Words are all we have

For maximum enjoyment while reading this post, scroll to the bottom and click on the link. The music will play while you read. More about this at the end.

I read a lot as a child. That was the start of my love affair with unusual words. I moved from children’s books to current novels pretty fast.

Bye, bye Winnie the Pooh. Hello Michener, Phillip Roth, Harper Lee, Vonnegut, Sylvia Plath, Capote and dozens more.

I learned about sex from Michener’s Hawaii. The heck with those silly pamphlets the nuns handed out in school. There wasn’t any heat in those, just goofy diagrams.

We always had books in the house. There was a local library nearby and a few True Confessions magazines lying around too. Those were very interesting reading for a pre-teen.

The words were wonderful! Not knowing what a word meant has never stopped me from using it. I remember telling the priest in confession that I committed adultery.

It was such a worldly word with so many syllables. It rolled off of my tongue. I was 8 at the time and had no idea what it meant but just in case I did it, I wanted forgiveness. I was very intent on going to heaven.

I love unique words. You know — the words that no one uses – at least today. They usually have multiple syllables. They make you feel smart or like a dork (mostly like a dork) when you use them.

Sometimes you associate words with people. My friend Lynn loves the word “credenza.” She says it has rhythm. Her grandchildren thought she made it up until she pulled out her dictionary. Try to use that one on a regular basis.

I worked for a guy who used “henceforth” in his employee emails. Not a word you hear every day, at least in this century. It means from now on.

Picture it – an employee email notice that says:

  • “Henceforth you are required to wear clothes to work.”
  • “Henceforth gigantic health deductions will be taken out of your paycheck.”
  • “Henceforth anyone caught peeing in the bushes will be fired.”

His second favorite word was “erstwhile.” I had to look that sucker up because I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant. The precise meaning is “belonging to a prior time.” To use in a sentence was a challenge – “My erstwhile ex was quite the ladies’ man.”

I have always liked “flipping.” It sounds bad. It means excessive and you can use it in place of freaking (another favorite of mine) or the other f word. You could use it like this: “Who wrote that flipping blog post anyway?” Or maybe “That was a flipping stupid thing to do.”

My latest favorite is “gobsmacked!” I heard it for the first time last year. I didn’t know what it meant. Was it bad?

It’s very Irish. Some of their words are naughty but not this one! It means dumbfounded. You could say, “Well I’ll be gobsmacked!” when you are blindsided.

I was flummoxed (another great word) trying to get these words into posts so I decided to do them all at once.  Now I’m done and we will go back to normal programming.

Note: This was inspired by blogger year-struck who is infatuated with words. One of her word posts is here.


Music Note: This video of the Bee Gees was from their MGM Grand concert in Las Vegas in 1997 (when everyone was alive!). We have the complete concert on dvd and it’s wonderful. Instead of watching yet another rerun we pop it in the TV and enjoy some great music. Sometimes we even get up and dance!

25 thoughts on “Words are all we have

  1. Kate… I love words too.
    At first I was ‘gobsmacked’ by your post, but not surprised to hear what a ‘flipping’ reader you are. In trying to use all your nifty words I was ‘flummoxed’ at how to include ‘erstwhile’. Maybe next time. 🙂


  2. Great words! We all read, too. In 4th or 5th grade I was given a thesaurus – and told not to throw every big odd word into school essays or it would sound like I just got a thesaurus. (Warning did not good)
    Always enjoy singing along.


  3. I’m a word nerd too, Kate and gobsmacked is one of my favorites. I think it sounds exactly like it should to convey its meaning. It’s tough to pull that one off here in the U.S. when you don’t have a British or Irish accent.

    Nice touch with the serenade while reading 🙂


  4. Your confession was the best! What did the priest say?
    My middle school’s favorite words were ‘henceforth’ and ‘thusly’ . There were little 11 year olds saying “Henceforth I will not do bad things” “He hit my thusly!” It was hilarious 🙂


    • I don’t remember him saying anything. Hey, I was 8 and scared! I could see him at his weekly poker game saying, “You’ll never believe what happened this week.” When using henceforth, I think forevermore should follow….henceforth and forevermore….makes it official.


  5. I love it that you committed adultery at age 8! What a wonderful post this is. I learned about sex in a book my Mom got at the library – The Stork Didn’t Bring You (she was too shy to discuss things). Hawaii would have been more fun. One of my favorite words is “dearth.” 🙂


  6. Kate, I’d love to have seen the priest’s reaction to your confession. Priceless! I also love words. When I was growing up, we had two huge dictionaries, and I’d have them by my side as I read stories with more elevated vocabulary.

    I love ‘flummoxed,” and, “bushwhacked.” A tall tale that I love and have shared with my students is, “The Beard” by Fred Chappell. He uses “elegant sufficiency” and “superfluidity.” The uncle loved to say that to indicate – when asked if he’d like more to eat – that he’d had enough and any more was an unnecessary excess. It’s also the punch line.


    • I had a childhood friend who confessed to committing suicide because she wasn’t sure what that was either. She was also 8. I could probably do a post on preparing for your first confession. It was so scary and you were convinced you would go to hell if you missed one of your transgressions!
      I used to use superfluous and sated. You would be surprised how many people don’t know what either means. I love elegant sufficiency!


  7. Love this post … and I’m a word lover, too … in fact, you might say words are like candy, and I have an unquenchable sweet tooth (and I don’t mind making words up on the fly, if they are willing to bend to my whims) … fun post, made me smile.


  8. I used to work for a law firm. You know how they use long words such as “notwithstanding”, “aforementioned”. etc. The history behind that lawyers were use to get paid for being wordy, meaning they measure the length of the composition. Here’s my favorite “bushwacked”.


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