Monday, November 24, 2008

The Greatest Word in the World

One of the conversations we had during our drive down to Fall Moab addressed the ugliest words in the English language. Dug can't stand any word with "moist" in it -- "moisture," "moisturizer," "moisturizing ointment." He got such a sick look on his face when he said these words that I very nearly asked him if he needed a vomit bag.

I mulled over words that I dislike -- "phlegm" and "caucus" immediately came to mind -- and then I decided I was being too negative. Let's turn it around. What is the best word in the English language? You'll be surprised at the answer:

Tugboat.

It makes you smile, doesn't it? Who doesn't like a tugboat? First, unlike a word like "spendthrift," you don't have to unpack its meaning. A tugboat is a boat that tugs another boat. It seems simple enough to name a thing right, but our nomenclatative skills are often found wanting. In the nautical industry alone, we have "yacht" and "ferry" and "cruiser." On land, we must deal with "hangnails" and "inflammable" items.

Person 1: "Is that moist tugboat flammable?"

Person 2: "Yes, it's inflammable."

Person 1: "That seems incongruous."

Person 2: "No, it's congruous."