My latest book is The One Who Swam With The Fishes.

"A mesmerizing account of the well-known story of Matsyagandha ... and her transformation from fisherman’s daughter to Satyavati, Santanu’s royal consort and the Mother/Progenitor of the Kuru clan." - Hindustan Times

"Themes of fate, morality and power overlay a subtle and essential feminism to make this lyrical book a must-read. If this is Madhavan’s first book in the Girls from the Mahabharata series, there is much to look forward to in the months to come." - Open Magazine

"A gleeful dollop of Blytonian magic ... Reddy Madhavan is also able to tackle some fairly sensitive subjects such as identity, the love of and karmic ties with parents, adoption, the first sexual encounter, loneliness, and my favourite, feminist rage." - Scroll

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18 January 2006

Lunch, munch, brunch, hunch

I have discovered my new favourite website. And because it's my new favourite website, I'm going to quote from it and you can't stop me.

Aside from sounding wonderful, I like the word because saying amoeba at random is a good way to throw my friends. I'll be talking about the latest bestsellers, and I'll pause to gather my thoughts. And then, out of nowhere. I very carefully pronounce "Amoeba", just for the joy of saying the words. My friends will stare at me, wondering if they really heard me say amoeba out of nowhere or they were just hallucinating, as I finish thinking and start talking again.

I read a story in The New Yorker about Ricky Jay, a magician, who mentioned that he was sometimes perturbed by the "magic lumpen." I was mystified by this word. What did it mean? Was it some sort of magic wand? My own dictionaries did not contain this word but I finally discovered the meaning in an unabridged dictionary. I have since used the word lumpen to determine the completeness of a dictionary which might boast of hundreds of thousands of words. If lumpen isn't contained within the dictionary pages, I'm not interested.

The word makes me giggle. What a funny name for a rather unattractive piece of anatomy. The more I vocalize elbow the funnier it seems.

Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango
Thunderbolts and lightning, very, very frightening..."
I named my cat Scaramouche, it's just fun to stand at the back door calling her.

The site is My Favorite Word and it is brilliant. Only I am faced with a small dilemma. I have so many favourite words, I don't know which one I'd pick.

There are some that I'd pick because of what they mean. Like 'pulchritude', which I met for the first time in Zadie Smith's White Teeth. Great physical beauty or appeal hidden in an ugly, long, hunchbacked word.

Then there'd be 'elan' and 'verve', because I love saying them. I love the way elan runs off my tongue. And even though Blogger doesn't let me put the accent over the 'e' I imagine it that way anyway. I love words with accents or umlauts. (Hell, I love the word umlaut. It's such a nice, German-sounding word). Uber, if you say it like the 'u' is a 'Oooh' with a little 'y' sound. 'Naive', 'cafe' all those words. Incidentally, the little 'i' with the two dots? What's that called?

I like animal words as well. Like 'gargoyle' that sounds like you're mispronouncing 'gargle'. Or wildebeast. Wildebeast, wildebeast, wildebeast. Or pheasant, when you're thinking 'ph' but you're doing fffff with your teeth over your lower lip like a screen.

I like words that remind me of other things. Like 'moot'.
(Cross reference Friends episode:
Joey: It's a moo point.
Monica: It's a what point?
Joey: Moo. Like you know, a point a cow would make? It's moo.)
Or like 'unanimous' or 'privelege', the first big words I ever used which I actually knew the meaning of.

I like words with concious images. Like 'float' which reminds me of a pink, nylon nightie. Or 'twilight' which is all cricket-y and blue-y. And 'slender' and 'damask' and 'powder-puff' and 'scent' and 'liquid' and 'pirouette'.

Pink. Little. Tip-toe. Drama. Feather. Melting. Exquisite. Salute. Thistledown. Forgo. Delicate. Sandwich. Thesaurus. Rendezvous.

Have a wildebeast evening, y'all.


  1. float... pink, nylon nightie?!!
    :D i think of float in the same breath as life-jackets.
    and i always thought 'word' was a nice word that completely isn't adequate, or appropriate.

  2. eM,

    Your uberexciting life is so far removed from my prosaic life as a suburban housepet that I stop by often for some vicarious pleasure.

    P.S. The two dots over an i is known as a trema in French.

  3. Scrumptious.



    And I like some of your's too.


  4. I like the way Koreans type their laughing sound. It's not hahahaha, its kekekekekeke.


  5. Oh and I think my favorite word is vamoose, because its so absurd sounding.

  6. Sounds cliched - but that was such an charming post. One of my favourites is infinitesimal. And the other would be phantasmagoric. I love discovering roots of words. The Asian ones are so charming - harakiri, berserk, calico, chaebol... I can go on.

