Words I Love

English is filled with words that sound gloriously like the thing they describe.


Say it out loud. Listen to it. You have to bring your lips from that wide “L” shape to an “oh” sound, all towards that hissing, sinister end.

When you loathe something, you not only dislike it but you find it reprehensible, perhaps without any redeeming value at all. The sound of the word brings that across perfectly.


Grab a pair of scissors and cut a piece of paper. (Go ahead, do it now.)

Do you hear that sound? That sliding, hissing noise as the paper is slowly sliced in two is embedded in the word “scissors”. It unapologetically has four esses in it!


Everyone say it with me: Syn‑co‑pa‑tion.

The word itself has a rhythm, as words more than two syllables tend to. The musical version of this term refers to stressing the rhythm in unexpected places, evening out the beat to a degree. (It’s a slippery concept, though, and sometimes the word is used to refer to any rhythm at all.)

Neil Fein is a freelance editor. He’s also a musician for the band Baroque & Hungry, he rides a mean bicycle, and he paints in oils when the mood strikes him.


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