July’s Ugly Word of the Month

Beauty, so the saying goes, is in the eye of the beholder. And my eye certainly beholds some words to be more beautiful than others.

Beautiful is, itself, a beautiful word. So too is umbriferous (providing shade).

And when a friend told me recently that she had been out shopping for girlish fripperies, I knew immediately that it must have been a pleasant experience. How could shopping for fripperies be anything but?

William Zinsser, a man whose knowledge of words is not to be sneezed at, recently suggested oscillate, lapidary, and filigree as some of the words that he finds pleasing. (And I don’t think he will mind if we read pleasing as a synonym for beautiful.)

Of course different folk have different criteria. According to a survey carried out by The British Council, the top five most beautiful English words among new learners of English are mother, passion, smile, love, and eternity. Passion and eternity I could just about vote for. The others … I’m not so sure about.

Epiphany, opulent and quintessential score well in some surveys. So do cinnamon, cashmere, and soliloquy.

And then somewhere near the other end of the scale, we have mondayising.

Fantasising and harmonising are quite pleasant words. Mondayising (carrying public holidays that fall on a weekend over to the following Monday) is not.

But, as clunky as mondayising is, there is worse to be found in one of the definitions of postmodernism. Here is that definition:

Postmodernism: a tendency in contemporary culture characterized by the problematization of objective truth.

I have no idea what that means. But I do know that problematization is one very ugly word. And I nominate problematization as July’s Ugly Word of the Month.

Which word would you nominate? – Jack Scrivano

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