Wednesday, March 06, 2013

If You're Happy And You Know It, Use Your Words

Here at the Dept. we've had discussions about words we'd like to see banished from the language, and we've totted up the words we have great fondness for.  Now, after reading this article, I'd like to chat a bit about Words That Make Us Happy.  Now, while the compilers of the original list of 25 of the so-called Happiest Words used a bunch of mathy stuff and algorithms and sourced Facebook and Twitter, (and also allowed several forms of the same word to be counted as a separate word, i.e. laughter, laugh, laughing), I am going to set up far more intuitive parameters and use a better sample.  You, of course, are The Sample, and here are the parameters:

1.  The word makes you happy.  It is not a humorous word, per se.  It inspires a feeling of happiness, contentment, and evokes pleasantness.

2.  Any form of the word is acceptable, but it is assumed that all its forms are inherently happy.

3.  No phrases (birthday cake), no proper nouns (Johnny Depp, Nine Inch Nails), no fair saying "this" and hyperlinking to something that would, of course, be a bigass long name.

4.  No more than 5 Happy Words, please, but feel free to explain them completely with as much or as little commentary as you wish.

I had hoped that Jared would join me for this post, but he is very busy with his column over at the Great Blue North website.


Here are my Happy Words, in no particular order:

1.  Summertime--As a former teacher, this one is obvious.  It meant freedom, no bells, no grading, and endless hours of no job responsibilities.  It also means no more cold weather.  It hums when you say it and look at it, like the cicadas in the trees.  It says relaxation, sunshine, fresh herbs and tomatoes, gardening, and being outdoors all in one word.  I smile just looking at it.  There's even a great song for it.

2.  Carefree--Look how those E's just trail off at the end, like your hand fluttering and waving goodbye to all your worries.  I want to be carefree; I want my clothes to be carefree; I want St. Patsy to be carefree.  "If you do/buy/install/take THIS, your life will be carefree."  Okay!  I'll take it!

3.  Cuddly--Yes, please.  My cats are cuddly, my two new nieces are cuddly, and Rick is cuddly.  Even if I'm not cold, I wrap up in a fleece blanket in order to simply feel cuddly.  Sam, in his baby/toddler/little boy days was the Ultimate Cuddler.  He was very willing and very toasty all the time, like a little personal space heater.  See those two d's in the word?  Tell me they're not cuddling.

4.  Strawberry--They are the cutest fruit with the most personality.  They are bite-sized, red, freckled (I was always so envious of people with freckles across the bridge of their noses!), and taste wonderful.  Stuff made with strawberries is either red or pink, which are two of my favourite colors.  Also, I could listen to a British person say this word all day long (STROWbry).  I read a book called Strawberry Girl when I was little, and there was another one in which the horse was named Strawberry (a Trixie Belden mystery?).  And Smucker's Strawberry Jam?  Wonderful, wonderful stuff.

5.  Jelly--I know.  I just got done extolling the virtues of jam.  Truth be told, I don't even eat jelly.  My father preferred preserves and jams, so we never ate jelly--NEVER.  NOT EVEN GRAPE JELLY, which is the Fifth Food Group For Children Everywhere.  But I love that word.  It makes me smile because it just looks happy to me.  It is automatically a Kid Word.  And all kids--little kids--sound very Little Kid when they say it.  I want to go on a Mission to get every kid in the USA some sort of stuffed animal or pet and name it Jelly, just to hear a kid say it.  Jelly Jelly Jelly.  Dare you to ask any little kid you know to say the word Jelly and then try not to smile.  Cannot be done.

6.  Joy.  I know that using a synonym for "happy" is very pedestrian, but have you ever noticed this?  When someone jumps for Joy, he or she spells the word. 

Now it's your turn. What words make you Happy? Share the smiles in comments.

post header image found here
joyful jumper image found here


  1. Anonymous5:35 PM

    Snazzy. Grace. Persimmon. Thusly. Magenta. These words always make me smile. Thanks for asking.

  2. Summertime, yes! I also love the word "ergo" because it sounds so fancy. Also, the word "sir" because I tend to use it in a very snarky way.


  3. I love the word "Boardwalk" because it makes me smile when I remember walking all of my grandchildren down the Boardwalk in Ocean City.

    The word "baby" makes me happy. I had four babies and they were the best years of my life so when I hear that word I smile.

    "Bonanza" brings back the memory of Little Joe and Hoss and the old gang at the Ponderosa..Loved then days. I'm talkin' about you, Miss Kitty."

    "Brillcrean"..A little dab will do ya. I think my husband is the last man in America who uses this stuff and I smile when I think of it...Especially because he has no hair.

    "Barbeque" is a fun smiley word..As they say at the Outback "Light up the barbie and we'll all have fun.You said it, Mate. I'll have a bloomin' onion,please."

