Saturday, November 01, 2008

more than anything i hate golf

People like – or dislike – words for the way they sound or the associations they conjure, but some are also influenced by the way a word looks.

For example, many find something humorous about the letter k.

Pickle. Dunk. Monkey. Kalamazoo. Yank.

Funniest is the initial silent k, as in knackwrust or knuckle. What is so funny about that? I don’t know, but there’s an air of stupidity about it, no? To get really stupid, when someone wants to make a joke of his shop, he screws the spelling to include k: Kwik Kleaners or Kute Gifts. Poor k!

I like a doubled vowel, as in leer and deep. Even better than the double e is double o. To some extent, it’s also funny. Think of the word tube. It’s not funny. But the word loop is. Since tube and loop have the same vowel, it’s not sound here, it’s spelling. Other double o’s are also funny, like doodle, toot, boob, poodle and oodles. And why is cartoon not cartune? Because!

You’d think double o words were formed for the sake of a laugh. But there’s another class of double o words that ooze of mystery and have nothing funny about them. Think room. Such a big little word. Also smooth and broom and groom. Cocoon. Soundwise, it helps if the double o is followed by a vocalized consonant. But it isn’t absolutely necessary. I find a weird spaciousness also in root and soot, for example, and soot isn’t even pronounced with the long /u/.

Somewhere the buried knowledge of how the word is spelled affects me even when I’m neither reading nor writing it. As much as I dig root, route leaves me lukewarm. And while I like June, pursuit, newt and chute, they’d be different altogether with a double o.

One might say it’s only because the double o looks so cool. But that’s not it entirely. Also leer is more interesting than, say, near. Wheel is more intriguing than weal, and between would beat betwene, even though there’s something sweet about the latter. Dopey and sweet.


LKD said...

I've been mulling over your post ever since I read it yesterday.

I keep wondering WHY words are spelled the way they're spelled.

I keep wondering if "mean" would seem less mean if it was spelled "meen" or if "fear" would seem silly if spelled "feer."

I love the word spleen. And spool. And creel. And drool.

And swoon. How I love the word swoon.

(incidentally, my word verification is "sware;" I sware. I swear it's troo.)

s. thomas summers said...

According to old JRR, golf was invented when a goblin king lost his head in battle - it rolled into a hole.

Valerie Loveland said...

I think of Q as a platypus of letters--weird and cute.

SarahJane said...

I feel the same about the Q. It's trying so hard to look proper. But it gets drooly.

Maggie May said...

i love your thoughts on this. i obsess over words this way. the sounds, the spellings, the meanings, the way they affect me for reasons i can't explain and go looking for. i have a thing for L words- i love them.(hence my daughter's name Lola)

SarahJane said...

Lola is such a nice name.
I named my daughter Luisa largely because I wanted to call her Lulu. Which I do. Though I love Luisa, too.

LKD said...

Why didn't you name her Lulu?

I love the name Lola.

When I was little, my little brother had trouble pronouncing my name and would call me Lolo.

(my word verification is "fastsuc."

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