A couple of weeks ago I asked one of my college classes, in preparation for a writing assignment, to come up with a short list of their favorite and least favorite words. Boy, did I ever open up a hornet’s nest. As we went around the room, the students taking turns FREELY and LOUDLY sharing their words (while causing their professor to turn beet red), what I heard made me think I was in a dingy bar at 3 a.m. closing time. I ain’t telling you those words.
But here is a sampling of their LEAST favorite words:
* extraordinary The student said the word just doesn’t make sense. Extraordinary should mean really, really ordinary instead of exceptional. Hmm, I get what he’s saying.
* discharge, pus, ooze I put these words together simply to get them over with real quick. Yuk.
* y’all A Yankee probably said that one.
A few of MY least favorite words include:
* space As in the HGTV-ish, “I love what you’ve done with this space!” Space? What’s wrong with “room”?
* In a similar vein, nation. It gets on my nerves when “nation” is used to refer to a college or university, often in conjunction with its athletic teams. Take my school Georgia Southern University, for example. We’re the GSU Eagles. (I’m SO glad we’re not the Badgers). We’ve won six national football championships. Sometimes I hear this: “We are PROUD . . . We are EAGLE NATION!” Nation? Huh?
I was at a Savannah Wal-Mart on Abercorn early one morning last week, getting a bag of preboiled eggs and some acidophilus, when I heard commotion rising from the greengrocer section (“greengrocer” is a favorite word of mine). I slipped up to the celery and pretended to examine the stalks for defects. At least a dozen Wal-Mart “associates” stood in a big circle around the fresh vegetables, being led by a painfully skinny man in what sounded similar to church-like call and answer chants. Really. “Who takes the best care of their customers?!”–“We do!” “Who are we?”–“We are Wal-Mart!–WE ARE WAL-MART!” Did you know this goes on? Two teenage associates, obviously a little bored and maybe embarrassed, whispered behind the leader’s back. I laughed when I heard what one said: “Oh yea, we’re Wal-Mart Nation.”
* drill (as in dentist drill)
And here is a sampling of my students’ FAVORITE words:
* tarantula Don’t worry, I sent the student to counseling.
* obfuscate (I had to go to dictionary.com.)
I think my favorite word is Abu. Ever heard it? Maybe the monkey character in Disney’s Aladdin? Or the fifth month in the Babylonian calendar? The American Board of Urology? (Google it, if you don’t believe me.) A volcano on the Japanese island of Honshu? Nope, Abu . . . is Me!
My grandson Daniel started calling me Abu as soon as he could talk. This would be cute if it were Daniel’s doing. Alas, it was not. Nearly five years ago, when my daughter Amy and son-in-law Ortelio informed us, with much joyful fanfare, that Amy was pregnant, I was shocked, bamboozled (isn’t that a cool word?). I had not been foreseeing such a life-changing turn of events. Pregnant?! But that meant SO MANY areas to be concerned about, such as a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery, and the full gamut of preparations for the coming newborn. But NOTHING was more paramount in my mind than the realization that hit me: Amy can’t be pregnant. I AM TOO YOUNG TO BE A GRANDFATHER!
Amy casually asked one day, well into her pregnancy, “So Dad, what do you want to be called?” I dismissed “Grandfather” right off the bat because it sounded too much like Grandfather. Same for Gramps, Papaw (what my daughters call my dad), Pappy, Gumpa (now how silly is that name?), etc.
My brilliant Cuban-American son-in-law Orte saved the day (and my false sense of youthfulness). He explained that Abu was a common term of endearment for Grandfather in Cuba. [Abuelo = Grandfather] I immediately loved the little name. It sounds so joyful and pithy and fun-loving . . . and most people wouldn’t have a clue what it meant. I could see it in my mind’s eye: In the mall one day my little toddler grandson would look up and call me Abu, and any bystanders would smile and think, “Isnt that cute? That little kid is calling his uncle, who is dressed in that youthful Abercrombie and Fitch t-shirt, ‘Abu.’ So sweet.”
Then Daniel was born, and I fell in love with the baby and with grandfathering. He brought Abu to life, new life.
What about you, dear bloggers? What are some of your favorite and least favorite words?