Ugly, Ugly Words

artichoke - Big HeartLately I’ve stumbled across a few lists like this one, featuring obsolete words the blogger thinks deserve a comeback. They don’t. Not because of their meanings but because they are ugly. Snoutfair? This word was hideous even before I read the definition (n. an attractive person) and became even more hideous when I did. Good riddance, I say. And I’d like to recommend hunting out of existence a few other words that, while hardly common, still crop up to offend from time to time:

Vouchsafe: I probably first read this word in a high school literature class, then again in at least two college literature classes. No doubt I looked up its definition on each occasion — then immediately forgot it, so horrible is its sound. I refuse to even look it up for this post because I will probably never type it again, much less say it.

Mellifluous: This word hardly lives up to its definition: smooth-flowing, sweet-sounding. It is simply impossible to be mellifluous while saying it. Melodious isn’t much better. It’s, well, odious.

Gainsay: What’s wrong with oppose? All the other gain- words are dead (gainbuy: redeem; gaintake: retake). Let’s finish off this species.

Pithy: as in, a pithy comment. It sounds like it should mean insubstantial or worthless but means the opposite, and it leaves the mouth like chicken gristle.

I’m confident that all writers and/or avid readers harbor a hatred for certain words. Beyond those that are ugly by what they represent (mucous, phlegm, crap, etc.), cliche (game-changer, resilient) or not words at all (irregardless, TXT, YOLO), what words grate your ear the most?

Ugly, Ugly Words

5 thoughts on “Ugly, Ugly Words

  1. I’ve never actually liked the word “moist,” though that might fit into your ugly-representational category. I worked with someone years ago who couldn’t stand the word “smock,” and my brother-in-law hates the phrase “a hot meal” for some reason…. Funny! I’m opposed to the recent term “ramped up” because it sounds like the opposite of the gentle, gradual motion it’s supposed to suggest.


  2. What if “snoutfair” could transform to something more like its sound, as “fulsome” is used lately or “nimrod?” As in, “She demurred a reelection bid this year to the snoutfair she perceives in our Congress.”


    1. Dan Tessitore says:

      I agree that re-purposing could salvage a word, and your re-purposing of snoutfair makes perfect sense. It could also perhaps be revived as a synonym for “pig roast.”


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