    So,these words bring a smile to my lips, and they are only the B's......

  4. Puppy. Although I like cats slightly better than dogs, the word puppy resonates more jollity than kitten does. It is galumphing, innocent, loving, and joyous.

    Lilac. The real thing only, blooming in my back yard in late May. No artificial scent can match it, and there is sweet happiness in its brevity.

    Butterfly. Or, even better and more descriptive, Flutterbye.

  5. My favorite happy word is pony. Most people think horses and ponies are the same animal, but there is a clear distinction when you’re a horse person, and it officially has to do with the horse’s height. In the long-time Pony Club handbook originally written in England and mostly aimed at helping children be better horsepeople, ALL equines, regardless of size, were referred to as ponies. I always love the way the information came across as serious, but with a real warmth for the animal involved, and no feeling of condescension toward the children. “Make sure your pony gets plenty of exercise.” “A trusty pony can help you be a more confident rider.” “Take the time to get to know your pony and he can become your best friend.” For me, it just engenders thoughts of the best of what horses have to offer. We often use it as a term of endearment when addressing ours.

    Another is icecream. I am officially making this one word. The best food group on earth. Smooth, creamy, vanilla home-made icecream is truly ambrosia. Visions of an old icecream churn in summer, with ice and salt spilled everywhere. Cold and delicious. I could eat this all day, every day. I don’t, but I could.

    Rain. I love rain. Being outside at the barn, cold and wet, but knowing that I will soon be home, with a pot of tea, on the couch, wrapped in blankets and listening to the sizzle of cars outside on the wet street. A mystery on my lap or the latest episode of a favorite show on TV. Creates visions of coziness in my head.

    Sheets. There is nothing like newly washed clean sheets on your bed. Crisp and wonderful. Your own little personal nest for sleeping. How restful and comforting.

    Airports. The hub-bub of travel, and people going to new and exotic places. I also really like to watch and listen to planes land and take off, up close and personal. It never ceases to amaze me that anything that big can actually get off the ground, over and over again. The sound, the rumble, the giant engines—I like to be close enough to feel it when a 747 takes off, or hear the whine of the backblast when a DC-1011 lands and slams on the brakes. It’s almost sexual in nature, exciting and guttural.

  6. Anonymous3:19 PM

    Circus: I must admit that circus means something different to me than to most people, as I've been doing flying trapeze for fun for two and a half years, but the word conjures up images of beauty, excitement, joy, and friends. It's one of the few things that brings me great joy.

    Cozy: It's my cuddly.

    Cinnamon: Not only is it my favorite spice, but it just rolls off the tip of your tongue when you say it. Cinnamon. Snickerdoodles. Soft. Sexy.

    Travel: This is a word that immediately makes my ears perk up. I think it gets my attention faster than anything else, perhaps partially because it's such a harsh sounding word.

    Promenade: It's a fun word, and it brings memories of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and of one of my favorite quirky circus acts.

    - Mikey G.

  7. Happy words:

    serendipity -- because so many unexpected nice things happen to me an the word itself sounds so intereting

    cascade -- an onamatpoetic word that seems to be a sparkling water fall, with a tinkly-gushy sound that seems to be dancing

    song -- I know there are sad songs but all songs make me happy because they are music

    Beethoven -- means beautiful, honest, glorious, incredible happiness from a man who seemed to be unhappy, yet all the beauty bubbles forth

    sunshine -- simply love sunshine

  8. pudding. A lovely word on its own, but amazing when made with chocolate.

    surf. I love being by it, rolling around in it, the scent of the salt as it rolls in.

    tubops. This is what my little one called tulips. conjures up the whole world of mothering babies.

    bugle. As in 'blow bugles blow' and the name of a particularly demented beagle we once had.

    purr. Obvious.

    You always suspected I was seriously weird, hmmm?

  9. Kitten...This word reminds me of my childhood and the little orange kitten named Precious who allowed me to dress it in my doll clothes and roll it around the block in a stroller. This cat smelled wonderful when i would put my nose to it's fur and he purred loudly whenever I pet him. Yes, Kitten is a happy word. At the same time so is puppy, not because I ever owned one but because they seem like such happy critters. Thank you for the post.

  10. Caroline--Oh, you're so welcome. I love that your kitty smelled wonderful. My girl cat Marlowe smells always of lavender or slightly flowery, and I have no idea why. And I agree that Puppy is a happy word, too. I, too, am not a Dog Person by nature, but the word is awfully happy-looking, and so are they, always. Thanks for chipping in with your fond memory.

    Mary G.--Now, is this actual Pudding, like custard, or is it the British use of Pudding, as in a dessert of any old kind? Not that it matters; I love the word Pudding. AND custard. Also the foods. Which reminds me--I need a good recipe for creamy rice pudding.

    tubops--love it! And I bet you call them that forever. Good for you.