  7. loved this post.
    must do more such phonetic themes.
    (and what do you think of the word phonetic?)

  8. Serendipity, mocha, amethyst,'re right, we all can have endless lists!

  9. been reading you blog for a while.

    brilliant stuff. went thru your entire archives and loved all of it.

    just a niggling thing about this last post (cos it's about words) - spellings. they mar an otherwise superlative piece of writing.

  10. Nice!

    I used to say 'obviously' quite often as a kid. Also 'decided' when I learnt to pronounce it.

    And it's spelt 'wildebeeste', no?

  11. em,

    Sound rush of love for esoteric words in the blog ! Was somewhat insightful.

    So, finalised the flat mate ?



  12. Lovely post, eM. I wonder what my favourite words are. (Hobbes likes to say 'Smock').



    Great post.

  13. CC - that was grand! Two contributions of my own:

    Opprobrium - I like because it sounds onomatopoeic even though it isnt remotely; still, you can imagine the opprobrium rumbling towards its victim like a thunder storm. Bbrroopprrobbrriummm.

    Multiplicative sounds like something skittering across the ceiling. It makes me nervous.

    In his more radical days, Borges argued for a new language, one in which the word for sunset would be the same as the word for the sound of cowbells. You could probably do something similar with twilight.

  14. 1) Schmuck
    2) Ballistic
    3) Kenilworth (k, that's not a word, but had to slip it in)
    4) supple & camel (they're picture words, you immediately get what they mean)
    5) Ping and Plonk.
    6) Zloty (currency in Poland)

    eM, if there were blogger awards, i'd so be cheering you hon!
    this is seriously great writing!

  15. roll the word Flabbergasted off your tongue..pronounce the "bber" strongly.. :D
    saying it makes me happy,try making up your own words>got this harsh sounding one called kraponkle.another thing i've noticed is that some words in hindi are pretty those horrible adverts you see on tv like fair and lovely > Twacha(i believe that there's this thing called fair and handsome now,this metrosexual revolution is going so some extremes i say.) and then there's Ghin. generally words beginning with G or J just sound bad.Sound Diseased actually.We should kill a piece of paper with the Dirty Word around with a steak knife in hand and Stab.

  16. Kayakerrific. You won't find it in any dictionary, but you should.

  17. Got an interesting Word-of-the-Day, from a friend of mine, which apparently comes from the Oxford English Dictionary, an impressive tome whose miniscule print guarantees the world will never run out of magnifying glasses.

    ucalegon (n.) - A neighbor whose house is on fire.

    I can easily picture myself secretly hoarding knowledge of that nugget for twenty or thirty years just waiting for the opportunity to use it. As long as the fire didn't spread to my house, of course.

    I wish English had more ridiculously specific words like that. Ucalegon provides stiff competition for my personal favorite defenestrate (= throw out of the window!) , which, come to think of it, is probably only appropriate when performing it on my local ucalegons. I feel smarter already!

    Now to find a fancy word for arson started by a neighbor's magnifying glass...

    And its Wildebeest!!

  18. Kerffuffle! It's ridiculously amusing.

    And choir, because it's pronounced so differently from the way it's spelt.

    Flumoxxed! Flibbertigibbet! I'm never going to stop...

    Nice post. :)

  19. My favourite is sprezzatura

  20. by the time i read all the comments i forgot my own favourites! exasperated though is fun. ex-hass-purr-aated. all about the sound.

    and if everyone's allowed to choose words from italian and german, can i do a punju one? "rappharr" hahaha!

  21. Katzenjammer. uh-huh, exactly.

    Also, White Teeth is some kinda awesome. Zadie Smith has entered the hallowed hall of my favourite authors.

    Yeah, that's right - I spelt favourite with a 'u' - take that, you damn Americans.



  22. amardillo - weird animal with a fab name, but not as weird as my favourite:
    platypus, or the German kakerlake (speak ka-care-la-ke, ie. a cochroach) also: oxymoron - mindboggling, but really should be some extinct animal, jabukow - polish for apple, sounds round, warm, wholesome, familiar... all of these make me go kekekekekekeke ;-)

    anyone ever heard/seen stockhausen's "stimmung"? it's the epitomy of sound and joy! don't miss it, if it comes your way!

  23. eM: Tonguetied. And realized that my active vocabulary has dwindled to almost zilch. Now that is a favorite word there - Zilch!

  24. maybe you could tell us where exactly you stopped quoting... cos you didn't ... did you? yo people... feel free to check out and then find yourself a whole bunch of shit to copypaste into your mediocre blog. man.


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