The Wonderful World of Words
I remember an amusing conversation with my brother Bob. It would’ve been sometime in 1995, around the time of the second
sovereignty. The circumstance is vague, perhaps he was in Quebec Calgary
on business or I had run up to
for a weekend visit. Anyway, he described the separatist premier of our native
province as corpulent. I said something like, ‘Great word!’ Together we decided
that the bilious buffoon was porcine too. Edmonton
Bob went on to say that one of his very favourite words was anthrax: ‘Even if you have no idea what it is, you know it’s bad.’ And isn’t anthrax a nasty word? It’s ugly on paper, in cursive or typeset, no screen font can make it attractive, and it’s harsh to speak or hear. I’m dubious that a rose named anthrax would smell as sweet.
Some words are so aptly coined that they suggest their definitions. Others are not so transparent. I always need a moment to remind myself that hirsute simply means hairy and has nothing whatsoever to do with being particularly astute or incredibly intelligent. An interlocutor is not a murderous midnight rambling house-breaker, just curious, and a sinister questioner would be more of an inquisitor.
Friday night Ann and I hosted a houseful of young people who played board games around the dining room table. We sat at the kitchen counter playing tunes and Scrabble. We stayed up a little later than we normally do. The next morning as we prepared to scrub and gussy up the back porch and steps, no point showering, Ann allowed that she felt a little grotty. ‘What a great word!’ I said. I was feeling the same way but had been thinking: thick, dopey, slow. I’d forgotten such an evocative word as grotty.