The good word

Image found on TheYUNiversity.

Image found on TheYUNiversity.

There’s nothing like a good word to put a smile on my face. Persnickety, amok, discombobulated, kerfuffle—they all make me giggle.

I just love the acoustics of the words, the way the vowels and consonants roll around in the mouth, the cadence of the assorted syllables. Maybe it’s that storied comedic “k” sound. Maybe it’s the imagery that accompanies them. Or maybe it’s just because they’re fun to say.

Get a load of the size of the Etymology Monthly! Cartoon by John Deering.

I only do this every other day.
Cartoon by John Deering.

If it weren’t for the fact that a lot of other people love such words, I might think I’m a little nuts (OK, I’m a lot nuts, but that’s not the point).

The chance to use a word like “glissando” (a glide from one pitch to another in music; think harp) doesn’t pop up much in my life, but when it does, I get a little giddy. My doctor was amused by my reaction to the harp music in her office at my last visit, anyway.

But I’m certainly not the only one more than a little obsessed with words and phrases.

Last week, Slate posted an interactive map constructed of favorite slang words or phrases in each state, based on input from linguists, message boards, friends and colleagues, and Slate readers. Arkansas got “tump”; I see no problem with that, except maybe their sample sentence: “We’re about to hit this bump, so hold your drink or it will tump.”

Word of advice, dude: If you value your life, don't tump that wheelbarrow. Image found on Buzznet.

Word of advice, dude: If you value your life, don’t tump that wheelbarrow.
Image found on Buzznet.

Seems a bit too proper and contrived for my taste; of course, I grew up in the country, tumping out wheelbarrows (or being tumped out of them) in the garden. Maybe it’s just me.

At least we Arkies did better than Missouri, whose word was … Missouri. My aunt and cousins there must be exceptions, since I don’t hear that particular word very often from them. Of course, I only see them every once in a while, but still …

And I’m not a huge fan of Alabama, but I’m genuinely envious of its word: cattywampus. Fun to say? Hell, yeah!

I asked readers for their favorite words and phrases, and got quite an amusing response; some of what I couldn’t use this week will likely show up soon in another column. How can I resist a Jane Austen-esque analysis of the GOP presidential field?

Looks like you've got a wicked toad strangler there, buddy. Image found on Blind Pig and the Acorn.

Looks like you’ve got a wicked toad strangler there, buddy.
Image found on Blind Pig and the Acorn.

Diane Plummer of Heber Springs wrote me: “I recently was talking to a friend about a heavy rain and described it as a ‘toad strangler,’ which she had never heard before. I don’t know the origin of the expression and couldn’t find it in either of the books I mentioned [by Charles Earle Funk, of Funk & Wagnalls fame] but I’ve always liked it.”

Coincidentally, that phrase was Slate’s pick for Florida. As far as its origin, I didn’t find much, either, other than that it’s chiefly Southern, especially on the Gulf Coast, and has been mentioned in print at least back to 1906, according to The Dictionary of American Regional English.

And I definitely need to get those books.

Ken Greening of Memphis said: “I was thinking recently … about a word I never hear anymore but one that my parents’ generation (WWII) seemed to use a lot. I grew up in Camden. … ‘When are you coming over? Oh, directly.’ ‘When are you leaving? Oh, directly.’ However, the pronunciation came out as … ‘dreckly.’ Anyway, that expression seems to have passed into history, but was always well-understood as to what it meant.”

Yup, this is one I remember from my grandparents, often with the comment that they would be going “to home,”  or maybe “to Wal-Marts.” Ah, memories.

Thanks for warning me, kitty ... I've just gotta be ... elsewhere ... Image found on Neatorama.

Thanks for warning me, kitty … I’ve just gotta be … elsewhere …
Image found on Neatorama.

John Eberhard, who always amuses me and makes me think when I read his comments on the newspaper’s website, contributed two of his favorites, both “b” words: borborygmi and brouhaha. He noted: “Not that they are particularly inspiring; I just like the sound of them.”

A man after my own heart.

While most people likely know what brouhaha means (noisy and overexcited reaction or response), generally the people who know the meaning of borborygmi are fellow word nerds or sufferers of persistent stomach ailments, though everybody has borborygmi (man, it really is fun to say). That’d be the plural of the noun denoting the rumbling or gurgling noise made by movement of fluid and gas in the intestines.

Fun to say, not fun to have on a regular basis. Trust me.

