August 19, 2004

What is wordlust?

I love words - I hoard them like candy, swallow them greedily. Each lozenge disolves slowly, sweet or sour, adding flavor to conversation. Perspicacious. Persnickety. Perfidy. Root words and their many, well, permutations. Why be pigheaded and bossy when you can be pervicacious and peremptory or obdurate and overbearing? Why would anyone use the word old when there are gems such as antediluvian and archaic?

For me, erudition is the essence of elegance, the apogee of appeal. Don’t talk to me, nattering on with flavorless speech. Woo me with a wealth of words. Excite me with expressiveness. Instead of imbuing the world with insipid idiom, saturate it with sensual self-expression.

Words have texture and flavor, they sustain the spirit. Consider, for instance, adamantine. Adamant is a rock; the adjective adamantine means hard, unyielding, unable to be moved or broken. I could describe a belief as firm but adamantine gives it texture. It conjures an image of a solid, squat rock that absolutely will not be changed by personal caprice or external pressure. Adamantine tastes like ice to me, a frozen cube that would probably hurt my teeth if I bit into it. A hint to leave it alone.

Why take a walk when you can saunter, promenade, meander, perambulate, amble, rove or perigrinate? These words are melted butter on the tongue, as warm and soft as they sound. Scuttle, dash, scurry and dart are spicier, more urgent, like a hint of jalapeño. Getting from place to place takes more than walking, it takes inspiration. Why yield to the cardboard and sawdust flavors of walk?

Foreign words that have been adopted (assumed, espoused, embraced, incorporated) by the English language add even more flavor and texture. Éminence grise. Per contra. Gestalt. Fanfaronade. They are menu items that draw one in with their glamour and exoticism: bechamel sauce, corriander seeds and dark, syrupy coffee.


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