Tag Archives: words

Notes of Meringue


I for one would like to harangue Trader Joe’s until they correct the spelling of meringue on their chardonnay.

Actually, I wouldn’t. I’m not one given to haranguing; I was just swept up in enthusiasm for the idea of juxtaposing words which end in the same sound spelled differently. More likely, as enchanting as “notes of lemon meringue” sound in a chardonnay, I’ll refuse to try it until this spelling travesty is corrected.


A Quote to Start October

I’m a big fan of the blog Letters of Note, described as “correspondence deserving of a wider audience” and curated by Shaun Usher. It’s a great place to while away some time reading other people’s stories. And there are so many great letters out there (some of my favorites: from F. Scott Fitzgerald, from John Steinbeck, from Harper Lee, from J. R. R. Tolkien).

Yesterday Letters of Note posted a letter written by Lafcadio Hearn to one of his editors, in which he rhapsodizes eloquently about the beauty of words. It’s too great not to share again.

For me words have colour, form, character; they have faces, ports, manners, gesticulations; they have moods, humours, eccentricities;—they have tints, tones, personalities…Surely I have never yet made, and never expect to make any money. Neither do I expect to write ever for the multitude. I write for beloved friends who can see colour in words, can smell the perfume of syllables in blossom, can be shocked with the fine elfish electricity of words.

May your October be full of syllables that blossom in perfume.

Words. I love them. That is all.

Last week, The New Yorker‘s Culture Desk launched a game show via social media, called Questioningly. The first question asked was:

“If you could eliminate a single word from the English language, what would it be? Reasons can vary—overuse, etymological confusion, aesthetic ugliness—and need not be explained. Simply propose a word…” (Read more here.)

I was a little disappointed that the first I’d heard of this contest was via my facebook feed today, when they announced the results. I thought Mr. Greenman’s post describing the contest results was quite funny, so I hope you’ll pop over and read it. And I didn’t love it only because he used the abbreviation “cf.” Or because of his defense of the word “actually”. Or because the “runaway un-favorite” was “moist”, a word that I and my friends have discussed at length for its grossness. I loved those parts, but I also loved it because people participated! People cared! People voted for their most-hated words!

I love words. I wanted to study literature and linguistics in college, but for a variety of too-boring-to-tell reasons, I didn’t even explore it once I got there. Still, I feel little thrills of joy when I’m reading and someone surprises me with their words.

But while I love words, I guess I don’t love all of them, because I definitely agreed with a number of the nominations. Fecund, phlegm and all forms thereof. Irregardless, which, when I discovered the article at work today, sparked much discussion and inspired a coworker’s vow to use the term as much as possible in the foreseeable future. It’s not a word. And to all people who use it as a word, I would just like to say, once and for all, that because it’s a double negative, I don’t think it means what you’re thinking it means.

Here are some words I would have nominated:

  1. puss: Every time I read this word in one of Barbara Pym’s novels, I consciously replace it in my head with kitty.
  2. remediate: Because people use this word with me all the time at work, when what they really mean is “remedy.”
  3. chuckle and any variations thereof: The New Yorker says I don’t need a reason.
  4. nugget: State Spelling Bee, circa 1993-ish. Plus, I just don’t like it.

What words would you have nominated?