Tuesday, April 03, 2007

BLOG CHALLENGE: favorite words

When I was a junior in high school, I signed up for Chemistry because my best friend was taking it, and also because I wanted to impress a certain guy whose favorite class had been Chemistry the year before.

I didn't learn just a whole lot about chemistry that year. I still remember the oddballs on the periodic table (Ag=silver, Au=gold, Fe=iron, K=potassium), but aside from that, nada.

My teacher was Dr. Bergren, and she was a very short Cuban woman with Dr. Ruth Westheimer's voice. I loved listening to her talk, which came in handy, because that's all she did. And not usually about chemistry. She was infamous at GHS for being the easiest teacher ever to get off subject. We had a blast bringing up controversial subjects that we knew would veer us off the Chemistry path for an hour. For instance, a mention of Fidel Castro would send her careening headlong into a lecture about the evils of Communism. It was great fun at the time, because it got us out of having to do a lab or take a quiz or whatever else was on the day's schedule. But it always came back to bite us in the end, because whether or not we covered the material in class, Dr. Bergren always included it on the tests anyway. I didn't do very well in Chemistry.

English is where I excelled. I was, and AM, a word nerd. I write because I like to. Nay, because I NEED to. I read because I feel imcomplete if I don't. Some people do Sudoku puzzles; I'd rather diagram sentences.

And so it's funny to me that the one thing I learned in Chemistry (besides the periodic table) was a word: serendipity.

I have no recollection of WHY she taught us that word, but one day Dr. Bergren went off on a tangent, and said, "Class. Do you know what serendipity is? It's when you see the rainbow, and you determine to find the end of it, and when you DO, there's a pot of gold waiting for you! That's serendipity."

I've loved that word ever since. Truly, it's on the short list of my favorites. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that when the movie "Serendipity" came out in the 90s, I was sorta dismayed that my word would be so widely known now.

I live a serendipitous life. I think it goes hand in hand with grace, actually. Love God, and get way more than what you deserve in return. Love people, and discover the proverbial pot of gold you didn't know they were holding for you. Wait, no. The proverbial pot of Au. heh.

The other words on my short list?
Gregarious. In my Senior English class, we had a weekly list of vocabulary words, and we had to write sentences on the chalkboard using the word we were assigned. I'll never forget seeing "Stacy is the most gregarious person I know" written there in scratchy boy-print. I took it as the highest compliment.

Pulchritudinous. A year or so ago on this blog, I asked readers to describe me in one word. This is the word Darren chose. I had to look up its meaning.

Facetious. I think of it is a playful form of sarcasm. While sarcasm is sometimes cruel and biting, facetiousness is almost always light-hearted and fun. Besides that, it's just a cool word. I love to say it out loud. And it's even more fun to spell -the vowels all go in order from A to U.

Plethora. I learned this word in 1986, from one of my all-time favorite movies, "The Three Amigos".

Jefe:We have many beautiful pinatas for your birthday celebration, each one filled with little surprises!
El Guapo: How many pinatas?
Jefe: Many pinatas, many!
El Guapo: Jefe, would you say I have a plethora of pinatas? Jefe: A what?
El Guapo: A *plethora*.
Jefe: Oh yes, El Guapo. You have a plethora.
El Guapo: Jefe, what is a plethora?
Jefe: Why, El Guapo?
El Guapo: Well, you just told me that I had a plethora, and I would just like to know if you know what it means to have a plethora. I would not like to think that someone would tell someone else he has a plethora, and then find out that that person has *no idea* what it means to have a plethora.
Jefe: El Guapo, I know that I, Jefe, do not have your superior intellect and education, but could it be that once again, you are angry at something else, and are looking to take it out on me?

I have a plethora of favorite words, but I'll spare you the rest.
What are some of yours?

the challenge:
What is your favorite word?Maybe you just like the way it rolls off your tongue.Maybe it's funny to you for some reason.Perhaps its meaning gives it a place of honor on your word list.Maybe you like it because of the circumstances that surrounded you learning it.Thing about words.What are your favorites, and why?


ArlaMo said...

As soon as I saw the subject of your post today, the word "serendipitous" popped in my head. And then, dagnabit, Stacy, you stole my word! My favorite word of all time!

Thanks for the reminder, because I, too, live a serendipitous life.


tz said...

I love reading your posts! I've been lurking here off and on for awhile. My BA was in English and it's so great to come across a word that has a great meaning and just feels good to say, I mean, physicaly feels good to say. Thanks for always coming up with some witty and thoughtful posts, it's been a joy to read.

Dawn said...

I don't really have a favorite word...I'm one of those who would rather do sudoku puzzles or even balance chemical equations. If I had to pick one it is probably serendipity. When I hear it, especially from you, I think of Ian's title page because I too now have a sernendipitous child, Bennett. I'm stealing that idea by the way when I get to doing the title page in Ben's book. Thanks!


Darren said...

If you like "facetious", then you should like "abstemious" too! Well, maybe not after you look up the meaning...

DKelly said...

Ooh. . LOTS of favorite words. I'll have to ponder this one.

But as usual, I love your blog entry. It's always clever and entertaining and paints a word picture for the mind's eye that brings a chuckle to my tummy.


Martha said...

OMG: Imagine my surprise finding my favorite word on your list...plethora and like you, I equate it to Three Amigos. Hubby introduced it to me...and it is such a cool word to say and use.

nesa scraps said...

okay, so i now have that scene and many others from "Three Amigo's" stuck in my head. I was an English "nerd" as well, i love the written word, and have an OCD issue with words having to not only be spelled right, but pronounced and used correctly!

and we both went to a school whose initials are GHS. LOL

Amy said...

Everytime I read your blogs I find myself marveling more and more about all our similarities! I love to write and love words also. I love the word Discombobulated, don't know why but I always have. I think it's just because it's fun to say and I like to challenge myself to try to find uses for it whenever I can. My other favorite word is whimsical, what could be better then to be whimsical? Ok off to work, another day another dollar! I love to start my mornings off by reading your blog, sets a good tone for my day!

Anonymous said...

OMG! I can't believe this is your challenge for the week. I'm a word hog!!! I don't have a favorite word, but all my life I've loved to read. One of my favorite things since, oh--I can't remember when, is to get the Reader's Digest and go thru the "It Pays to Enrich your Vocabulary". I love, love, love that part of Reader's Digest. One word I've learned to love from the board is OMFSM--I guess it's not one word but a bunch, but I love them!

What a great challenge this week.

CMSheriTX said...

Just catching up on your blog Stacy. My favorite word is and always has been "flight". There is something so ethereal about this word. It brings to my mind thoughts of weightlessness, adventure, exploration and that stomach dipping feeling of leaving this earth to soar across the sky. Strange, I know. But if you know me, it fits.