of its sound reminds me more of swamps or mud.

  58. Noetica said,

    July 15, 2009 @ 11:48 pm


    See SOED, "limpid":

    1 (Esp. of liquids) free from turbidity or suspended matter; clear, transparent. LME.

    2 transf. & fig. Free from obscurity, complication, or guile; pure. M17.

    Unmuddy by definition! The word is connected with lymph, and problematically with nymph.

    Interesting that you mention swamps; there may also be a connexion with our element limno-, from Greek λίμνη (originally "still water"; "lake, marsh"). I'd love to know how that word sounded to the early Greeks themselves, since similar-sounding words meaning "dirty water, the water used in washing, off-scourings", words meaning "pain", and others meaning "ruin, destruction" (all beginning with λυμ- or at least λυ-) might echo for them in λίμνη. Just as limp makes its effect felt in limpid, for you.

  59. John Cowan said,

    July 16, 2009 @ 8:42 am

    Editrix: scent is French (from sentir), and jam (the verb 'crush' from which the noun 'preserves' is derived) is probably a variant of champ, which is not traceable outside English, says the OED, and is probably recent onomatopeia.

  60. Cath the Canberra Cook said,

    July 16, 2009 @ 8:50 am

    How very disappointing that the article starts with the poetry of words, and descends so quickly into pet peeves completely unrelated to the sound of the words.

    I like "crepuscular". It's a little creepy and shivery feeling.

    (And damnit, I am far too old to have a "boyfriend". "Partner" will do just fine until something better is coined.)

  61. William W said,

    July 18, 2009 @ 9:59 am

    We all have our own preferences, but all too often people aren't willing to describe these as such. Instead of saying "I (dis)like this word", why do so many people feel the need to state their tastes in terms of supposedly universal laws or purportedly obvious facts?

    "Partner – when used in a non-commercial sense. If you mean wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend, then just say that."

    And what about for those people who don't mean "wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend"? There are many people in long-term relationships who are not married. Hence, they can't call their partner (there, I said it) "wife" or "husband". And it seems Ms. Pauli lives in a very hetero-normative world. Only a tiny percentage of the world's queer people live in places where they can legally marry. Hence, "wife/husband" are not terms they can correctly use. If, Ms. Pauli, you don't consider queers real people, "then just say it." You certainly have managed to ignore them completely in what you've said.

    And "girlfriend/boyfriend" carries all sorts of connotations about age and denotations about ephemerality which make these terms inappropriate for people who are either living together or who have made a lifelong commitment. That's why people have come up with the word "partner". And why, pace Pauli, should this word be limited to commercial meaning? That is neither its only nor its original meaning.

  62. Noetica said,

    July 18, 2009 @ 7:47 pm

    Instead of saying "I (dis)like this word", why do so many people feel the need to state their tastes in terms of supposedly universal laws or purportedly obvious facts?

    Because that is the game that is set up in threads of this sort. It is usually just a rhetorical device: to state as a truth that one holds almost self-evident what is really just an opinion. We do this all the time: "What a dreadful film!" "Wow, she's hot!" And so on. Then again, a report of how a word comports with one's own tongue or tympana is indeed objective: but only concerned with a very small part of the world. Then again, it is delightful to find fellow feeling about these things, as when Lee and I both put crepuscular at the top of our lists. Eeeeuww! (as they say).

    If you mean wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend, then just say that.

    We note also many women's use of girlfriend to refer to their friends who are women. Curious that this has persisted into the 2000s. Why not just friend? The sociological implications are discouraging.

  63. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    July 18, 2009 @ 11:50 pm

    To get back to pulchritude, the contexts I have heard it used in didn't make me think of beauty in the Mona Lisa sense, but beauty in the Anna Nicole Smith sense.

    My (mis?) understanding of the word was that it meant, at best, well-endowed, and at worst, over-endowed in a vulgar way. I would have said pulchritude was closer in meaning to voluptuous than to gorgeous or beautiful. Evidently I never actually looked this word up, but simply inferred its meaning.

    Consider this review by Adolf Klauber in the Sunday, Oct. 3, 1909, edition of the New York Times, page XS, linked to at:

    Mr. Klauber writes:
    Mr. Bernard is to be congratulated on the presence of Miss Kitty Gordon, who, figuratively speaking, is a decidedly impressive member of the company, and who in addition to pulchritudinous charms, lavishly displayed, has a sense of humor and reveals a voice that shows training and has good color for the kind of singing that is here demanded.

  64. Terry Collmann said,

    July 20, 2009 @ 12:54 pm

    Without the word, what would Thelonius Monk have called his marvellous tune Crepuscule with Nellie?

  65. David Harmon said,

    July 21, 2009 @ 4:02 pm

    (myl) It's interesting that the peevological reflex is so strong that some people are unable to avoid the automatic jerk of the leg…. Perhaps the reaction is mediated by the brain stem, without any cortical involvement at all.

    Quite likely .. you might want to carry that idea over to the neuro-blogs where I've occasionally seen you comment.

    I note that many of the complaints in both article and thread are to modern back-formations such as "liase". (And in the case of Troy S.'s "courie", the speaker plain missed the proper root, "carry".) , Many straightforward coinages for new referents, such as "blogosphere", also seem to be unpopular as "newfangled words". And other words and phrases have been tainted by political (or commercial) overuse, misuse, or outright abuse.

    Also, I've always pronounced "vegan" as "vay-gan", and I don't think I've ever had someone "correct" that pronunciation. That's especially interesting given the spelling (but not grammatical) parallel to "began".

  66. Kacie Landrum said,

    July 22, 2009 @ 3:35 am

    For me, the number one ickiest word in the English language is 'puling.' Something about the long U sound just drives me crazy. Although I agree that "pulchritudinous" wins for the most glaring mismatch between sound and meaning.

  67. Shawbreaker said,

    October 11, 2009 @ 7:46 pm

    Perusing the interwebs at work, I decided to Google word aversions, as I have many. I was surprised to see that lots of people do because all my friends think I'm nuts. My aversions are as follows, in this order:
    Potty (not so bad if anyone under the age of 10 uses it)
    Breakfast (the last two said together makes me CRAZY)

    It makes me wonder what causes aversions to these words. I've seen that the word moist is loathed by many, although that doesn't bother me. I also saw quite a few for my first two on the list. Just so weird.
    I feel better now.

  68. Shawbreaker said,

    October 11, 2009 @ 7:56 pm

    And I have to apologize now, I realize this thread has nothing to do with specific word aversions, but slang or jargon.

  69. Word aversion « Drexel Publishing Group said,

    April 23, 2014 @ 1:53 pm

    […] two types of issues individuals can have with words are classified as “word aversion” and “word rage". The former describes a physical reaction to the utilization of a word deemed unpleasant, […]

RSS feed for comments on this post