What is Your Least Favorite Word?

June 28th, 2007

In the words of James Lipton (Inside the Actor’s Studio):

What is your favorite word? Onomatopoeia
What is your least favorite word? Publicist
What turns you on [creatively, spiritually or emotionally]? Two martinis at lunch
What turns you off? Getting hung up on
What sound or noise do you love? The “ding dong” of my RSS aggregator
What sound or noise do you hate? Dial tone
What is your favorite curse word? Media

Apparently, not everyone agrees with me in choosing “publicist” as a least favorite word (or with any of my other responses for that matter). According to a new poll from British pollsters YouGov, people are responding that “blog,” “cookie,” and “wiki,” are their least favorite words.  The poll of 2,091 adults commissioned earlier this month by the Lulu Blooker Prize, a literary award for books, was a response to an announcement by Collins English Dictionary that many of these Web-centric words would be included in their ninth edition.

Here at Braithwaite we’ve been known to make up words – mainly to create a context or illustrate a point for our clients. Take “infocomm” for example, referring to the overlap between information technology and communications.  Some of these words stuck, but most lacked the stickiness to gain widespread recognition and acceptance.  So how is it that words like “blog” and “wiki” survive, not to mention earn a spot on the most hated list?

This argument is still forming, but here are the criteria I believe lead to mass adoption of a made-up word:

Unusual – words are more effective when they’re unique – and sound like they may be some sort of weapon from Star Trek.  (I think this could have something to do with the William Shatner phenomenon).

Techy – new words have a higher chance of acceptance if they have a techy twinge.  It’s true no matter what industry: even toilet paper now uses technology; so do shoes; and don’t even get me started on organic spinach.

Vowels – These days put an “e” or “i” in front of a word and you’re pretty much on track for a success.  iPod, iPhone, etc. – I could go on but I won’t because Apple may sue me (or Cisco?).

So there you have it: Unusual, Techy, and Vowels. Although they don’t fit these criteria, I wanted to take this opportunity to share some other favorite agency words (taken in an unofficial poll just now): Facetiously, Avalon, Spaghetti, Ridiculous, Mayonnaise, Jack.

Sense a pattern here? I don’t.

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