    June Calender--Hello, and welcome to the Dept.! Song and sunshine are very happy words indeed. They make me think of outdoor concerts or parades. You must also be a music lover. Thank you for commenting, and I hope to see you here often.

    Mikey G--Oh, I almost almost chose Cinnamon! And what a great choice Circus is! Did I ever tell you about seeing the circus train coming through Wellington one day? I was so excited. And I would have bet on you choosing Travel. Or Passport. How delightful!

    LaFF--You have very interesting Happy Words. And I am now Educated regarding the Pony. I honestly had no idea, and I confess I thought it was just a young horse. Sigh. So sorry, but remember, I am a Cow Person.

    I used to love Airports, but then they stopped allowing family and friends--necessarily, I get it--into the terminal to wait with and for you. Now I hate them. For that reason and all the other dehumanizing things we go through as Security Measures.

    I do share your love of clean sheets, both hanging on the line and snappy crisp on my bed, but the word itself, not so much.

    fauxprof--What a nice group of words. Lilacs are one of my favourite flowers, and it is also a lovely color. The word is a lilting, pretty word, too. I don't get many butterflies in my yard, sadly. And I think the word Butter makes me a bit happier than Butterfly. LOL.

    Nancy--I almost said Baby. I do love babies. I can hold a baby forever, really. I don't care if it cries or spits up or needs a messy diaper changed. Give me that baby and get the hell out. Holding babies relaxes me like nothing else.

    Barbecue does not make me happy. (The eating outdoor thing, you know.)

    I laughed about Bonanza. A lot. Good for you! I love your words. They tell me so much about you.

    TeacherPatti--Ergo! I haven't heard that used in ages. I will vow to use it this weekend at least three times. Too funny! And that is your Happy Word!? Love it.

    Ally--Snazzy is a word that you rarely hear anyone use anymore, and it seems like more men use it than women. Magenta always makes me think of coloring with 64 Crayolas, lying on the floor with my sister. She was crazy about Magenta and Aquamarine. (We used to feed the dog Magenta crayons to see in the yard the next day.) LOL.

  11. Weekend - for obvious reasons :)

    Bob - that's the nickname Mike & I use for each other - short for sweetimabob.

    Cake - because why ever not?

    Spring - even though I have seasonal allergies it's my favorite season. Also, the word itself makes me want to get up & do something (as in, I have a spring in my a$$).

    Puzzle - I love puzzles, many varieties of them & the word gives me that tingly "I'm about to use my brain" feeling.

  12. Bug--Puzzle with those two Z's is a fun word. It's a fine line for me, however. I don't want them to cross over into being Work.

    Cake. By itself, for me, no. But Birthday Cake, Chocolate Cake, Pineapple Upside-Down long as it's modified, THAT'S when it makes me happy.'re kind of a Tigger about Spring? LOL.

    Weekend. It used to be a Happy Word for me too. Now, all my days are weekends. LOL. (Sorry. Could not hold that one back.)

    I'm a little surprised that there wasn't a food or flower on your list. Probably would have been had I asked for more than 5. Squirrel?

  13. I like the word 'snooze', though for me it conjures a gorgeous nap on the couch, not a stupid button that you have to keep hitting before finally getting out of bed. I've never been a snooze button girl. I'm all in or all out, no laying about avoiding the day. But a nap on the couch is DELICIOUS.

    My nickname was Jelly for awhile, hence my url of JellyJules. My bff was talking to her friend, Kelly, and turned to talk to me, Julie or Jules, and out of her mouth came 'Jelly'. Enough of our group were standing around that it stuck. I liked it, and named my first car 'Jelly', or sometimes, 'Jellybug', as it was a candy apple red rag top 1966 VW bug. I loved that car.

  14. I tried doing this list in English and the emotion didn't come with the words, somehow. I think it's to do with what sounds/looks appealing but which also has a strong emotional attachment. In my life, it has to be Spanish. So bear with me, and I will translate...

    1. Guiso (GHEE-soh) This is actually the noun form of the verb guisar, which is interpreted in Spain as "to cook." I love that they use this instead of the more generic cocinar. Because guiso, defined in the dictionary as "a stew" is much more than that. It is the marriage of flavors that come from slowing cooking the ingredients until they impart a flavor that can only come from knowing what to add, when to add it, and a constant stirring and tasting to produce a flavor that makes you think of your mother or grandmother, and food that tastes as good as it smells (and vice-versa).

