Like other word nerds, I love to collect quotes about the power of words.
Those of us who make a living from words appreciate their power to convey even the most subtle shades of meaning. For example, I love that although they are all synonyms for “arrogant,” the words “pretentious,” “ostentatious,” “haughty,” and “preening” each have different meanings under the surface.
Here is a list of some of my favorite words, along with insights on their shades of meaning.
Nonplussed— bewildered or unsure of how to respond. I always think of nonplussed as that look on someone’s face when they’ve been completely blindsided in a conversation or meeting.
My editor’s tirade has left me completely nonplussed.
Aspersion— an attack on somebody’s reputation or good name, as in “to cast aspersions on.” A second meaning is a sprinkling, especially with holy water. I’m not sure how this word ended up with these two disparate definitions.
Let those without fault cast the first aspersions.
There was an aspersion of dust on the books.
Insipid— lacking flavor or taste; lacking qualities that excite, stimulate, or interest; dull.
Why do you insist on writing such insipid, dim-witted screenplays?
Acquiesce— to accept or consent by silence, or by omitting to object. To acquiesce is not just to give in, but rather, to give in by not objecting.
Do not acquiesce to his unreasonable demands for perfection.
Feckless— to lack purpose or be without skill; to be ineffective, incompetent; spiritless, weak and worthless. With most words in English, if you remove a suffix you likely have another word. This is not the case with feckless, as “feck” is not a word.
We were embarrassed to witness such a feckless performance.
Diurnal— to be active during the daytime, rather than at night, relating to or occurring in a 24-hour period—daily. I love this word because I never knew that “nocturnal” had an opposite.
In general, college students are not cut out for a diurnal life.
Indefatigable— someone who is indefatigable is untiring, unremitting in labor or effort, incapable of being fatigued, not readily exhausted. This would also be a great name for a ship—the HMS Indefatigable was a 64-gun third-rate ship of the line launched by the Royal Navy in 1784.
The antonym of this word is fatigable, not “defatigable.”
She was indefatigable in her efforts to ensure accuracy.
(Indefatigable is the most difficult word to pronounce on this list. Say it five times fast.)
Supercilious— having or showing arrogant superiority to and disdain for those viewed as unworthy. Arrogance plus attitude equals superciliousness.
I find Rebecca to be cold and supercilious.
Disingenuous— not straightforward or candid; insincere and calculating.
It’s disingenuous to encourage others to volunteer when you have no intention of volunteering yourself.
Pensive— if you are pensive, you are engaged in serious thought or reflection; you are given to earnest musing that is often implying some degree of anxiety, depression or gloom; and you are thoughtful and somewhat melancholy. Consider Hamlet.
A pensive gloom settled in as our trip ended.
It’s one thing to collect words, but it’s quite another to begin to use them regularly. I’m not sure how I’ll work these into my next company blog post.
Readers, do you have any favorite words to share? Please offer them in the comments section.
A regular contributor to PR Daily, Laura Hale Brockway is medical writer and editor from Austin, Texas. Read more of her work at impertinentremarks.com.