Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Use your words

After rereading my last post I was painfully aware of the fact that I used the word "cute" no less than five times. Five times! True, it was used in reference to my daughter and her various hair styles, but over used nonetheless. At the very least I could have substituted "adorable", "pretty", and maybe even "attractive" for the word cute. I could have gone as far as to use "fetching", "precious", or "delightful" instead.

(Okay, maybe not delightful. I never use the word delightful without a touch of irony or sarcasm. I mean, c'mon. Delightful? Pssh. Can anyone who isn't over the age of 65 with a British accent use that word without a wink and a smile?)

But I didn't use any of those words. I used "cute". I used "cute" five times. I will now flog myself with a large, hardcover thesaurus.

I'd like to use the excuse of it was late and I was tired. I could even go as far as to blame my oversight on a loss of brain cells after childbirth, but Chicky Baby is 16 months old and that excuse is wearing a little thin. I don't have a good reason why I overused a painfully cliche word while telling a story about a toddler and I am very disappointed with myself.

Because I love words.

I love to use the word "perhaps" when I could just as easily say "maybe" or "fortuitous" when I could have used "fortunate". I love how the words "succulent" and "delectable" feel on my tongue. And words such as "ecstastic", "bliss", "mirth" and "jubilant" make me, well, they make me really happy. Or maybe I should say "convivial".

I enjoy words that when said bring to mind the thought of something completely different than the intended definition. Like 'acquiesce', for instance. When I think of the word I imagine crisp, icy water from a spring when I know it actually means "To consent or comply passively or without protest." Although, I am equally fond of words that sound exactly how the mean: 'Calm' is such a peaceful word, invoking images of soft, white clouds and warm breezes and 'Ruckus' is so rowdy and ready for a fight.

These days my hours are filled with phrases like "That's a cat. Kuh-ah-tuh. The cat says meow," to my daughter who has little desire at this time to use her words. That's not to say that I talk down to her. To help her give meaning to her burgeoning store of emotions I don't just tell her that it's okay to get mad sometimes, I tell her that it's okay to be "angry" and "frustrated". But she is 16 months so my daily working vocabulary is full of descriptive words like 'yellow', and 'big', and 'square'.

And speaking of work, my time at work is spent teaching people to strip their language down to the simplest of terms when training their dogs. Don't tell your dog to 'sit down', I instruct them. That's two separate commands and your dog is confused by what you want from them. Do you want them to 'sit' or 'down'? Keep it simple and to the point. Consequently I find myself speaking in simple terms to the owners. "Yes! You're doing a good job with your pet. Keep up the good work." Lots of positive, simple words. Good. Yes. Nice. It's not all that different from my other, full-time job: dealing with a toddler.

So maybe (perhaps) I've become a bit complacent in the vocabulary department. I don't spend my days talking with adults, using adult words. If the tv is on in my home during daylight hours it's usually tuned to Sesame Street and though my Spanish is getting much better (I have no ear for languages) it's not helping to remind me to work "sesquipedalian" into conversation.

All this drivel was to apologize (mainly to myself if you want to know the truth) for overusing the word "cute". I'll have to add that to my short list of words that I try not to use in conversation, like "nice", "delightful", "perm" and "George W. Bush". Which means that I'll soon run out of words to describe my kid because, let's face it, I think she's pretty cute precious.

What's the word for a woman who thinks the moon rises and sets over her child and is convinced that toddler is the cutest most beautiful one to ever walk the earth?

Oh, yeah. "Mother".

Don't need a thesaurus for that one.


kittenpie said...

I've just been contemplating words a bit in my attempt to respond to HBM's call to try to describe or talk about your love for your child and the way it can feel like a physical pull on you.

I too love words that feel good in your mouth, roll together like lovers in bed, or perfectly capture what they represent. I love adjectives, and in fact I am about to post something that will include this little nugget - perhaps my favourite word, I love a word that describes words that describe - evocative. ahhhh...

sunshine scribe said...

I can't possibly be as eloquent as Kittenpie in my comment. I will try my best not to use "cute" more than once though.

I hear you on this. My son is at the stage where he demands the definition of every word he hasn't heard before and I actually find myself sometimes simplifying my speech when I am tired of the onslaught of questions just to avoid it. I know - bad, bad mommy.

I love words too...hydrangea, indulgence, suds, nourishing ... and sometimes even cute :)

Mother said...

I love words too, but I'm not that great with using the bigones.

I heard Mom-101 say "bucolic" at Blogher and I almost fell over.

That's like $10 word right there.

Blog Antagonist said...

OOOOOH! A fellow word lover. Do you know, that I have been made fun of for using unusual words? Yes, someone was once even behooved (could have said inspired, but I fricken love the word behooved)to write a quite lengthy blog post about it. But I don't care. I love language, I love words. I scorn people who settle for bland uninteresting words when there are so many rich and wonderful words at our disposal.

I loved Kittenpie's description. It was so very apt. Words that work well together do share an uncommon intimacy with their reader, much like her lovers analogy.

That happens to all of us. We become complacent and we adapt to the monosyllabic world around us. That is why I was so happy to start writing again. It forced me to reclaim my voice and use delicious words again.

You write pretty and I think you use words real good. ;?)

bubandpie said...

I love this post. I've been thinking about this issue ever since I put my blog through the readability test and came out at "Entirely Unreadable With Too Many Big Words and Ridiculously Long Sentences". (31 words there! In one sentence! About how ridiculously long my sentences are!)