    2. Olé = (oh-LAY) Exclamation of approval. Gives me the same feeling as your "jump for joy."

    3. Maja = (MAH-hah) Grammatically, the feminine version of the generic adjective form "majo". Bilingual dictionaries do not do it justice, and usually define it as "nice", which is one of the most meaningless over-used words in English. Modern day usage has little to do with Goya's Maja (with or without clothes) or the brand of soap. It evokes the sort of person who is not just nice on a superficial level: they are the kind of nice that is truly genuine, and, for me, almost implies a sort of innate kindness to others that ignores any suspicions one may have that others do not deserve to be treated nicely. I find it so difficult to do that, and have long admired las personas majas.

    4. España (ess-PAHN-ya) Do I even need to say why I like this word? I think not. And it has the lovely ñ in it. ( I know, it is a proper noun, not a common noun, but I love it as a word for its sound and the quarter century of my life that it evokes, so there you are.)

    5. Zarzuela (sar-SWAY-lah, or in Spain, where it is uniquely from, thar-THWAY-lah.) I love those z's (pronounced in Spain as with a lisp, "th"). Zarzuela is Spanish operetta, composed of robust songs with earthy, Dickensian characters, and there is nothing quite like it when viewed on a summer evening in the open air theatres of the barrios of old Madrid.

    And guess what? The first letter of each of those words spells Gómez, a typical Spanish surname, but to me it will always remind me of the nickname that my goddaughter's father gave her when she was a baby. Her mother was not amused, but it always made me laugh, especially as I could see more clearly than her mother that it was just something jokey that became a term of endearment during her infancy, and would never replace her real name, Lidia.

  15. Fe de erratas (errata):
    I meant "slowly" cooking. And I know you knew that, but... :-)

  16. Hi Nance,
    This is Larry from the crossword blog.
    Had you not been hacked, I would not be here, commenting. I had lost track of your blog.
    Anyway , here are my words:
    June- my favorite month; I wait 11 months for it, every year, and try to savor each day.
    Warm - see June. Why I continue to live where it gets cold, I don't know. I love the feel of the warm sun.
    Music - in all it's forms, including that in nature, not human made.
    Breeze - while I love June, those first southerly breezes in April make me feel like winter was worth it.
    Hard - What can I say? I'm 67 years old, and sometimes when I wake up at 3 AM it feels like I'm 17. I'll miss it if it ever goes away.

  17. windhover/Larry--Sorry again for the spam. I really got a shock when I saw my access log and the evidence that someone from Algeria had broken into my account. I don't know if this has happened to only Yahoo accounts or what. Maybe I should switch to a gmail account for my "business" mail.

    Anyway, it's nice to see you back.
    Warm is a happy, comforting word. That one showed up in Comments in the article that inspired this post. Breeze is a lovely word, but not one that makes me happy. Boy, do I hear you about questioning my residence with the way I resent winter and cold. Why do we live where we cannot be warm all the time? Who knows. Thanks for chiming in and offering us a Distinctly Male View of your happiness! Hee hee.

    Ortizzle--How fascinating that Spanish words provoke happiness, but English words remain largely neutral for you. And I still marvel at how, in so many languages, there are words for which there are really no equal in English. How can anyone not find words tremendously interesting? Language is endlessly charming to me.

    I love the nuance and idea of the word Guiso. It's really evocative of the way experienced women/mothers/grandmothers cook. No measurements, no recipes, sometimes not even a real plan. Just grabbing fresh ingredients, adding what's on hand, tasting, stirring, adding here and there as needed, putting in more or adding something else if someone unexpected shows up for dinner. It's like a culture of cooking, really. I understand, I think.

    I grew up in Lorain, Ohio, which has one of the largest Puerto Rican populations in the USA (per capita). It has a significant Mexican population as well. It seemed as if every other one of my classmates had an EZ at the end of his/her name. Fernandez, Guiterrez, Gonzalez, Hernandez, Sanchez, etc. No Gomez, but again, these were Puerto Rican and Mexican communities.

    J.@jellyjules--Snooze is a good word. It looks fun, sitting there on the screen. I always wondered about the name Jellyjules, and now I know! How did you ever resist calling Maya "Jellybug"? It's such a cute little nickname. I feel like I want to steal it and use it in a children's book.

  18. Gómez is about as common as Smith in English, though certain common names will abound more in some countries than others. And let's not forget Rodríguez, López, Velázquez, Pérez, Martínez, Ramírez, Álvarez, Jiménez, Méndez, Valdez (no accent as it is stressed on final syllable), etc. Patronymics is the reason for the -EZ endings: it is a suffix added to the father's first name meaning "son of" of "descended from." Rather like Johnson, Williamson, Stevenson, etc. So a Rodríguez would be a descendant of Rodrigo. As you can see, it's not always the simple math of using the whole first name + EZ, and often the original first name is truncated or suffers other changes, and a lot depends on the origin of the first name, as well. To a lesser degree, the same custom exists with -IZ or -AZ endings. Ortiz is thought to come from Fortún > Ortún > Ortiz.

    So... that's your dose of TMI for the day, lol.


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