Fun with Words

Blogger: Cynthia Ruchti

Words can be fun.

Overheard in many a Panera/Starbucks/home office:

“What are you doing over there?”

“Having fun with words. I’m a writer.”fun with words

Serious writers are often…well…serious.

Intense research. Deadlines. Reading books on the craft of writing. Studying technique. Poring over notes from writers’ conferences and webinars. Studying publishing houses and their guidelines. Working on proposals, comparables, and marketing plans.

But serious writers are occupied with having fun with words.

They’re given 26 letters and a game board (computer screen) on which to rearrange them. Writers couple them with others, form sentences and paragraphs and chapters and books.

Rearranging words is more fun–but no easier–than rearranging furniture.

And the end result can be life-changing.

word funToday, rather than focusing on learning a new craft tip or dissecting a nugget of industry news, let’s have fun. Choose one or more of the words from the following list of The Seldom-Used. Create a sentence in keeping with the genre in which you write. 

Special thanks to Dan Dalton of Buzzfeed and John Bagnall for their suggestions of interesting but little-used gems included in this list:

REDOLENT (adj.)–reminiscent of, evocative; (ancient literary meaning–fragrant, sweet-smelling)

HEBETUDE (n.)–lethargy

IMBROGLIO (n.)–confused, embarrassing situation

TORPID (adj.)–dormant, lazy

NOISOME (adj.)–(You’ll love this one.) having an offensive odor (It has nothing to do with noise!)

DEGUST (v.)–to savor a bite of food in order to fully appreciate it

CAPTIOUS (adj.)–nitpicking, fault-finding

DIVAGATE (v.)–to ramble from subject to subject

PERSIFLAGE (n.)–frivolous talk

TARRADIDDLE (n. or v.)–a silly lie or fib; to create a silly lie or fib

TRISKAIDEKAPHOBIA (n.)–fear of the number thirteen

QUIETUS (n.)–death, the endwords are fun

Have fun with words.

Create a resplendent sentence that will probably never appear in one of your manuscripts. It may prompt you to enjoy your own rearranging as you write.

Click to Tweet: Words are work…and play.

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  1. “Like, dude, I’m going to the Natalie Imbroglio concert!”
    “Got that right, man, ’cause you forgot to put on your pants.”

  2. Carol Ashby says:

    The merganser swiveled its head at the soft footfalls, rendering the anatidaephobic sous chef incapable of effectuating the execution mandated by the antiquated receipt.

  3. As I read “Bridget Jones’ Diary,” I was amazed at the heroine’s CAPTIOUS relatives and the plethora of PERSIFLAGE that occured.

  4. In the torpidity of his hebetude, the man who fancied himself a Proust reborn divagated with a metaphorically noisome degree of persiflage that made the afternoon redolent of an endless high-school history class, and inspired in the listener a longing for that eternal quietus which, it seemed, would be the only thing that would shut him up.

  5. For those who remember the 60s…
    * Who can ever forget Persiflage and his Orchestra, who inspired a generation of elevator passengers and dentist-office patients with such stirring hits as “The Theme From A Summer Place”?

  6. Cynthia Ruchti says:

    Like, dudes and dudesses, I’m chortling and enjoying watching your imaginations take flight.

  7. “Her captious mother-in-law explained for the third time how she expected supper cooked.”

    This is a fun post, Cynthia. 🙂 My boys love words. I can’t wait to see how they might use them. 😉

  8. Degusting the last bite of my key lime pie, I torpidly longed for the redolence of home and the quietus of her noisome persiflage, as she divagated about one tarradiddle or another. Placing my fork down and bowing my head, I secretly repented of my captious behavior. Though hebetude now tugged on my eyelids and the imbroglio heated my cheeks, I raised my head and smiled. “Go on.”
    *I don’t know. Lol. I tried. 🙂 I needed this. And I love the word tarradiddle because it reminds me of Scarlett O’Hara. 🙂

    • Angie Arndt says:

      * Shelli,
      * You and I are on the same wave-length today. This exercise reminded me of Miss Scarlett, too!
      * The captious neighbor’s persiflage was more than an imbroglio. Indeed, Miss Aggie’s tarradiddle almost brought about a quietus to Sabrina’s bee farm. Contrariwise, those malicious speculations extinguished Sabrina’s reticent hebetude by fanning her aspirations to preserve her heritage in an act redolent of Scarlett O’Hara’s vow never to eat a noisome radish again.
      * Fun, fun, fun, Cynthia! 🙂

  9. He is a stellar investigator, but his triskaidekaphobia often leaves him in an imbroglio.
    *Just a side note: was anyone else disappointed that TRISKAIDEKAPHOBIA doesn’t have exactly thirteen letters? Yes…I counted them.

  10. Cynthia Ruchti says:

    Related question. Have you ever used an obscure sentence in a manuscript? How? And how did you keep your reader from having to stop reading to look up its meaning?

    • Good question, Cynthia. I sometimes use jargon (weapons-or-tactical related), and I never explain it. Instead I use context and sometimes dialogue to make it at least tolerably clear.
      * I’ve found that readers often resent being spoonfed; they would rather have to puzzle through the meaning of a ‘real’ sentence on their own rather than have it dumbed-down.
      * As an example, a scene in which a door is to be dynamically opened during an building takedown:

      Paddy tried the handle, and finding that the door was locked, put his fist to the front of his helmet and stepped back. The breacher moved to the head of the stack as he removed a charge from its pouch.

      * This describes the choreography of door-breaching; the stack is the assault team, and the first man is charged with checking the door to see if it might be open. If not, he taps his helmet with a first to signal for the breacher – the door-opening specialist with his explosive charges – to come up and gain entry, at the same time moving back to give the breacher room to work. Nothing need be said; the breacher is watching the lead, and will take his place if the signal’s given. Hollywood loves to have the phrase, “Breacher up!” shouted, but it just doesn’t happen except if line-of-sight is compromised.
      * So, my question…does my literary vignette tell the story described by the longer exposition well enough to keep the flow?

  11. Cynthia Ruchti says:

    Also related, did you notice that graminivorous (in the last image) has nothing to do with grammar? Curious, this language.

    • And you don’t use a potholder to grasp a marijuana cigarette. (Sorry, that was the very first thing that came to mind, and today I am so ill that there is NO filter, hahaha.)
      * Medicinal marijuana is legal where I live, but no thanks, not ever. Prefer to keep my head on straight.

  12. The torpid rabbit tried to evade his captious mother’s anger with a tarradiddle, but it didn’t work.

  13. Oh, so fun! I love games and challenges. Here goes…

    I was sure the young woman in the crisp white cotton shirt with the glowing skin would be redolent. But, when I approached her to introduce myself, I recoiled inwardly, as I found her to be noisome and captious. Filling the air between us with persiflage, she annoyed me to the level that I wished for quietus. I have since come up with a tarradiddle should I ever have to escaped another imbroglio with her or anyone else of that same nature.

  14. Jared says:

    Quietus was actually the name of a character in the first novel I ever wrote. It was a fantasy novel, and he was a soft-spoken pacifist mage who ended up sacrificing himself to save the world. I thought I was very clever. Writing your first novel is a learning experience. What I learned is to never let anyone read that first novel.

  15. David Todd says:

    Or, to use a word you created, as I did recently in a blog post. I don’t believe it will need an explanation.
    It’s hard to be blogivated when you’re as discombobulated as I’ve been recently.

  16. Susan Sage says:

    The excess of persiflage swirling around Celia, as she rang up her customer, caused her to ponder the torpid quietus she longed for.