Now I just bet there’s a lot of competition for this one. Go on, before I get into my rant proper, have a think. What do you think it is? What’s that one word that makes you cringe when you read it in an otherwise perfectly laudable paragraph, or the one that makes you want to use mouthwash after you say it? What’s the word that makes your stomach lurch?
…No, not that word. Honestly. Filthy, filthy minds you all have. Get your head out of the Bumper Book Of Anglo-Saxon Invective and back on the game.
Here’s a few of the usual suspects for you to consider:
- Nice (a pappy word. It’s the one you use when all other adjectives seem far too luxurious. Calling those biscuits “Nice” biscuits can’t have been an accident. They are nice. But that’s it. Nice. They’re not fantastic, like chocolate HobNobs.)
- Squidgey (onomatopoeic, but urrgh and just looks wrong written down)
- Throbbing (yes, I’m looking at you, readers of Fifty Shades of Grey – a series, incidentally, I can neither condemn nor comment upon, as I have not read it and do not intend to. Somehow I don’t think I’m the target audience.)
But this isn’t entirely what I’m on about here – Words, as I’ve mentioned previously, are in themselves neither intrinsically good or intrinsically bad. They’re just words. It’s the emotional spin we as writers, readers or speakers of the language put on them that counts. We have expectations, preconceptions of words, and by association, the people who use them. Do you, for example, find certain accents give you a preconception of what that person is like?
For myself, I will admit that I have an excrutiatingly RP English accent. The Royal Family could hire me to answer their phones. This rather tends to give people the impression that I can only actually swear in parentheses, if at all, and that I might break out in a rash if exposed to Poundland. It makes for some fantastic facial expressions when these people actually spend real time in my company, particularly if I’m in the company of a bottle of rum.
But back to that worst word. Have you thought of yours? It’ll be personal, trust me. I knew someone once (who probably, with my more grown-up knowledge, bordered on synesthetic) who couldn’t abide the word “chalk” because to her just saying it made her feel as if she was biting into a fist-sized lump of the stuff. Tell me about your worst word, because I’m very interested to hear it. And indeed its polar opposite, your favourite word.
Now, the title of this post promised you the worst word in the English language and I wouldn’t want to let you down, so here’s mine to be going on with: “helpless”. You may draw your own conclusions, based on the rest of this rant, as to why it’s my choice.
Addendum: Incidentally, my protracted lack of sharing anything creative lately has been due to Job. (Not the one in the Bible. He had a hard enough time of it as it was, without my blaming him for anything several hundred years later).