I used to keep a sticky note at my desk called “Words I Hate.” These were words that I would run across in the course of my editing that I, well, hated. They were usually either awkward, clichéd, or bureaucratic. It was nothing personal. Some of the words, in isolation, were probably just fine. Here are a few I remember: due to the fact that; fled on foot; recently; found (as in: He found himself enjoying opera); every (noun’s) nightmare; died doing what he/she loved; deliverable; efficiencies (corporate usage, not the dwellings, which can be quite charming); mouthfeel.
But I’m not interested in hating anymore. I’m looking forward to a more positive word world. Especially after keeping up with this guy, Ted McCagg, who declared diphthong to be the Best Word Ever in a Final Four bracket-style competition. Diphthong won out over gherkin, by the way. Some really beautiful and wonderful words in the competition, including kerfuffle, detritus, canoodle. All very fine words. I’m also a fan of the words fisticuffs, umami, milquetoast (which is unrelated to milk).
But if I had run the word competition, I would have done anything I could to get a different word at the top of the heap. Of course I’m talking about the actual very best word ever: schadenfreude. Not only does this word have all the requisite sounds that make a word fun to read and say, its meaning is also sublime. That there’s even a word at all to describe the feeling of joy one gets at the misfortune of others is seriously beautiful. I experience schadenfreude every time a bullfighter gets beaten up by the bull. Wrong, I know. Still. Schadenfreude.
So nothing against diphthong, but schadenfreude is the clear winner here. Sorry, Ted.