Not a friendly word

I like words. I had a notebook with my list of favourite words while I was growing up, words like giggle and balloon and bubbles, watermelon and frolic and zephyr. In that book were lists of words I struggled to spell correctly, words like prerogative and onomatopoeia. I still struggle with onomatopoeia, but thankfully it doesn’t come up a lot in my written work and I can’t remember the last time someone challenged me on the spot to a spelling bee, calling out that particular word and other toughies. At this stage of the game, the list of words I struggle to spell is getting longer, and I’ll soon need a new notebook, though I’m rather fond of the original. I have to pause and think for minute about peek and peak when I need to use one of them in my writing. I have devised a little riddle for myself. For instance, peek-a-boo may sound like it has an “a” in it, but it doesn’t. I didn’t say they were good riddles. But it helps when I am writing about my granddaughter hiding in a cupboard or about climbing to the top of a mountain, though I’m not inclined to mountain climb. It’s a height thing that I developed as I got older. Where I used to run around in the rafters of our hay barn, I now have to have a chat with myself to climb my ladder to clean out the eavestroughs, using words like you can do it or don’t look down, though when has that ever worked. When someone says don’t look down, that’s the very first thing you want to do.

I got a letter from a friend the other day and he used the word bucolic to describe his perception of the setting of my current home. Bucolic and I had never run into each other in all my sixty-six years, and if we had, I have no recall of that encounter. As a noun, bucolic refers to a pastoral poem. As an adjective, bucolic relates to the “pleasant aspects of the countryside and country life” according to Oxford, or an “idyllic rural life” according to another source. I’m not sure bucolic and I will become friends. Though I admire its meaning, its sound is off-putting. Bucolic seems an unlikely word to connect to such a sight. Colic is built right into the word itself, and colic is an “attack of acute abdominal pain”. I don’t recall ever having such an “acute” reaction while viewing the pleasant aspects of any countryside, my own or otherwise, no matter the season.

Bucolic has an interesting history. It comes from the Latin word bucolicus, which seems to soften the colic in it, but still. Bucolicus refers to “cowherd”, but later it came to mean “pastoral” and seemed to evolve into something more pleasurable, though by pure definition it didn’t start out that way. Its synonym is agrarian, which simply means “of relating to land”. After sufficient research and a headache, I have decided not to include bucolic in my list of favourite words. I might add it to my list of words to forget, words like mucus and chafe and grimace and repugnant. But now that I’ve reminded myself of these words, I’ll have to go back to the beginning so I can forget them again, though at my age that comes with relative ease.

wendistewart@live.ca

Related