Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Negative words that give me positive feelings

Seems like bad things get a lot of the good words:

  • Debacle
  • Debris
  • Devastate 
  • Destroy
  • Destitution
  • Catastrophe
  • Calamity
  • Annihilate 
  • Pillory
  • Misery
  • Lambaste
  • Crippling
  • Harrowing
  • Slain
  • Smite
  • Bereft
  • Perish
  • Banishéd 
  • Perfidious 
  • Flotsam
  • Jetsam
  • Wreck
  • Ruin
Man, I love all these words. Even just plain old to suffer. To admit that I suffer gives me a frisson. Maybe it's by design, to ease the pain of existence.


  1. I always want to read debris as a verb meaning "uncircumcise."

  2. Devastated/shattered/gutted are pet peeves because they've been overused into meaninglessness. In one book, the narrator was shattered by the death of her mother, fifty pages later she was shattered by the taste of a cheeseburger because she was really hungry. I read a book review where the reviewer said, "At first I was gutted, but then..." as if being gutted is a temporary, transient thing. (It's not. Ask a fish.)

    Hurricanes, earthquakes, wars, death, diseases can be devastating. Maybe sometimes relationships. Songs, movies, and books, even the best, most moving ones, are not.

    It's like that C.S. Lewis quote about "infinite". If you keep using infinite to mean merely "very big", then when you encounter the truly infinite, you've run out of words.

    1. Part of why I like these words is that they are usually overstatements, hence comical. Shattered I love too! Same effect. Shattered by anything is usually at least partially funny.

    2. There is pleasure to be had in dramatizing. Spoonful of sugar, and all.

  3. Eviscerate













    Not to mention the most beautiful phrase in legal terminology: malice aforethought.

    1. I also like torturous and tortured, as in, "He looked tortured."

    2. There's also "tortuous," i.e. having lots of twists and turns, such as a path through difficult terrain. All three of these words make me think of "treacherous," which may or may not have anything to do with any of them other than the similar sounds. though I suppose a tortuous path could be a treacherous one.

    3. Okay, now I just saw David Grove's comment about "tortuous" below. So I've committed redundancy (but not treachery or tortuousness, maybe).

  4. & tortuous. I used to write kind of Gothick stuff that usually had "tortuous trees" in it. You know that character in Fear of Flying who put "paroxysm of passion" in all of his stories? I was like that with tortuous trees.

    1. The Tortuous Trees is still kind of a good name for a poetry book ... or at least a fantasy series.

    2. "The Tortuous Trees" sounds to me like the title of a children's book. The movie would feature the screen premier of some new bright-rising-star child actor. And probably a dog. There would be three kids featured in the adventure. The dog's name would either be Skip or Maddie.

      The mysterious old man who comes and goes from somewhere within the tortuous trees would be played by Alan Rickman.

  5. Drivel

    So many good D words!

    1. How about despicable?
      Where do you put the accent in that? I just thought of this old Samuel Fuller movie--not Shock Corridor, something else--in which a stripper says "despicable" with an accent on the first syllable. An anglophilic pronunciation (cf. PAtina, LAmentable, & EXquisite). Is she slumming? An upper-crust girl doing research for a doctoral thesis on stripping?

    2. Definitely second. I also half the time put the emphasis on the second syllable of palatable, which apparently is wrong.

  6. Whenever I get into one of my occasional "I wonder if I should have written comic books?" moods, a phrase that always comes to mind, in no specific story or character context, is "and bring down doom."

    I guess it would either be spoken by the supremely evil villian who's trying to rule and/or destroy the world, or, maybe, by a mad prophet character who's warning the heroes to stop the villian at all costs, or else...

  7. At the opposite end of the word spectrum, a couple of overused overstatement words I get totally sick of are "awesome" and "incredible." And I guess "totally" would also go on the list. And "amazing."

    A new restaurant might be enjoyable and have good food, but it's not amazing, not unless you sit at tables mounted on the backs of elephants and the food is served by trained dancing whales.

    "I'm totally going to the party Friday night" doesn't really mean anything different from "I'm going to the party Friday night." You're going or you're not.

    Years ago I went a couple of times to the Port Townsend [Washington] Writers' Conference. The conference takes place at Fort Worden State Park at the edge of the town, a former military fort with many of the buildings still standing. Conference attendees are housed in a building that was previously a dormitory for the families of army officers.

    Once, on the first day of the conference, as people were showing up and carrying their stuff into the dorm, I was sitting on the steps outside, and a woman was coming up to the building with her arms full of a couple of large bundles. She asked me if I could hold the door for her, and I got up and opened the door, and as I did this, she said "That'd be incredible."

    Okay, holding the door open for someone whose hands are full is a nice and helpful thing to do -- but it's not incredible. Halley's comet flying through your living room is incredible. Extraterrestrials landing in your front yard is incredible (and probably awesome, and amazing).

    That kind of silliness is just decrepit.

    (I like the onomatopoeic quality of "decrepit" -- the sharp clipped sounds that sound like you're spitting the word.)

    1. "I'm totally going to the party" means "I'm going to the party ... with gusto!" (not grudgingly) :)

      Superlative inflation is definitely a thing, but I'm as guilty of it as most people, at least in speech.