September 28, 2007

Words that are just fun to say.

Posted in Personal, Poetry at 8:43 pm by Caleb Winn

I’ve been involved with speech and debate for a long time, and  over the years one learns a little bit about the flow of language. It’s not anything I’ve ever really studied or thought consciously about. Over time, one simply learns what works and what doesn’t.

The tone of prosaic speechmaking is very different than the exultant imagery of poetry or the rhythmic rhymes of hip hop, but there is still an amazing degree of nuance, of subconscious expression, that hides behind the words that we choose, the language that we use to breathe meaning into our methodical, asinine arguments. Some words are fun to say, and fun to listen to, and the trick lies in finding those words, those phrases, which express the substance without sacrificing style, so that the words are not mere vessels for communicating ideas, but are decadently decorated, flowing together so well that the argument itself is passively persuasive. 

There are some pretty simple tricks to this. Rhyming is fine, some of the time. Alliteration works wonders. Using rhetorical couplets and trios can be both useful and pretty; they grab the attention, misdirect the focus, and beautify the speech. Establishing a pattern and flow to speech increases the likelihood that the listener will have a generally positive impression, but decreases rational comprehension in order to do this. It can be very effective to vary one’s pace, veering off course to break the ice.

“We must never stand down! We must never surrender! We must never stop fighting! Act now.”

The dramatic effect of the repetitive rhetorical trio only heightens the impact of the culminating statement, which is unique in its structure, in its length, in its grammar (1st person plural declarative to 2nd person command), and should be verbally delivered at a different tone, speed, and volume, and possibly even separated by a short pause.

All of that to say, I often find myself walking down the street, mulling over catchy turns of phrase, and thinking about which words roll trippingly off the tongue. I suppose it’s a weird, nerdy habit, but I’m a rhetorician. It’s what I do.And today I decided that “co” words are fun, especially if they have a hard vowel (like “p”) along for the ride. “-ate” and “-ing” words are great when used in conjunction with like words, because they pseudo-rhyme without any real difficulty. (Mental note: rap would’ve been way easy in Ancient Rome.) And words that are archaic enough to be unusual, but not so much that they are unfamiliar, are great. Especially old violent words, for some reason. They become silly.

Here are some cool words: 




  1. eastofmina said,

    I enjoyed this post greatly 🙂

  2. Nick E. said,

    Ragamuffin, tomfoolery, serendipity, frolic, balderdash, lallygagging, loquaciousness, suave

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