Category Archives: The Beauty of Words

Do You See An Enemy?

Or is that a Sea Anemone?

I have always loved this verbal similitude.  And aren’t the phrases absolutely fabulous to say?  All those n’s and m’s.  And, yes I know, the apostrophes shouldn’t go in there but how else to show what I am saying?

An Enemy

An enemy (boo, hiss) is someone or thing with whom or which you are far from friendly.  He, she or it is the antithesis to your loving, wonderful self and are likely to produce feelings of animosity, hatred even.

When there is a collective hatred of another object, then conflict arises leading in all probability to warfare.

Hatred is an awful state and we must do all we can to not allow it into our lives.

Enmity

When conflict arises between two bodies – individuals or peoples – then enmity exists between them.This usually arouses aggressive behaviour between the parties involved and is normally long-standing rather than short-lived.

Again, the word is lovely on the tongue due once more to the n and m sounds.  The t sound though gives the word more bite – appropriate for the word context.

Amenity

Looks similar to enmity but amenity has a much pleasanter connotation:  a desirable or useful feature or facility of a place or building.

Anomy

One needs to be careful choosing the correct word.  Anomy is very close linguistically to enemy and whilst an enemy may show the characteristics of anomy, the latter actually is a lack of social or moral standards, either in an individual or in society as a whole.

Lemony

Yet another great sounding word.  The word-sounds are soft on the tip of the tongue and lips which is quite in variance with the acidity and tartness of the actual fruit.

Did you know trumpet, or other brass, players find it extremely hard to play their instruments when someone is close to them sucking on a lemon?

Give it a try yourself.

Anemone

Eventually, all of the above preamble leads us to the purpose of this post and that is to enjoy the phrase “an anemone”.  Say it aloud but be careful not to stumble over the positions of the n’s and m’s.  It’s a great and fun phrase to get your lips around.

On land, an anemone is a flower:

But there is also a sea anemone:

Confusing, eh?  Even more cause for confusion however is the fact that the sea anemone is not a plant but is actually a marine animal.  Really.  If you would like to know about these creatures have a look at this website.  (No commercial affiliation).

 

Share

Humpty Dumpty Nursery Rhyme

Or Should That Be Nursery Rhythm?

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again!

For today, the origin of this piece is not our concern.  What we are considering is the use of the words Rhyme and Rhythm.

And good old Humpty is helping us in that task.

The reason for the question at the start of this paragraph is that, well, the words rhythm and rhyme are actually the same word by way of their derivation.  “How can that be?” I hear you ask!

Both words originate in the Greek word “rhuthmos”, meaning ‘flow’ but rhythm became more associated with the Anglo-Saxon ‘riman’ which means ‘count’.  So, rhythm is the count or beat in a phrase, whether spoken or musical.

 

 

Dance, especially the Tango, has great rhythmicity.

 

 

 

 

And, did you know, that in Scrabble Rhythm has the potential to earn 51 points without even using a single vowel!

Rhyme

Today, of course, we think of rhyme as two or more words that sound the same.  ‘Wall’ and ‘hall’; ‘men’ and ‘again’ in Humpty’s example above.

An alternative (please note, not ‘alternate’ which means to occur repeatedly in turn) spelling to Rhyme was Rime, as in The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, a poem written in 1797 by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

I use the past tense here as Rime is rarely used today.

There is also a saying “Neither Rhyme nor Reason” which I find interesting in that the word rhyme, here, is used in the sense of entertainment while reason implies the notion of serious teaching.  So the idiom tells us that the subject is not fit for either amusement or learning.

In the county of Yorkshire, England, Rime is a colloquialism for Hoar-frost!

Rhyming Slang

Rhyming slang is most associated with the Cockney (i.e. East End of London) underworld of the 19th Century where it was allegedly used to thwart non-criminals’ attempts to overhear what was being discussed by those dastardly villains.

Examples are:  Frog and Toad = Road;  Apples and Pears = Stairs

Daisies are boots, from ‘daisy roots’ (!)

And so on.

The slang, although belonging to past times, is still in use today, kept alive by such TV programmes as The Sweeney – itself a great example of rhyming slang.

 

Share

Colour Tones

Colours

Or, if you weren’t raised in Britain, “colors”.

This post isn’t concerned with the variety of colours but more the tonality of them.  Words that infer colour rather than simply stating them.