I blame Mr. Maurice, my high school drama teacher who liked to give directions like these: "The characters in this scene aren't to be at all lugubrious" or "I know you're all very gregarious, but try to keep the noise down backstage!"

radioactive girl said...

I absolutely adore words. When I hear one I like I repeat it over and over (in my head). My son is two and shocked his doctor when he said "you are not being very kind to me. Please remove your hand from my kneecap." I think the doctor almost fell over. I guess it helps that I have 3 older kids that teach him older kid type things....and also that his head is big enough to hold his gigantic brain!

Mom101 said...

I am a word nerd too. I can't tell you how many fights (battles? debates? arguments?) I've had at work trying to assure someone that connotation plays a part in our understanding of language, that big is not the same as epic; that good is not the same as delicious.

Sigh. You and me against the world, kid. But I can't help you with the dog world.

penelopeto said...

love this post.
i'm a copywriter for a record company that produces (among other things) relaxation music, and i often joke that half my job is coming up with synonyms for the word 'tranquil'. of course, now that i am a mom too, i spend the rest of my days trying to coerce single-syllable words out of my daughter's mouth - often 3 at a time (say 'i love you!').

but what really got me about your post - is 16 months REALLY a toddler?! omg. i am not ready for bumblebee to be a toddler!!

metro mama said...

This is partly a product of having so little time to think about all of these lovely words at our fingertips.

I think I overuse the word lovely.

Christina said...

Lovely post, and yes, "lovely" is one of my favorite words.

I've re-read many of my posts and thought, "God, I sound like a 10th grader!" Having a child has lowered my vocabulary, but I'm using blogging to try to build it back up.

And I know I'm guilty of using "cute" too much, too.

mothergoosemouse said...

Hmmmph. Kyle says "delightful". It sounds a little goofy when he does, but mostly cute.

Dammit, there's that "cute" word again. So all-purpose, we can't help but use it.

Mommy off the Record said...

Well, considering that when I ran that little word checker thingy on my blog (after reading Mom 101's post) and found out that I am writing at a THIRD grade reading level, I can honestly say that "I hear ya" on this one.

Oh, and cute post!

mo-wo said...

I will support your concerns about overusing cute. My daughter was all about her cuteness last month and I have curtailed its use for her sake.

Now she identifies herself regularly as a rascal and/or a PERSON.. today she told me she's gorgeous isn't that great?

Mama of 2 said...

I know when I am working on a fiction story....I do my best to come up with different words I use the thesaurus a great deal then. But for my blog honestly I can't say if I have ever even paid attention to the words that I use there. Bad writer of me huh? I better start paying more attention to those things.

I love your blog's always fun to come here and read your take on things.

CPA Mom said...

Oohh, I love words too. I get a word a day sent to me by

Here is a new one, that my boss called me so I had to go look it up:

OBSTREPEROUS (ob-strep' er-es)
1. Noisily and aggressively defiant
2. loud and unruly: boisterous

Great word. I'll try to live up to it.

julia said...

Oh, I love obstreperous. Cantakerous is another good one, one that sounds like its meaning.

Sesquipedalian tops my list, though. That and schadenfreude. But then, I'm the woman who wants the complete, unabridged edition of the OED. And a bookcase in which to house it.

julia - word geek.

CPA Mom said...

the link for getting the word a day.

deb said...

damn. that's it in a nutshellf for me, too. vocab, shmocab.

sigh. pass me the cheerios and gin, will ya?

Waya said...

I have to consult every time I write a post. Since English is not my first language, I wish I can be as colorful or more descriptive in my writing. But I guess, like mommy's braincells are diminishing by the days that I'm home with my 3 children. I'm committing myself to learning new words every day with the help of a dictionary.

mrsmogul said...

Well what about "that's hot" , the most overused term ever the past year!

Heather said...

The word 'facetious' has always been a favorite of mine. I don't know why! I just like it.
Don't worry about overusing the word 'cute'. Your daughter is totally cute! See....I've already used it twice!

Her Bad Mother said...

I loves me the words. LOVES 'EM.

Like Gollum with the Ring. PRESHUS weeeerds.

But I am living in the fog of a perpetual brainfart and, um, lose my verbal way, like, all the time...


Mamacita Tina said...

Ok, I have to admit it, I need to look up some word definitions there. I really need to listen/watch something other than PBS.

Mamacita Tina said...

Let me rephrase that...PBS Kids...PBS would of course enhance my vocabulary.

Jenny said...

I Lurv the word jubilant. It sounds like such a happy word and also reminds me instantly of dessert.


This post was "cute".


something blue said...

Succulent and delectable do roll off the tongue. Yummilicious! I like my own words. If only I could write my own dictionary, I would fool some into thinking I'm a wee bit of an intellect. Trickery I tell you.

Chicky Baby is cute beyond words.

wendy boucher said...

I love this post as much as I too adore words. Funny you should mention the word "delightful." We took Girlie to a baseball game last night and on the way home she said, "The feel of cotton candy in the back of your throat is not too delightful." I swear.

By the way, sometimes "cute" is simply the most appropriate word when talking about one's child.

Nancy said...

One of the reasons I enjoy my blog so much is that it gives me a chance to use some of the descriptive words I don't get to use enough in daily life (with toddlers it's always, "Rosie! Don't climb on that please!" and with Mimi it's "Did you remember to wash your hands?" At work now it's all technical and/or legalese terms. No fun in those words at all! At least on Mom Ma'am Me I can try to keep my vocabulary semi-sharp.