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?
16 thoughts on “My Favorite Word Is “Abu”!”
This post made my day. I am going to use this exercise in my writing class.
Hi Ann. I enjoyed meeting you at the writing conference. Great presentation! Yes, the favorite words exercise is neat. My students also wrote poems with their words, and then morphed the poems into stories. Much fun. Hope all is well in Pennsylvania.
Did you know Algebra is of Arabic origin? Al-gebra? You might want to double check that with Donna, though!
Ha! No, I didn’t know that, Tim.
Hello Dr. Saye, this is Felipe, from Honors English, two semester ago.
I love the idea of favorite words! I think I might start my own list. Here’s a start:
Shenanigans, perplexing, elixir
Of course, it’d be also neat to think of words outside of the English language, such as “debonair” and “alvorada”
Your story is awesome. It’s cool to have a word with a particular meaning just for you.
Rock on Dr. Saye. Keep being awesome. Love the blog!
Felipe! Hi. Thanks, I’m having fun with the blog. Great to hear from you. What a wonderful class we had (even at 8 a.m.). Yes, start a list of favorite words. See where that leads. And “shenanigans” really is a fun word to say. I’m going to start saying it more often. Hope you’re off to a joyful semester.
Hello Dr. Saye!
It’s Kamela from last semester, and I have to say I enjoyed scrolling through and reading the blog posts! I’d have to say my FAVORITE word would have to be: cacophony and my LEAST would have to be: ratchet (lately a lot of people have been using it and it can get seriously irritating after a few days). Thanks for the good reading!
Hello Kamela, how are you?? I miss your class from last term. There was never a dull moment with that group. “Cacophony” IS a fun word. But how is “ratchet” being used when you hear it?
I’m doing well! I’m gunning to take your class in the fall, I’ll be on my computer ready to sign up as soon as registration opens! That class was pretty fun. “Ratchet” is used to describe something unpleasant, not classy, inappropriate, or just all around unacceptable. There’s been plenty of times where I’ve heard a girl point to another girl and tell her friend, “She’s ratchet.”
I find your students’ distaste for the words ‘Ambrosia’ and ‘Hyacinth’ unsettling. Those are uncommonly beautiful words with pleasant meanings. Maybe they have a bad association with them, but I can not share their discomfort. Otherwise, your anecdote about grandfathering brings a lot of joy to my heart. Thank you for sharing. I find the words ‘immersion’ and ‘shelf life’ to be nice phrases. There’s several soft sounds in their consonants. Words like Stilt, paralyze, and titular get me agitated.
I worked at wal-mart for a time, it’s usually the morning crew that does that pep chant, just another way to psyche up minimum paid employees for their day of menial labor.
Thanks again for having me for class several semesters ago, it was a welcome break from the droning lectures I became accustomed to.
Hi Ramsey. Thanks for your response. Yes, “immersion” even feels a bit good as you say the word slowly. And the older I get, the more I like “shelf life.”
I still think “Abu” is one of the cutest names for a grandfather!! So precious! I enjoy reading your blog almost as much as I enjoyed your 1102 class! Hope all is well! Do you teach ANYTHING for old people like me:(
Hi Carson, hope all is well with you.
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Thank you for explaining all that for me… Ha! What a wonderful way to celebrate family! Abu!
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