Pulchritude

How can a word that means beauty, come out sounding like spit? No, really, it does. Or how about the sound a cat makes just before he lands a hairball on your brand-new living room rug? It is not a pretty word. It has a beautiful meaning but the word itself is unattractive.  And yet the word ugly actually looks kind of cute. All those curly bits. Confused yet? Read on…

I love words for their meaning but they also have other attributes. They can visually form patterns that are pleasing to the eye or perhaps discordant. I know most people don’t look at words that way but I do. I do not like the word yellow and yet I love the colour, some shades.  Why you wonder? I have no idea. I know what I like the look of, exactly the same way I know what I like the taste of. I don’t like beets. It’s as simple as that. Using beets to dye something can be incredible. They have the most extraordinary colour but I don’t like the taste of them.

There are several forms of poetry that are restrictive. Allowing only a certain number of syllables per line which actually forms an image. A shape that is pleasing to the eye. Was it intentional? Possibly, I don’t know.  What I do know is that some poetry forms are not as pleasing to look at. Again, is it intentional? Probably not. How many people do you know that are so twisted that they look at the image of the word on a page as well as its meaning? I don’t imagine there are too many of us.

When I write poetry or prose, I am always aware of how it looks on the page. Are there too many paragraphs? Are there too few?  I find different fonts are more comfortable, more pleasing to the eye. I think aesthetics is a big part of our understanding simply because if we find something pleasant to look at, we are more likely to invest more time reading the words. If I’m reading a book that is uncomfortable, I will put it aside. If the words are that compelling, I might go back but I might not.

Another thing I am constantly aware of is cadence. Perhaps more so in poetry because it does have a singsong quality to it, in my opinion. But it is also there in prose.  Long sentences tend to promote comfort unless they are too long in which case they are irritating. Short sentences are like short burst of energy. The words, the meanings are sharp and cutting. Using words that are over long and verbose is like having two types of gravy for the same meal:  unnecessary. If used properly words have such incredible power. They have the capacity to love, to hate, to cajole and to succour. Please use them responsibly.

 

20 thoughts on “Pulchritude

  1. Dan Antion

    I will literally watch what you (and I) say from now on. I do like the shape of some words. I like the shape of poetry. I remember enjoying poems by E.E.Cummings. When I had to choose a poet to study in school, I chose him. Not the best decision, but…

    I hope you have a great week, Pam. I have to ask, from a shape point of view, which day do you like best?

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. quiall Post author

      Each shape has something to recommend it but I will say I like Friday best. It’s like a hi-fi with letters and then slides off like a wave. Does that make sense?

      Liked by 2 people

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  2. Darlene

    I agree. Some words are confusing and do not match their meaning. One such word is bucolic. It sounds like a disease, a bad one, one that can spread like a pandemic. But I recently learned it means rustic. I also learned that I lived a bucolic life growing up. What? We had our share of colds but really…

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    1. quiall Post author

      I do like archaic words, they just seem so full of themselves. But like so many when you say it out loud it sounds like a cat hawking up a furball. The attraction lessons.

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  3. barbtaub

    You are SO right! Pulchritude as a word has always bothered me, to the point where it sounds like a medical condition instead of a desirable trait. Another mystery is a certain 4-letter word starting with C that looks pretty and sounds cute and is possibly the most offensive word in the English language.

    Liked by 4 people

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    1. quiall Post author

      I’ve never understood exactly why people hate that word. I had a friend that was terribly offended by it and she also hated mustard. I used to offer her country mustard all the time. I am evil…

      Liked by 1 person

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  4. Dale

    I could not agree more. Who the hell thought such an awful sounding word should mean beauty? Those late middle-age English sure had a sense of humour.
    Some words are fun to write while others annoying – I’m speaking of writing long-hand, in cursive 😉 I’m glad in Quebec we don’t take our husband’s name because I hated writing MacIsaac. It just didn’t flow, yanno? Rogerson, on the other hand… 😉
    Wonderful post, Pam.

    Liked by 2 people

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      1. rangewriter

        The people in my book club were just talking about how many words we’d all read for years before we ever heard them pronounced. Sometimes it has taken several hearings to catch on. Funny.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Murphy’s Law

    Love today’s post Pam. Hell, I haven’t met one of your posts I didn’t love!

    Pulchritude doesn’t sound like it even knows what it means! Why couldn’t the powers that be just leave it at comely? Although I’m not so sure about that one either. 😵‍💫 We take a lot of liberties with the English language, don’t we? Maybe we’re supposed to. It makes sense that the words we use evolve with us.

    By the way, I really like your painting. I love reading your words even though I often have to look up the meaning of one of them! 🤗

    Enjoy what’s left of the weekend.
    Ginger

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. quiall Post author

      You are so good for my ego Ginger! I am so pleased we ran into each other, figuratively speaking. I would love to in the real world one day…

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