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Words and Their Personalities

June 17, 2008

A book I’m reading is making me wonder… is “curmudgeon” a gender-specific term, applying only to men? Let’s check Webster’s: “a surly, ill mannered, bad-tempered person; cantankerous fellow.”

Yes- it’s pretty much a male word. “misanthrope” conjures less of the grumpy-old-man image. To me, though, misanthrope sounds more rarefied, academic. As though the way a misanthrope is disliking people is clinical, anthropological, studied, and distant. (Maybe I’m reacting to the shared root of anthropos.

Funny, though, how paying attention to words and descriptions opens up some very intense, often visual imagery. Colors, weight, heaviness- all shadings of meaning that come from a word or its synonyms. I’ve written poetry for years, played with formal verse, or picked apart word choices at a very specific level. In the book I’m reading, with the female curmudgeon, she makes lists of words she likes, and words she thinks are odd or silly. It’s been ages since I did something like that. (And, unfortunately, also a long time since I wrote a poem.)

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