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It is a wonderful word

English is a wonderful language. The flexibility and potential for wide and varied use make it both a remarkably powerful tool and a double-edged cliche. And from all of the inherent beauty, what is the best word?

We all know (or can find) what Humpty Dumpty said about words meaning just what we mean them to mean.

As a side-note, why was it incumbent upon the king's horses and men to put him back together?

Anyway, what is it that makes a word good? Firstly, it has to have the flexibility to genuinely mean what I mean, rather than just having me think it means what I mean. A bad habit of picked up recently from by here are a couple of little phrases. I'm not worried about things like "by here", "now, in a minute" or "mind", because they haven't crept in accidentally. It's far more concerning that I have picked up "to be honest" because, to be honest, I'd picked it up without realising it. Mum was teasing me about it, and, as we all know, the hardest part is admitting you have a problem. 12 steps later... Anyway, at some point I said something, "to be honest", and Mum replied "I don't want...to be honest". She maintains that she said "I don't want 'to be honest'", but she's wrong. Humpty had it wrong. Words don't mean what I mean them to mean. They mean what I mean them to mean.

A good word should also have simplicity. It should have a certain ease of use. You can throw it in anywhere.

The candidate I will propose is "it". As Faith No More sang, "What is it? It's it". Take a sentence like "It's good". This has the flexibility to range from a positive expression of a situation to a denial of gender assignation hidden within a vague compliment (try talking about a friend as "it", even within a compliment like "it's a good worker", and see what kind of response you get).

Next example, take a comment on the weather. "It was dark and gloomy and miserable when my parents-in-law arrived in Swansea". So easily misunderstood, leaving me with a glare from my wife.

And then, another virtue of It is its variations in its and it's. It's easy to get them confused or to abuse them for comic value. And, of course, because its got it's final letter as an "s" its got much potential for errant apostrophes.

Does anyone have any contenders for good words in the English language? Any other comments? Is anyone still reading?


Comment from Gillian

So, if I understand you correctly, your definition of a 'good' word is one that seems to have no real meaning in many of the situations in which it is used? And why privilege one pronoun over the others?

I respond

You obviously don't understand correctly. Of course it has meaning. Re-read the post.

And I privilege it over other pronouns because it performs functions that a he or a she simply can't perform.

Comment from Todd Fraser

I have two favourite words..

Facetious... you know why

Sphygmomanometer..... possibly the most superfluous word in the medical dictionary. IT is simply a blood pressure cuff. Put simply 6 syllable when 4 will do in fancy schmancy medical speak.

I add

For anyone who doesn't know, facetious contains all the vowels in order (and sometime you can count facetiously depending on the status of y)

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