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Jon Mark Beilue column - Posted June 23, 2017 9:30 a.m.
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Artwork by Andy Chase Cundiff

‘…These are a few of my favorite words…’

This is a rough estimate, but since becoming a columnist more than 10 ½ years ago, I’ve written approximately 1.237 million words. Wait, now it’s 1,237,024 words, but you get the gist.

Probably a million were “the” and “said.” Some were used for alliteration – sort of a wise witty word weaving wizard. More than a few had to be worked over to be spelled correctly. If I were in front of a firing squad and had to spell “sheriff” or “rhythm” on the first try to live, I’d be riddled with bullets.

Some words were used that didn’t mean what I thought, like “nonplussed”, for instance. I thought it meant someone was bad at math, as in “he couldn’t add to save his life. He’s nonplussed.” It actually means “unconcerned.”

“Peruse” is another. I’ve always thought it mean to “skim,” as in, “let me peruse these cliff notes so I can pretend I read the book.” It’s the opposite. It means to “read or examine thoroughly.”

But I’ve always liked words, some more than others. Words can open up a whole new world. I’ll never forget reading the “Ox-Bow Incident” in eighth-grade English. I came upon a word I’d never seen before.

“W-h-o-r-e. What’s that?”

When told what it was and that the “w” was silent, I had no idea it was spelled that way and only had a slight idea of what it meant. But it sure made me want to read the rest of the book to see if this whore had any friends.

But I do have some favorite words – some of them because of what they mean, but most of them because of how they sound. Such as:

Supercilious: It sounds like the most fun word in the dictionary. It’s hard not to giggle just thinking about supercilious. Imagine my disappointment to find out it means “haughtily disdainful.”

Superfluous: A cousin to supercilious, but its emphasis is on the “per,” so su-per-fluous. But that’s all right. I just like “super words:” superficial, superb, supercede.

Titillating: It’s the closest thing to a dirty word but isn’t. As a kid, it was like saying a naughty word for free. And, when you think about it, its actual definition of “arousing and exciting, often in a sexual way,” is – never mind, better not go there.

Schadenfreude: I usually see this word from entertainment writers or some high-brow literary types. A friend of mine once said it was German for “stop reading now.” True, it sounds like it’s written by someone trying to impress, this “pleasure at someone else’s misfortune.” But I’d like to use it one time before hanging up my keyboard.

Discombobulate: First of all, it’s just fun to say. Who wouldn’t like throwing that word around? I’ve used the word before, usually in high school football rewrite game stories when trying to be a smart aleck: “Spearman scored four first-quarter touchdowns, three off turnovers, to completely discombobulate neighboring Gruver, 42-12 …” And since it means “upset or frustrate,” it fits.

Any –ate words: Maybe it stems from my admiration for the above word, but any word that ends in “ate” has some real punch: extrapolate, calibrate, potentate, articulate, annihilate, confiscate, illuminate. I almost slobber saying those words.

Fecklessness: If forced to use that in a sentence, it might be, “When Larry was in high school, he had plenty of feckles, but as an adult, I’m amazed at his fecklessness.” Except it doesn’t mean that, but it means “incompetent, lazy, ineffective.” Now that’s a word I can get behind.

C’est la vie and que sera sera: Boy, I have to hand it to the French – they know how to get in the last word. The next time your wife is chewing you out for something stupid, just smugly say, “C’est la vie” or “Que sera sera” and keep walking. Basically, you are telling her “such is life” or “what will be, will be.” She’ll still want to put a frying pan on your head – probably more than ever – but you’ll feel somewhat superior.

Piccadilly: That sounds so British, like Piccadilly Circus. I like the way it rolls off the tongue. In fact, it’s impossible not to form a British accent when saying it. The main problem is ever having a chance to use it.

Honorable Mention: poohbah, genuflect, cathartic, narrative, adjure, fricassee, chagrin, sashay, rendezvous, vis-à-vis, trifecta, drizzle, dollop and probiotics.

Thanks for enduring this discombobulating column. It was rather schadenfreude for me.

by Jon Mark Beilue

Jon Mark Beilue is an award-winning columnist for AGN Media. He can be reached at jon.beilue@amarillo.com or (806) 345-3318.
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