The fresh school year funneled in new students, and we barely submerged ourselves with studies when one sagacious little sprout asked me a question that put me in front of the barrel of a gun. Well, at least it seemed that way from an English teacher’s perspective. His inquiry was the simplest of questions, but one that consumes me since. “What is your favorite word?” My FAVORITE word? You can’t have a favorite word, you need them all! That’s like asking an artist to paint monochromatically, or the builder to suffice with only one tool. Utter nonsense. Complete poppycock. Good naturedly I stalled, sought clarification to his inquiry (after all, there is no such thing as a dumb question in class), but at that point his interrogation was like revelry and the rest of the army was awake and waiting for my move. Luckily, our negotiations left me with 24 hours to report back.
Perplexed at where to begin, I conducted copious surveys of everyone I encountered. “What is your favorite word?” Bamboozle, kerfuffle, shenanigans, brouhaha, pumpernickel, claustrophobic, cacophony, zany, whimsical, and candy. The latter from my three-year old son – even he has a favorite word! While all of these are a mouthful to mumble (or consume in my son’s case), the yakkety-yak negates rich meaning for a life-long fav.
So, I continued shuffling through a litany of possibilities. Did you know that several websites are devoted to this endeavor? Scholars exist with credentials that far outweigh mine in the word department. For example, Dr. Robert Beard of alphadictionary.com has studied terminology long enough to purport himself an expert in the matter. His list of the 100 Most BeautifulWords in the English Language intrigues me enough to dawdle and dance in its lexemes and morphemes awhile. And yet though fancy and fun, settling on one still leaves an acetic taste.
Maybe simplicity speaks volumes. Words like faith, hope, and love are concise enough, and also pack enough significance worthy of celebrating for a lifetime. Perhaps words of virtue matter most, as in self-sacrifice, humility, and kindness. Or better yet: epiphany and miracle. Yes, miracle might be my most treasured word of all, as it transcends us from this world into the next. What could be greater than that?
Perhaps John the Apostle guides us with the best answer of all: In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1). Edifying, don’t you think?