Fellow blogger Sarah Ricard is also a fan of persnickety (we Jan. 13 people think alike at times, and of course have great taste), but she offered a few others (all excellent) in comments on my blog: “I read the word ‘befurbelowed’ (to be dressed up in fancy clothes) in The Awakening several years ago, and it is one of my favorites. Curmudgeon, meander, frock, contemplative, cerulean are several favorites that come to mind. For example, I could tell my husband, ‘You’re such a curmudgeon for honking at the contemplative goose meandering across the road.’

Hey, we're walkin' here! Image found on Daily Encouragement.

Hey, we’re walkin’ here!
Image found on Daily Encouragement.

“My favorite saying came from a choir director in Texas. He would always say, ‘Well, roll my socks up and down’ if he got excited about something.”

I tend to wear short socks, so people will just have to guess if I’m excited. And the days I don’t wear socks at all, you’re on your own.

Janet Hill of Fairfield Bay said of her favorite phrases: “A few of mine came to mind, but I failed to write them down and now they have left me. But just last night my daughter told me I had got ‘a good scald’ on the cornbread. My grammy used to say it when something turned out perfectly.”

My IBS won't let me eat fried food often, but ... chicken ... I love chicken ... Image found on My Recipes.

My IBS won’t let me eat fried food often, but … chicken … I love chicken …
Image found on My Recipes.

That particular saying seems to be what a lot of grandmas have said, if entries on the Internet are any indication, much of it having to do with chicken. I couldn’t track down its origin, but if you get a good scald on that chicken, I’m feelin’ a bit peckish.

And I definitely understand phrases leaving the mind (in my case, usually to return when I’m trying to get to sleep … or driving … not at the same time). Just one of the wonderful effects of short-term memory loss.

Chuck Anderson, meanwhile, sent a few phrases his momma used to say, including: “‘He got his tail over the dashboard,’ meaning he got all huffed up over something. ‘It’s time to break that boy’s plate,’ meaning it’s time to send him on out into the world on his own,” and “‘The rats are dying,’ referring to that last few minutes of frantic run around the room activity before the kids finally give up and go to sleep.”

Speaking of, I think I see the rats getting ready to put on Camille. One of them apparently does a great impression of Greta Garbo.

The rat production of Camille is, I hear, life-changing. Image found on Wikipedia.

The rat production of Camille is, I hear, life-changing.
Image found on Wikipedia.

You can't see me, right?

You can’t see me, right?

For those who’ve asked, my Luke is still ill (and not happy to have been to see the vet so much since last Monday), but hopefully will soon recover. Thank you to everyone for your well wishes!

He sees his regular vet on Wednesday (assuming he doesn’t go to the same hidey-hole I couldn’t locate Tuesday morning). Since they know his history, I’m hoping they’ll have a better idea about what’s going on.

The kid has not had a good week. Between the apparent pain, the throwing up, missing the litter box and, now, not eating (possibly he’s paranoid after all that throwing up), he’s been to an emergency vet three times in the course of a week (and tried to hide under the towel in his carrier on the last visit, pictured above.). And this one will make No. 4. The 18-pound boy is now 15 pounds.

I’m hoping for the best, but know I have to be prepared for the worst (like his kidneys shutting down). If that happens, though, rest assured that he will always haunt me, especially for putting those antlers on his head.

This won't be happening. I like my blood where it is, thankyouverymuch.

This won’t be happening. I like my blood where it is, thankyouverymuch.


19 thoughts on “The good word

  1. I am quite amused by Virginia’s word: “might could.” I am a native Arkie, but was working on a software project in Virginia a few years ago. The customer asked for a solution for a particularly persnickety problem, and I answered, “Wellllllllll (drawing it out in true Southern fashion), I might could …” That was as far as I got. They died laughing. When I asked what they found so funny, it was “might could,” which they (both natives of Virginia) had never heard!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Two I have adopted; bunggorn-to be inoperative, broken,”The tee-vee is bunggorn,it’s gone all squiggly.”
    Nackyum, Usually white, cloth or paper square useful for mopping up sticky sorghum or polishing skeeters off eyeglasses after motorcycle excursion…napkin “Sayruh Lynn, you might use yore NACKYUM lest folks thank yore a savage.”


  3. I showed my husband your column today (He really did honk at a goose!), and he gave a curmudgeonly grunt. I think he was impressed, but I’m not fluent in grunts. My son said his favorite word is plumbum, which is Latin for lead (Pb).

