Since I was little I’ve collected long words.
I love their sounds and shapes and meanings. My first beloved was vermillion, the vivid scarlet pigment, and aged nine I used it all the time. At school I was the language-geek who quizzed my teachers about language. I loved learning Latin because somehow it felt like some universal codex for understanding all words. Notebooks full of introspective teenage poetry have become a detailed archive of my obsession with adjectives. From my life in science I have a collection of old textbooks full of gorgeous scientific words like eclosion and benthic and clade. As I bumble my way through the adult world I have built work and a career out of my passion, armed with an arsenal of language.
When writing for the internet we’re often advised to give long words a miss. One of the most popular SEO plugins actually uses an algorithm based on word and sentence length to determine the “readability” of your post. The longer the words (and the sentences) the worse the score.
Needless to say my readability scores are typically abysmal.*
I’m a realist. To be successful on the internet you do have to feed the algorithms from time to time. A keyword or two there, a strategically placed heading here. But I also think it’s ok to pick and choose how much we let our plugins dictate how we write. The beauty of a blog is that it can be your personal space to explore how words work, and how you can make them work for you.
There is a place for punchy, immediate language that feeds the algorithm and appeases the supreme search engine beings. But in our own little patches of the internet I think we should be allowed to enjoy every single syllable.
Here are just a few of my favourite words. Which words do you love?
Benthic – a plant or animal from the deep ocean.
Crepuscular – resembling or relating to the twilight.
Cryptomnesia – when a forgotten memory returns to us, but we experience it as a brand new inspiration.
Eclosion – one for the entomologists out there, the emergence of an insect from its pupa.
Idiolect – the speech habits of a particular person.
Mellifluous – a sound that is pleasing to the ear.
Moonbrough – a haze of cloud around the moon.
Nefarious – wicked or criminal. I always imagine a nefarious person as a period villain with a cape and long moustaches tying someone to railway tracks!
Petrichor – who doesn’t love this one? The smell of rain on dry earth.
Stygian – very dark. What a fabulous word for such a simple concept!
Syberite – a person who is self indulgent in their “fondness for sensuous luxury”.
Ululate – a loud wail or howl, usually describing a wolf howling at the moon.
Vermillion – bright, beautiful scarlet pigment.
*Although irony of ironies, apparently my readability for this post is perfect. Maybe long words are the secret to successful SEO after all?