Words and sounds

I often become enamored of certain words I see while copyediting, and the latest comes from China MiĆ©ville’s novel Embassytown, which I’m working on now: panjandrum.

I love it when the sound of a word and its meaning match up so well. Panjandrum was coined by the dramatist Samuel Foote, which is undoubtedly how it gained that effect.

What are your favorite words with meanings and sounds that match well? Bonus if they’re neither coined nor onomatopoeic.

In my Twitter feed so far we have vexing, splendid, mellifluous, short, appetence, quirk, and melancholy. #wordgeekery

4 Responses to “Words and sounds”  

  1. 1 Natalie

    I wouldn’t say this is a favourite word, but my 4 year old son is vomiting this morning and “puke” seems to describe the violent clench of the stomach muscles and the splat into the bucket really well.

  2. 2 Deanna Hoak

    Ah. “Puke.” Yeah, that one works. Someone on LJ recommended “borborygmus,” which is tummy-grumbling noises. Another stomach one. :)

  3. 3 Ellen

    Abyss. There’s something about the way the word “abyss” drops off into sibilance that makes me think of things slipping over the edge on an ocean floor into an . . . abyss.

    btw: congrats on the Mieville. He’s one of my faves.

  4. 4 Deanna Hoak

    Ooh, “abyss” is a nice one, Ellen. And thank you about China’s work. His is always enjoyable. :)


Deanna I'm a freelance copyeditor specializing in fantasy and science fiction. SF/F novels I have copyedited have been finalists for (and have sometimes won) the Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clarke, Endeavour, Golden Spur, John W. Campbell Memorial, Quill, Locus, Philip K. Dick, British Science Fiction, British Fantasy, and World Fantasy awards. I am the only copyeditor ever short-listed for a World Fantasy Award.

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