Playing favourites

Do you have any favourite words? Two of my long-time favourites are ‘lackadaisical’ and ‘recalcitrant’ – two multisyllable words oozing with imagery and attitude.favourite words

I originally came across the word ‘lackadaisical’ in my first year of university. I was living in a residential college and enjoying the sudden freedom of being an adult, even though it meant juggling study and part-time work along with the socialising.

Most of my ‘group’ were from the country (like me) and everyone had their specific traits. One of our number seemed sure he was perfect, despite his predilection for wearing Ugg Boots and shorts in the middle of winter! However, we soon put him straight. At some stage we worked out the source of his problem – he was lackadaisical!

According to the Oxford Dictionaries online, lackadaisical means ‘lacking enthusiasm and determination; carelessly lazy’. Maybe it was my friend’s lack of enthusiasm for dressing properly that got him the name! Whatever the case, though, I just loved the sound of this word. The fact that it was a bit odd and rarely used just added to the attraction.

I discovered my other favourite word courtesy of former Prime Minister Paul Keating. Way back in December 1993, Paul Keating provocatively labelled Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad as ‘recalcitrant’, sparking a diplomatic incident. The outraged response was perhaps not surprising given that ‘recalcitrant’ means “obstinately defiant of authority or restraint” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

It was the first time I can recall hearing the word and I enjoyed the sound of it as well as the reaction it caused. It’s not often in Australia that the use of a single unusual word gets such attention!

Now I need to assure you that not all my favourite words can be used as insults! Take, for example, the words ‘serendipity’ and ‘discombobulated’. According to Merriam-Webster, these two words are actually among the top 10 favourite words people have (placing number six and eight, respectively). The top place apparently goes to ‘defenestration’ – who would have thought? I don’t know what it means but the sound of it doesn’t do anything for me.

But what’s in a word? A lot of letters, a lot of sounds, a lot of meaning, and sometimes the odd piece of attitude.

Which words do you like? And what is their attraction? I’d love you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment on this post.