|Yes, the Great Wall of China. It's a 'b' word...|
Remember Maria in 'The Sound of Music'?
When the going got tough, she thought about her favourite things - seemed to cheer her up no end.
It's a common psychological technique. If you're feeling hot, think about ice-cream and penguins. And if you're cold, think about curry and lying on a beach - or lying on a beach eating curry if that helps. Words, and the images they conjure up are very powerful, are they not?
It also is said to help that if you're a bit down, you should think about the highs of your life. I hasten to add that at this moment in time, I'm not down - no, this springs in a roundabout sort of way from some discussions with my students. We've been talking about about opposites and attraction and about happy holidays and miserable times. It's been really good fun. Not only have we shared some pretty silly stories but we've really talked, really started to use the English language - and the thing that generated the most conversation was talking about our phobias; how we enjoyed talking about the things we DIDN'T like.
I don't intend divulging any of their secrets - we did find out some rather strange things about some people - but I was put in mind of some of the non-verbal language that came out on the day...you know, shudders and lip-curls and a waving-of-hands-in-horror sort of thing - when I said a word to FR.
Innocently. I had no idea of the effect it would have on him.
I said I would be loathe to do something. That's all. And at the word 'loathe' he started twitching and said he really didn't like that word...and then as it took hold of his brain, he started shaking his hands and feet and saying 'eurgh' and 'aargh' and 'yuk' and other such sounds of disgust. He stood up and paced back and forth in obvious distress. I was utterly amazed - I don't think I've ever seen such a violent reaction to a word in anyone before.
Other than in myself...
When I was 10, my teacher, a keen musician, had us sing songs on a Friday afternoon. One of the songs, which was written on a huge piece of card high on the classroom wall, THANKFULLY behind my back where I couldn't see it on a daily basis, had a most beautiful tune, one that could send shivers down my spine. However, it contained a word I could not bring myself to say and one that, as we approached it in the song, brought different shivers to my young body. Those of fear and (dare I say it) loathing! The song was 'God Bless the Prince of Wales' - yes, rather an odd choice, I admit but I suspect the teacher liked the tune. The word....well, I think I can tell you ...bulwarks. There, said it. (Wrote it - easier!) Part of the problem was I didn't know what it meant - and olive branches twined round them - but I thought it was such an ugly and unpleasant word. I never, in all the times we had to sing it, managed to include that word in my own rendition and was always mightily glad when we'd got safely past it. The Great Wall of China is one. Ships have them too, apparently...
I felt equally strongly about the word 'Bletchley' - what a horrid name for any place. However, unlike the other 'b' word, which I couldn't bring myself to say then and still don't like to now, I took great delight in saying 'Bletchley' in an exaggeratedly disgusting way when younger. I don't say it too often these days but if I did, I know I would make the place sound very ugly. It may be a nice place, I don't know. I shall never, ever go anywhere near it. Sounds like a word being vomited to me.
Interesting then, that Bletchley Park, a lovely old house, was the focus for so much work on words and letters and the very special power and information contained therein - in code of course!
And a word that I used as a teenager to cheer myself up - glum! I found if I said 'glum' often enough, it would make me laugh. There's something very comic about it. Glum, glum, glum...still makes me smile!
The Finn Family Moomintroll'. In fact, I still love these stories and if you've never read them, do try and get hold of a copy. They're beautifully written and highly inventive, full of the most wonderful characters - my favourite was the miserable old Hemulen, who always wore his aunt's dress and collected stamps - (and I always suspected that I WAS Little My, the Mymble's daughter...her glare was the one my mother used to plead with me not to use on people.)
In one of the stories, Moomintroll has found the Hobgoblin's magic hat and discovered that anything put inside the hat is transformed. Egg shells turn into clouds that can be ridden around the house, for example. That was good enough but Tove Jansson became my hero when she allowed her characters to throw a 'Dictionary of Outlandish Words' into the hat - and the words come to life as little creatures that escape and crawl over the floor, up the walls and onto the ceiling! What a brilliant, outrageous, uninhibited idea - I absolutely love it.
I am on a quest to see if FR has any other strong reactions to specific words and have discovered one as I write that he likes - SERENDIPITY - indeed, he is muttering it to himself as he walks around the house. Sweet.
Do you have favourite words, or least favourite words?
Which ones can you say with pleasure and which leave you a jibbering wreck?