In a previous post we looked at The Stroop Effect of words and colors – see it here – and wasn’t that just psychologically brilliant?

So the suggestion of colour or the state in which to find colour is what we are interested in here:

Diaphanous

Filmy; light; gauze-like.  Delicately hazy – like a girl I once knew.

Crepuscular

Of twilight, when colours and often objects are distorted and confused.  Dim and indistinct – funny, I knew a girl like that, too!

Darkling

Relating to growing darkness or the thrush in one of my favourite Thomas Hardy poems:

The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
      The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.

Rubricate

A lovely word meaning to mark or colour with red.  As in this picture, the choral manuscript has been rubricated, highlighting particular points.  When I was at school, my homework was often handed back to me with severe rubrications.  Just about every teacher marked one’s work with a red pen making it abundantly clear where one had stuffed up.

Tenebrous

Dark and gloomy like many of Charles Dickens’ buildings portrayed throughout his novels and
on film.  Also, how I felt after receiving my rubricated homework back.

Sooty

Of a blackish or grey dusky hue.  Very much unlike my favourite television character when I was
a little ‘un:
Sooty, with his, and my, pal Sweep.  Say goodbye to the children, Sooty.
Ah, nostalgia … it’s not what it used to be.

 

Share

Harrumph

Harrumph!

“I say, old man, just look at that chap over there, what on earth does he think he looks like?”

“Looks bally ridiculous if you ask me. Never allowed to get away with it when I was his age.  What’s the world coming to I’d like to know? Harrumph.”

I love all these blustering, ex-colonel types.  A dying breed I’m afraid now.  In their ways, they were often comical, sometimes nasty, and always belligerent.  I know a lot of people disliked what they were and stood for – many of them civil servants or lesser local officials and usually quite officious – but they have left a legacy of a way of life that was emergent at the turn of the 20th Century and on to the second World War.

These men epitomised Pomposity.

Pomposity

It is such a darned shame that the negative connotation of Pomposity – arrogance, self-importance, stiffness, haughtiness – should come from the root Pomp, meaning ceremony and splendid display .  Its meaning being quite subverted.

Tumescent

It wasn’t just in their manner that the pomposity could be discerned, but they had a Tumescence – a pretentiousness in their use of the English language – that augmented the puffed-up presence they chose to portray.

Magniloquent

The manner of speech was very often Magniloquent – lofty or grandiose and bordering on the bombastic and boastful.  Such was the nature of the thing.

All of the above  came about because I wanted to introduce Harrumph to the list of words here.  If  you haven’t yet surmised, Harrumph is a grumpy expression of irritation or disapproval, something which came easily to our pompous old chaps.

So, while these words aren’t truly “of the senses” they conjure up pictures of good old boys lost in a world that became far too modern for their and others’ liking.

The words are added  to the word list here.

Share

Catacombs of Rome

There are about forty different Catacombs of Rome – ancient underground burial places most famous for Christian burials – begun in 2nd Century AD.  They were built due to a shortage of burial land on the surface and subsequent overcrowding.

 

While the original custom in Rome was cremation, with the ashes being retained in an urn or pot, it became more ‘fashionable’ or acceptable to bury the unburnt remains of the dead in graves or sarcophagi.  Christians also preferred burial to cremation because of their belief in the resurrection of the body after death.

The catacombs (and there are many others in the World, for instance in Paris) today are huge tourist attractions with large tour groups visiting them year round.

It is very important that the Catacombs of Rome are not confused with the Cats of Rome which have lived in and around the Trajan Markets since ancient times and continue to reside in the ruins of the same market area today.

trajan

Further, it is equally important not to confuse the Catacombs with Cat Combs – something completely different:  cat-comb

Or Ilfracombe, where I was taken on hols as a nipper:  ilfracombe

Notwithstanding all that, Cat Combs, Ilfracombe, Catacombs each has a lovely word sound.  I think it must have a lot to do with the pronunciation of “coomb” or “coombs” or “coam” that make the words special.

