Self Incrimination

I am a logophile, a lover of words.

Over the summer, when I worked in Corporate America, it immediately became clear that I had no natural inclination toward understanding concepts of acquisition or materiality, nor did I particularly care about the status of the three-year-old listings or the Restricted List. But in Corporate America, appearance seems to be half the job. Dad always told me, “at least look like you’re interested.” But I am a horrible liar. There was little else in the world that bored me more than the goings-on of the 28th floor of The Behemoth (as I soon began to call it).

A job is a job, however, and one must do her best to maintain a good reputation among her co-workers, lest she suffer the doom of unemployment.

It was a couple of weeks into the summer, after I’d exhausted my interest in Wikipedia articles about everything, that I stumbled upon Merriamwebster.com. What a godsend.

Merriamwebster.com is the ultimate (albeit hidden) venue for the intellectual side of pop culture. It is on this site that you can find a list of the most trendy words, those that made appearances in places like the New York Times and the Hunger Games and the latest Katy Perry song and even Words With Friends. They give you the definition, the context in which it was used, and the etymology of the word.

Or, if that doesn’t strike your fancy, you can always explore the Top Ten Lists. You’ll find lists of our favorite foreign words (kerfuffle, chutzpah, juggernaut…), lists of the top ten rare and amusing insults (cockalorum, lickspittle, snollygoster, ninnyhammer…), lists of top ten charming words for nasty people (scalawag, rapscallion, scapegrace, scamp…)… just let it be known that there are a lot of lists.

And then sometimes, you can start picking out patterns. Like, scalawag, rapscallion, scapegrace, scamp, rascal– these all share the letters “sca,” which leads me to wonder what “sca” means. So I looked it up on in the dictionary of etymology. And to be honest, I found nothing for this particular case. But that’s not to say it never happens. And when it does, I get really happy.

Did you know, by the way, that there is a word for Type 3 Fun? It’s schadenfreude. And for those of you who do not follow, Type 1 Fun is just normal fun, Type 2 Fun is fun looking back on it, and Type 3 Fun is fun at someone else’s expense.

There is also a Word of the Day. And this is where I must incriminate myself as an even huger dork than you already think I am. I really like words. I really hated my job. I needed to look like I was doing something productive with my time. So I made a hefty stack of flashcards. And besides the flashcards, I made my own lists, four of them: Words of the Day, Prettiest Words, Ugliest Words, and Fun British Words– and I printed them out and taped them on the walls of my cubicle.

And let me tell you, my bosses loved it. They thought my lists were the greatest things, and they thought I was a genius. They would introduce me as “Rachel, she made flashcards for words!” They loved that I was so motivated, that I was taking it upon myself to learn these words.

Why do I tell you this?

Because over the last few days, I’ve been noticing words and outwardly appreciating them, and my flatmates have noticed that I really like words. Over the last week, I’ve been told, “you really do like words,” maybe three or four times. And you know what? It’s awesome. I think that if only other people would look through merriamwebster.com and choose a couple favorite words, we would have vastly more interesting conversations.

So, intellects of the world, I impel you to explore merriamwebster.com. Try it on a rainy day when there’s nothing else to do. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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