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Sunday, November 10, 2019

Are Some Words Really Too Ugly To Use?


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Are some words just ugly sounding or do they reflect an ugliness about our world or humanity?  What if some words sound nasty and define some nasty stuff?  Meet Tyler Vendett, who has explored the English language’s gross side in a book, The Illustrated Compendium of Ugly English Words :  Including Phlegm, Chunky, Moist, and More.

So apparently there are words that are universally loved, according to the author, such as serendipity, imbroglio, and labyrinthine – and some that are dreaded, such as asinine, decrepit, hogwash, regurgitate and vermin.

A lot of this sounds arbitrary, but maybe there’s more agreement about words than we realize.  The author notes some words, by their definition, are ugly because they represent things we’d rather not associate with – barf, maggot, scab to name a few.  

Other words are bad because they’ve been used in a negative context and many people have a bad association with them. It could be that someone overused a word around you, perhaps at work, or someone mocked you in school using specific words that can’t be erased from memory.  Lastly, some words, just by their structure and letter usage, sound traumatic.

“According to phonaesthetics,” writes the author, “words with multiple syllables that contain smooth letters like L, R and M are more likely to be considered beautiful than single syllable words containing strong letters like F or K.  Certain letter combinations, especially those that force you to reach deep into your throat (like unk) or unwittingly, spit on your friends (like th) also detract from a word’s beauty.

The author believes one can come up with words that make us squirm, giggle nervously, or unite us in our despising of them.  Tyler has listed over 300+ cringe-worthy words.

The list includes some words you would not expect, such as meal or literally, but certainly you agree with malignant, leech, and gunk.  We understand the awkwardness posed by clammy, clump, and catheter, but why the outrage over spine, rural, or polyglot?

Some words chosen by the author really only make the list because they resemble other words that bring up x-rated or violent images.  For instance, the book includes masticate because it sounds like masturbate.  The author is so sensitive that panties, junk, and juice also top the list of ugly words.  Some words on the list are rarely heard today, including hornswoggle (bamboozle), guttle (greedily devour), and catawampus (destructive or askew).

Whether you agree with even a tenth of the words selected here, the book does give a good reason to relearn or learn anew several hundred words that could come in handy, negative baggage and all.  

Will the book leave you feeling our language is feted or corroded?  Or will, it help you see the pulchritude of English? You decide.


“Goodness does not more certainly make men happy than happiness makes them good.”

--Walter Savage Landor


“There is nothing in life except what one thinks of it.”

--Wallace Stevens


“What resembles nothing does not exist.”

--Paul Valery


“He who has overcome his fears will truly be free.”
--Aristotle


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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