 

Share

Calvin & Hobbes

SMELLY WORDS

I have two brilliant Calvin & Hobbes cartoon strips that I so wanted to share with you.  I did the proper thing and located the publisher to seek permission but could not obtain consent.  The response was:

I cannot give permission for any image of Calvin & Hobbes to be used in anyway online or to be altered (i.e. text removed) in any way for any use.  Permissions Administrator, Universal Uclick

I have however been granted permission to describe the two strips to you and to link to the actual strips on GoComics.  These are located at the end of this post:

Please enjoy:

Scene:  Calvin and Hobbes walking outside, both wrapped up.  It is early February.

Calvin:  Hmm … Somebody’s having a fire.  I love the smell of a fire on a cold winter’s day.  Isn’t it strange how smells are so evocative, but we can’t describe them.

Hobbes:  Oh, I dunno, that fire has a snorky, brambish smell.

Calvin:   I should have known animals would have words for smells …

Hobbes:  It’s a little brunky, but the low humidity affects that.

Calvin:  You’re telling me that animals have their own words for specific smells?

Hobbes:  Well sure

Calvin:   OK, what’s the word for how wet leaves smell?

Hobbes:  “Snippid”

Calvin:   What’s the word for how I smell?

Hobbes:  “Terrible”.

Love it!

Here are the links:

http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/2015/02/16

http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/2015/02/17

 

Share

Words That Sound Beautiful – Sibilants and Aspirates

Never mind what the word actually means for a moment, it is time to concentrate on its sound and what those sounds conjure up in your mind when your hear them.

This is nothing to do with brothers and sisters!  Sibilant words are those that are sounded with a hiss.  My favourite words that sound beautiful in this manner are:

Wasps – You have to say it to sense it.   That gentle sounding ..sps  is brilliant.  (I do apologise to anyone that has a serious lisp however because that would be extremely difficult to get to grips with and also makes those in close proximity to the lisper to quickly erect umbrellas or duck for cover!)

Lisp – As mentioned above, an impediment of speech that disenables the speaker from pronouncing the letter S.  Instead the word comes out sounding “th”.  I knew a woman called Mrs Ippey that had all sorts of problems saying her name.

Gossamer – Not only does this word sound soft but the mind’s eye can surely see that downy, spider web-like material, light, floaty, blown away by the gentlest breath.  Linger on the “ss” sound to get the best effect and the “… amer” just tails away into the air.

Gossamer

Aspirate words are those where the sound of one’s breath forms the sound of the word.  Think of the word “where” itself.  It isn’t pronounced “ware” but with an expirated “wha”.  So, “whhh..air”.  Try it.  It’s a much lovelier pronunciation.

My favourite aspirated word, though, is where it is combined with the sibilant to produce Whisper.  You must say this word quietly.  You have no choice.  The onomatopoeic effect and the word-sound leaves one quite in need of a sit down and a gentle cup of Earl Grey.  Golly, I can just feel the little shiver down my spine as someone whispers “whisper” in my ear.

whisper 7

I go all unnecessary!

Share

Music Within Words – Symphonic Sounds

I Got The Music In Me, I Got The Music In Me

music 2

Now, I’m not talking of musical terms or song words, per se, but rather words which have a musical quality within them.  Words which resonate with music, where you can hear music within words.

We are almost back into the realms of Onomatopoeia with some, but not all,  of these sounds.  They all need to be sounded aloud vocally.  Go on, no-one’s listening:

Cadence & Cascade – sorry, my deference to King Crimson.  Who, you ask?  No, not The Who, King Crimson!  For those not old enough (and possibly English enough) to remember, they were a “Progressive Rock Band” of the late 60s/early 70s.

Clash – The sound of cymbals coming together

Ersatz – Yeah, that’s jazz, man.  Real meaning is subsititute or imitation but there ain’t no subsititute for jazz.

Euphemism – Undoubtedly it is the ‘euph” element that puts one in mind of a tuba or, more aptly, a euphonium.

tubaReally, a roundabout expression taking the place of a word that is too harsh or blunt, e.g. “pass away” for “die”.

Fanfare – The “fa-fah” of cornets heralding the start of something fantastical

Jejune – Pronounce the J as ‘dzjuh’, so ‘dzjeh dzjune’.  Soft brush on a snare drum.  Say it several times, gently.  Barren, poor, intellectually unsatisfying – I don’t think so!

Pizzicato -Can’t you just hear those violins being plucked with the fingers?

Syncopation – Fascinatin’ rhythm, bouncy.  Displaced beats.  Think ragtime:

 

Ukelele – Ukelele Lady, la la la.  If that ain’t musical I don’t know what is.

