Wednesday, May 31, 2006

a Plethora of Favorite Words

(part 1 in a series)

Back in the pre-founding days of Ahab, I had toyed with the idea of a blog simply entitled "Words, Words, Words..." or the like. It was to be in keeping with Hamlet's reference to Polonius of the "slanders" of a "satirical rogue" in Act II, Scene ii and rooted in a simple love for the power and beauty of the written word.

In seeking out a topic on which to write during this latest bout of inactivity, I came across, quite randomly, a blogger's listing of her 10 favorite words that begin with 'p'. It would seem as intriguing and enjoyable a challenge as any to form such lists for each letter, and so arrive at 260 or so nominees from which to pick the absolute best.

Into the breach, then. To begin, let's start with "p" as well:

1. Pyramid - Giza is one of two personal pilgrimages that absolutely must be made (the Great Wall as the other). The only one of the Seven Ancient Wonders that remains. Passing through London in 2000, the Egyptian Tourism advertisements welcomed prospective visitors to the country's 7th Millenium. "Man fears Time, yet Time fears the Pyramids." Perfect.

2. Panjandrum - With much thanks to its inventor, Samuel Foote, of Worchester College: "So she went into the garden to cut a cabbage-leaf to make an apple-pie; and at the same time a great she-bear, coming up the street, pops its head into the shop. “What! No soap?” So he died, and she very imprudently married the barber; and there were present the Picninnies, and the Joblillies, and the Garyulies, and the grand Panjandrum himself, with the little round button at top, and they all fell to playing the game of catch as catch can till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots."

3. Peculiar - Old Peculiar is perhaps (for my money) the only Halifax microbrew to really rival Rogue's Raspberry. Defined in one sense as "a privilege or property that is exclusively one's own" and in another as "beyond or deviating from the usual or expected". Excellent.

4. Palpable - Obvious. A classic word that's punchy, yet rolls from the tongue. "A hit! A very palpable hit!"

5. Patio - Summer has arrived, and there is no other place to be than basking in the sunshine with cool condensation running down the side of your (ever-replenishing) glass, ocean waves at your feet and dreams off on the horizon.

6. Possible - For politics is the so-called "art of the possible". Though everyone knows the famed Sherlock Holmes quote on eliminating the impossible to reveal improbable truths, perhaps more deserving of immorality is the Dirk Gently inversion because "we know very much about what is improbable, but very little about what is possible." It is an ever-expanding word.

7. Penchant - As in "a strong inclination for". Will always associate it with having a "penchant" for exploration, after hearing it associated in that context on an episode of Voyager. One must allow for the unexpected discovery.

8. Pseudonym - The only one I'll steal from our first blogger's original list. An oft-used ruse when on the razzle, we have played many roles - from Nigel to Steve - over the years. Looking forward to the next creation...

9. Penultimate - A word employed at an alarming (yet accurate) frequency by Czech friend Vaclav Potesil in conversation. The second last time, imbued as it is not with all the extra ceremony of things final, is so often the sweetest.

10. Paradox - The grandest 'p' word of them all. I'll let Jung and Kierkegaard take it away.

Carl Gustav: "...only the paradox comes anywhere near to comprehending the fullness of life. Non-ambiguity and non-contradiction are one-sided, and thus, not suited to express the incomprehensible."

Soren: "One should not think slightingly of the paradoxical, for the paradox is the source of the thinker's passion, and the thinker without a paradox is like a lover without a feeling: a paltry mediocrity... The supreme paradox of all thought is the attempt to discover something that thought cannot think."

Some time next week we'll take a crack at another letter. Oh, the suspense! And perhaps there will be fewer three-syllable victors.


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