Thursday, August 22, 2013

5 Words that sound negative . . . but aren't

by Derek Spencer

The sound of a word can conjure all sorts of feelings. Sometimes the sound of a word evokes the emotion its meaning conveys. Other times . . . not so much.

The following words sound like they should be used only to describe terrible things. Luckily, they're not nearly as bad as they sound. Many of them have quite pleasant denotations!


Ugh. Just looking at this word, who could guess that it means "pastoral"? All I can think is "bubonic" and "colic." Sorry for the plague baby imagery.


I first came across this word while reading Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. It's a fantastic play with plenty of humor. This word, however, displeases me to say or hear. Maybe it's that second syllable that does it. The meaning's pretty straightforward: "pertaining to the quality of an uncle." Sort of strange, honestly; do uncles have inherent qualities beyond being related to a mother or father?


My personal favorite on this list. Those first two syllables make me cringe, but the word's a synonym for "beautiful." Of course, overuse has stripped beautiful of any power it once had, so why not slot in "pulchritudinous" every once in a while?

Oh, maybe because it sounds awful. Could you imagine telling someone, "Goodness, you're looking rather pulchritudinous today"? I'd be surprised if it weren't taken as an insult.


My, what a lovely way to say "in the beginning stages of development" or "immature." Wait. Not lovely. Hideous. I'd rather use "incipient" or "nascent" — neither of those words sounds quite as harsh.


"Resembling twilight"? Really? I would have supposed that this word meant something else altogether, perhaps something pertaining to a quality possessed by a particularly nasty wound.

What's your favorite word that sounds bad but actually isn't? We'd love to hear from you!

Derek Spencer is a Marketing Communications Associate at Prestwick House.

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