 

More words being added to the List.

Please check out the Word List page or leave your comment below.

 

Share

Elegant Sounding Words – Exquisiteness is Not Limited to Dress Sense

Elegant Not Decadent

For a lot of us, elegant sounding words are tied to the beautiful things that the Beautiful Things wear and there are lots of examples of elegant attire in movies and very often that correlates to the word decadence.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love that word (more on it in another post) but think of these movies to get my drift:

  • The Great Gatsby
  • Downton Abbey
  • Gosford Park
  • The Remains of the Day
  • A Room With a View

Buy any of them at Amazon.com

Dining_table_laid_at_Chatsworth_House

No, I want to move beyond the cinematic boundaries and suggest other words that have elegance contained within them or are suggestive of being elegant.  I have chosen just eight to start with:

Antique – Not as old as Antediluvian (see word list) and much more stylish.  Very often associated with furniture, the decorative arts, books and dowager duchesses – objects which are delicate and usually very expensive.

Charm – When a man today is charming others are wary, often thinking him a sleaze, a flatterer.  What an absolute shame when his signal intent is to delight or arouse admiration but I suppose  the negative connotation has been brought about by the duplicity of man in merely attempting to deceive rather than charm.  This is a word that requires further consideration.  It will be seen in these pages again.

Exquisiteness – The piquancy of a thing that is beautiful or delicate.  The word takes the object of beauty to its finest point of elevated discernment and appreciation

Gentility – Well-born ladies taking tea in the drawing room, occupied with chit-chat and cucumber sandwiches.

Grace – Fluidity of movement, languid and purposeful actions.  Elegance of proportion.  Pleasantness of manner and speech.  The aptly named Grace Kelly.

Noblesse – Of noble birth or standing.  Not necessarily nobility, per se, but of the privileged class or aristocracy

Refinement – Polished behaviour; having a discernment of taste; presenting a cultivated and civilized appearance.

Sauvity – Usually applies to gentlemen of charm (as defined) and sophistication.  Definitely think James Bond’s Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Daniel Craig et al and well tailored suits or  dinner jackets with bow ties.  Yes, I know, we’ve finished on dress but it’s hard not to with these chaps isn’t it?

One sad comment:  It is a poor reflection on our society of mediocrity that being elegant has become confused with being ‘sexy’ or ‘fashionable’.  Oh dear!

Adding the words to the list.

Feel free to post a comment.  I really would love you to do so.

 

Share

Words That Make You Happy …

… for no other reason than the sheer pleasure they give you when you hear them or the happy associations they create for you. There are probably lots of words that make you happy as there are for me.  A smile always comes across my face when I read/hear the following (just a small number that spring to immediate mind):

Asinine – Always have believed this should really be spelled Ass -inine but there again that’s rather silly or stupid probably.

Bifurcate – No, it’s not (as I once thought and still wish it to be) to burp but only to divide into two branches – to fork.  A real opportunity missed there I think.

Inglenook – Warm and cosy place to be in the fireside of a sixteenth century coaching inn on a cold wintry night,

Inglenook_fireplace

Lollipop – Say it out loud and you can just taste that sticked sugary confection.  The tongue picks up the ‘loll’ and your lips the ‘pop’.  Yummy!

lollipop

Obsequious – Charles Dickens must have made the character Uriah Heep in David Copperfield with this word very much to the forefront of his mind.  This sickeningly respectful creep just oozes smarm; can’t you just feel his limp fish-like handshake.  Ugh!  Yet fawningly brilliant.  So, this word always makes me think of the character and makes me happy.

uriah-heep

Smoodge – There can never be enough ooooooo’s in smoodge.  It’s what my cats do when they’re being friendly.  Supposedly an Australian and New Zealand word that means behaving amorously; sidling up to one.  More fittingly inherited by all mogs of the world.

Waistcoat – There is a quote from HC Wyld, professor of English, Oxford University about 1923 in the book “CS Lewis – A Biography”  by AN Wilson, 1990 which I love and which always makes me much amused: “You’re the sort of people who would say ‘waist-coat’, rather than use the old-fashioned, gentlemanly pronunciation ‘westcut”.  Westcut it is for me!  And most definitely not vest.

Fancy_Waistcoats_(1904)

Share