    My dad says, “I’m plum tuckered out” and “gullywasher” (heavy rain). My grandmother used to say “cattywampus,” and I’ve been known to let out an occasional “shucky darn and slop the hogs.”

    I believe the Chuck Anderson you mentioned is a professor in the Rhetoric and Writing department at UALR. If so, I have him for Editing for Publication this semester. I’m going to send him an email.

    Poor Luke. I’m praying for him and you and sending kitty hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOVE plumbum; I’d forgotten it (been a while since I learned the periodic table, most of which escapes me).

      I use “plum tuckered” a lot, and it’s especially true today. Just got back from the vet, who says Luke has a slightly herniated disc causing him enough pain to be afraid to use the litter box, and since he’s not pooping, he’s afraid to eat. Poor guy …
      He’s not a surgical candidate because of his age and because he still gets around very well, so we’re doing steroids and pain-killers, and I’m gonna look for some pet stairs for him (going up’s not the problem; it’s the jumping down). We also are gonna try to get him to lose some more weight (probably another pound or two at most) the right way.

      His age has finally caught up with him, but hopefully this course of treatment will get him feeling more like himself … after he’s done wallowing in self-pity, that is. 😉


      • I posted your column on Facebook, and I got a couple more suggestions: scofflaw and schlep. I say schlep all the time. I think I got it from watching The Nanny back in the day; it’s not part of a Texan’s usual vocabulary.

        Chuck Anderson is indeed Dr. Charles Anderson of Rhetoric and Writing renown at UALR. He was excited to see UALR represented so well in your column.

        I’m glad Luke is doing better. I was worried that he might be diabetic like my parents’ cat, who died recently. My poor mom has to struggle enough to get my 81-year-old diabetic dad to take his insulin. Trying to “wrassle” (another word) a 22 pound cat for insulin shots was too much for her.

        My mom is happy that Luke is better too, and she suggested introducing coconut oil to his diet because it’s supposed to be good for bones and joints. Their other cat, Buttercup, has made an amazing recovery from anxiety since my mom started giving the coconut oil to her. I usually don’t put too much stock in natural remedies (I’ll take the FDA approved medication, thank you very much), but Buttercup went from walking in circles and losing her fur to having a full coat of fur and giving me a little smooch on my visit last weekend.

        Charlie, my mom, and I send lots of love to Luke. We are so happy to hear that he’s starting to get back to normal.


      • Schlep! Excellent word, and one I love dearly. 😀

        Thought that might be him, and now we know for certain!

        Right now, the boy’s sacked out by the bed. He’s still avoiding the pet steps, but I’m sure he’ll eventually decide to use ’em.

        I actually did a little happy dance (quietly, of course, so as not to disturb him) when he started eating last night. Today he’s so much more himself. I’ll look into coconut oil. It might be something he decides he likes (ya never know with him).

        Thanks to you and your mom for your prayers and positive thoughts! Lots of love to all of you (and skritches for the kitties too)!


  4. Oh poor Luke. Could it be bladder crystals/stones? A blocked urethra? I lost a kitty that way, but another was saved with surgery that opened up the urethra for the easier passage of any future crystals. Oh, but you said he’s not a surgical candidate. Poor baby. Mousse and Annie and I all send him our best.


    • Thank you!

      That first time at the emergency vet, they flushed his bladder, and there were no crystals or stones. Both of the first two vets who saw him had pieces of the puzzle, but didn’t make the connection between them; his regular vet did (and got him calmed down!!). The prednisone is helping with the inflammation from the discs in his back (there were two spots that seemed to cause the most pain), so that may end up being the long-term solution, supplemented with pain-killers as needed.
      Right now he’s napping on the end of the bed, and he’s actually eaten (quite a bit, too!), pooped and peed in the last 24 hours, so he’s doing a LOT better.
      Never thought I’d be so happy about that. 😉


  5. I have heard the words “gullywasher” and “toad strangler” many times from many people when they are talking about a heavy rain. However, when I communicate with people from other states on Facebook, I rarely, if ever, find anyone who has heard the word “tump” or, even more rarely, actually understands what “tump” means.


    • I hear “gullywasher” a lot from all over.”Tump” is really pretty exclusive to the South, and I think most of those of us who use it even occasionally grew up in the country.

      I know of at least one English teacher who futilely tried to keep her rural students from using “tump.” Yeah, that was doomed from the start. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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