Words to Love: Words Wherever You Listen...
Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women and Jo’s Boys, once said,
“I like good strong words that mean something.”
Now, I quite agree with her. To parody Oscar Hammerstein II, Give me some words that are stout hearted words…
Today’s post, if the title didn’t already give this away, is all about words. These words are strong words and they do mean something. And, I think they should be used and often and by someone who knows how. Didn’t Rhett Butler say that? Oh, wait, he said kissed. You should be kissed and often and by someone who knows how. No matter, the sentiment applies.
Some of the most grandiose words can be found in the most humble places, such as Star Trek or a Clint Eastwood movie. Other times you’ll find them in books like Moby Dick, and if you don’t find stout-hearted words in Moby Dick, you’re not reading closely enough. (Okay. Okay. I’ll be honest. I let my husband find those words. When he comes across them, he shares them with me, and I delight in them without having to wade through the lugubriousness of Herman Melville’s prose.)
So, let’s begin, shall we?
An oblique hint, indirect suggestion; an allusive remark concerning a person or thing, esp. one of a depreciatory kind.
I first learned this word while watching George Cukor’s The Philadelphia Story, starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart. Tracy Samantha Lord (played by Hepburn), Philadelphia’s creme de la creme socialite, is about to walk down the aisle for a second time. Her first marriage to C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant) ended in divorce. However, Tracy doesn’t speak of that ignominy.
Dinah, her younger sister by many, many years, is simply percolating with curiosity. When she asks her mother whether Dexter really socked Tracy, Mrs. Lord tells her to go and wait in the car. However, being precocious and unquenchable, Dinah tries to wheedle the truth out of dear ole mum by saying: Well, the papers were simply full of e-nun-do.
Being a young girl myself, at the time, I was unfamiliar with the word innuendo, so I missed the humor in this scene. However, my father knew the word Dinah meant to say. He laughed, as the screenwriter intended. And once he laughed, I had to know what was so funny. That’s how I learned the word innuendo.
Flamboyant confidence of style or manner; dashing display; swagger; (more generally) flamboyance, style.
The first time I remember coming across this word was in the movie In the Line of Fire, starring Clint Eastwood, John Malkovich, and Rene Russo. Eastwood plays Frank Horrigan, Secret Service agent. Russo is his colleague, Lilly Raines. They are seeking out the nefarious Mitch Leary, played by Malkovich, who Frank believes intends to assassinate the President. No one else believes him, really. They consider him to be in his twilight years, and therefore, they simply coddle him. However, Frank seems to have a preternatural ability to anticipate Leary’s next movie. In one particular scene, Leary has called, issued a bevy of threats, and hung up. Everyone is nervous and wondering what to do next. Everyone, that is, except Frank. He insists Leary will call again.
And, in the middle of all that delightful flirting on film, I learned what the word panache means.
Skillful use of one’s hands when performing conjuring tricks; sleight of hand; (also) the performance of conjuring tricks using this skill. Also in extended use.
This one I just came across in the book I’m reading, The Whispering Room by Dean Koontz. However, while I may have read across it recently, I learned this word from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. While I cannot remember the exact location, and as a result, can give not context to its utterance, I have a distinct memory of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock saying these words:
I’ve quoted this one before on the blog (see post here). However, given my love for strong words, you can see why this would stick in my memory. Not only is legerdemain a wonderful word, but so is intrepidity. And, if you’ve been with Whiskers for any length of time, you’ll recall the posts I’ve done about being intrepid (see posts here, here, and here).
If you’re curious to see how Koontz used the word in his latest novel, here it is:
1. Having the nature or properties of oil; containing oil or an oily substance; oily, fatty, greasy.
2. Exaggeratedly and distastefully complimentary; obsequious, unctuous.
Being that my husband does work in the oil industry, I believe I came across this word while reading through one of the numerous articles regarding his profession. However, the second definition sort of throws a wrench in that theory. Armed with that definition, I can honestly say, I could have read that word anywhere. Regardless, I include it here because I think it’s simply fabulous.
Relating to or resembling Mephistopheles; demonic in appearance or nature; fiendish.
How many of you know your Faust? If you answer that you don’t, you shouldn’t feel bad. I know I read through it, but it was required reading, and as is the way with required reading, I read and promptly forgot. Mephistopheles is the name of the evil spirit to whom Faust sells his soul. My husband read me the word Mephistophelean the other day. He came across it in Moby Dick.
And, one last one. This one comes from Moby Dick, too. I include it here not only because it’s a fantastic word, but because its use happens in the middle of a fantastic allusion. (You all know how much I love allusions, right? If not, see posts here and here.)
The name of some aquatic animal (real or imaginary) of enormous size, frequently mentioned in Hebrew poetry.
Okay. I’ll be honest. Leviathanism isn’t a word in the dictionary. It’s a word derived from the word leviathan, which I defined above. However, in the context of Moby Dick, in the section titled cetology (that part of zoology which deals with whales), leviathanism works.
Can you tell me that allusion?
What are some strong words that you love to use?