Friday, April 6, 2012

Word Bird

My first professional job was writing press releases for UF. If you read a newspaper story in the early '90s that started "GAINESVILLE (AP) Researchers at the University of Florida have ...," there's a chance it was one of mine.

The job was great, even though I was only making about 5 bucks an hour and was never going to get hired full-time. I got to interview a lot of interesting people, heard some amazing stories, and it was a step into the professional world. For instance, I learned it was probably better to shave and wear a button-down shirt instead of a ratty Antiseen t-shirt when conducting interviews with department heads. Hey, I thought it was going to be a phone interview.

I would interview a professor, write up my story, run it past my editor, make corrections, then send it back to the interview subject for approval and more corrections. This was usually fairly simple. I did have a business professor tell me my story sucked once because I had the gall to interrupt his golden quotes with AP style ledes and summary paragraphs. I hope that guy got busted for insider trading.

But for the most part, the professors were cool - they wanted to get published and so did I. They would occasionally suggest different wording or phrases into quotes I had for them, which was fine.

One time an interview subject faxed back his story with the word "cornucopia" written beside a paragraph with an arrow pointing to where he thought it should go. I didn't remember him using the word in our interview, and my editor gave me a raised eyebrow when he saw it.

I spoke to the professor who replied, "Oh, I just try to fit the word cornucopia into everything I write. It's sort of a game."

Not being one to stop someone's fun, I told my editor, and the word survived.

When recalling that story a couple weeks ago, I wondered if I had a favorite word, something I try to cram into sentences or stories no matter if it fits or not. Sadly, I don't think I do, or if I do, it's nowhere near as cool as cornucopia. Then I remembered, I do have a list of words that I think are funny and/or awesome.

Off the top of my head, my top six would be:

Ghost - I just think they're funny.

Beast - Don't know why I like this word so much, but it sounds cool.

Treat - If you've been around me for more than a couple hours you've probably heard me use this. A treat (or tasty treat or treater) is generally some sort of food, but is more widely used to describe, well, anything good.

Creep/creepy - Pretty self-explanatory.

Ape - Who doesn't love the apes?

Boner - Heh.

You'll notice that with the exception of boner, they are all one syllable words. I'd like to think that is a remnant of my journalistic training, that I'm looking for sharp, fast, effective action words, but it's more likely just that I'm immature (heh, boner), and I have a poor vocabulary. I don't use these all the time, but appreciate them when they show up. Naturally, combining these words are even better, like a giant Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of language. Check it out: Ghost Ape.  Ghost Boner. OK, maybe just putting Ghost in front of anything is awesome.

Now that I have identified the greatest words of the English language (it's true - just remember Shakespeare's immortal "The Ghost of the Creepy Ape." Or maybe that was a Hardy Boys book), please use as many of these as you can when writing or conversing with me. It will ensure pleasant conversation and will mark you as a gentleman or lady.

Hee. "Ghost Boner."

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