The Last Word

“Word, Roger.”
“Word, Riggs.”
Photo by Letha Weapon.

By Zandra Wolfgram


You could say I am in the business of words. I have a company called Wordplay Ink, and my tagline is Choose Your Words Wisely, which got me thinking about words and how we use them. I have been called wordy, but I hope to say just a few words on the topic.


We can really wordsmith the heck of out a word. In fact, we have a special way of leading up to a strong word with in a word. That’s like putting an exclamation point after it. When we want to talk about something, we don’t just say it. We work our way up to a lead-in to a conversation by saying we want to have a word. Even most good books, like a decent relationship, just don’t jump right in; they begin with a special introduction or a foreword.


We favor some words when we hope to share words of wisdom, words of praise or find just the right words. We even elevate all the sentiments in the Bible by calling the entire lot the good word.


I have a favorite. I’ve always liked effervescent. It’s really a word that is fun to write, fun to say, and, on my better days, expresses my personality. One of my friends likes onomatopoeia. Now, that’s a word that means what is says. It’s not my favorite, but I do like saying it.


If you are a word nerd like me, you are probably are a fan of Sniglets. If you haven’t heard of them, just look up neologism. I haven’t written an entire anthology, but like author-comedian Rich Hall, I’ve been known to create a word or two. I’m also a huge fan of hyperbole. And sometimes it’s imperative to marry the two to come up with a fresh new word to clearly communicate a point.


For example, one day I just could not get across how big something was, so I’ve given over to ginormous. The convenient thing about making up words is you don’t have to be pigeonholed into its usage. They’re your words. If you feel your word wants to slide from being an adjective to a noun, who’s going to be a (insert creative new word here) and stop you?


There are all kinds of slang words and those are fun, because with every generation there is inevitably a fresh new batch to feast on. When you are a kid growing up you feel so cool slinging slang from your hip lips. Thanks to the ‘80s funk band Cameo, word up shortened to a mere word was the it word (in my inner city high school, anyway). I think it’s stood the test of time, because it’s brilliantly clever and efficient.


Why say “I agree with you” or “I can’t believe that happened” when you can just say word? And this slang word is extra special, because it’s almost always delivered along with a slight head nod. When a slang word comes prepackaged with a little body language, it’s got to be a keeper.


Sadly, there are a lot of ways we express bad words. There are mean words, foul words and curse words to that are offensive to some of us. Then there are the kind that hurt so bad they sting, and fighting words that bring the best of us to fisticuffs when spoken. There’s even a song about words in songs that “kill us softly.” If you are at this point, you can only hope to be at a loss for words.


If you do offend, luckily we have soothing words that wash over us to make everything better like a big, comforting verbal hug. And if we want something very special to happen or to simply disappear we can always say the magic word.


When I was in high school I was awarded a big, red unabridged Webster’s Dictionary. It’s well worn and dog-eared, but I still have it on my bookshelf. Right next to a Roget’s Thesaurus and Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, because sometimes you want to be prepared to replace a word or even borrow someone else’s.


I will close by saying even words that generalize have their place. As in, there is always a fresh, blank page waiting for a group of new words…next time.



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