All words are pegs to hang ideas on.
– Henry Ward Beecher
And some words certainly carry a hefty load of ideas! For example, the word “love” can be interchanged with the words “compassion”, “romance”, “friendship”, and “affection”, to name but a few. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Other words are more simply defined. Some are fun to say and tickle the ear, too. No one seems to remember from when or where they came to be, but somehow they find their way into our vocabulary. Recently a few of these words popped up at our house:
This is a favorite word of one of my students, and I have to admit that I like it, too. The combination of consonants feels like popcorn in my mouth. I love the texture and snap of it. Especially the “snick” part of the word. It reminds me of “snicker” and “sneaky” and “knickers”.
When River (who is 3 now!) came to visit, Pop-pop used “persnickety” in describing her newly acquired picky eating. Food she has enjoyed eating as recently as one week ago is now yucky, for whatever reason. Always excited to see her mind at work, I asked River what she thought “persnickety” means. She considered for a moment and replied, “Smelly, something [that] smells bad.”
meaning: fussy about small details. (first used around 1915)
This is a word that came up a couple weeks ago when family was visiting. The question was whether the word was “fussbudget” or “fussbucket”. Thankfully, a dictionary (hard copy or virtual) is always at my fingertips and this debate was put to a rest.
After asking River about “persnickety”, I picked her brain again and asked her what kind of person would be a “fussbudget”. Her take: a mean one.
meaning: one who fusses or is fussy about trifles. (first used around 1904)
We were traveling recently through New York state and I saw a highway sign for Hardscrabble Road. “Hardscrabble” sounded like something rough or tough to me. Or maybe like a particularly challenging game of Scrabble.
Doing some research, I learned that Hardscrabble Road is located in Chappaqua, which must be a rather nice place to live, judging by the long list of notable (and well-to-do) past and present residents (does the name Clinton sound familiar?)