The Choice Word

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I’ve just started A Slip of the Keyboard, a collection of Terry Pratchett non-fiction that spans his entire career. I plan to take my time and just read an article here and there over the next few months, but there was a short article near the beginning of the book that I loved and thought I’d share. It’s one he wrote for a survey that was done in the UK to find the nation’s favourite word by The Word, London’s Festival of Literature.

I like the fortuitous onomatopoeia of words for soundless things. Gleam, glint, glitter, glisten…they all sound exactly as the light would sound if it made a noise. Glint is sharp and quick, it glints, and if an oily surface made a noise it would go glisten. And bliss sounds like a soft meringue melting on a warm plate.

But I’ll plump for:


…from the Latin susurrus, whisper or rustling, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a hushed noise. But it hints of plots and secrets and people turning to one another in surprise. It’s the noise, in fact, made just after the sword is withdrawn from the stone and just before the cheering starts.

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