Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Beautiful words: what's your favourite?

Nik Perring is a friend I’ve never met. A friend of six, seven, eight years? I can’t be sure but, for as long as I’ve been blogging (since 2006), I’ve known Nik. I’ve spoken to him on the phone, we’ve sent each other mixed CDs (we have a similar fondness for quirky female singer-songwriters), I made him cry when he read my first novel HEAVEN CAN WAIT and I fell in love with his story ‘Shark Boy’ in his wonderful book of flash fiction NOT SO PERFECT, but we’ve never met in person. Maybe we never will but that’s okay – ours is a friendship we dip in and out of depending on how hectic life is, but it’s always there, in the background.

And talking of things you can dip in and out of (nice segue, Cally!), Nik has a wonderful new book out called ‘BEAUTIFUL WORDS’. It’s hard to describe to describe the book and do it justice. It’s not a short story book, it’s not a book of flash fiction and it’s definitely not a dictionary – what it is is a collection of words that Nik finds beautiful and, running through the book, is a narrative about a man called Alexander and his search for love.

BEAUTIFUL WORDS would make a wonderful gift for anyone who loves words – who loves discovering new ones, who loves reading them aloud to hear how they sound, who loves saying them over and over again until they make sense, or stop making sense at all. It’s quirky and different and resonant and thought-provoking. It’s like no little book you’ve ever read before and the illustrations are beautiful too. I’ve got a copy to give away but first, some questions for the Word Master himself…

So, Nik. Tell me how BEAUTIFUL WORDS came about? What gave you the idea?

Thanks for having me here. It's a lovely place! How did it start? A couple of years ago I started collecting words that I liked, that interested me. I bought a little orange notebook and when I found one I thought interesting or one I liked saying, or one that I liked what it stood for or represented I'd scribble it down in there. The initial plan was write a book that would be a celebration of words. Something I thought word lovers might like. The sort of thing that I thought I'd like to be given as a gift. But I thought, quite quickly, that a list of words that some chap you've probably never heard of wouldn't excite people. So I made it into a part story, part fact thing. With beautiful illustrations. I think it works.

There are two more books in the series – BEAUTIFUL SHAPES and BEAUTIFUL TREES – that continue Alexander’s story but also explore the shapes and trees you find beautiful. Did
you always plan on a series of books or did the idea for two more come to you
after you’d finished BEAUTIFUL WORDS?

That came about while I was writing it. It was a chance comment I'd made to my publisher. I said something like, 'It could be cool to do this as a series.' My publisher agreed it could be and that phone call was where we came up with the ideas for the next two.

Our relationship with words is such a personal thing. In your book I fell in love with the word
WHIFFLE because of the way it sounds when I say it but also because of the meaning but I wasn’t so keen on the word EFFLEURAGE because it made me think of sewage (sorry!) although it actually has a lovely meaning. When you wrote the book did you give any thought to how other people might respond to your choice of words or were you solely driven by your own favourites?

Ha! Sorry about the sewage. I think when we write anything that's going to be (hopefully) read by anyone we have to think of that audience to some degree. My angle was, and still is: these are some words that I like, and that mean something to the characters in the book but it's not, by any means, definitive. I think I say in the introduction that I hope people find some they like, but half the fun's
people disagreeing. If I get people thinking about the words that they like then I'm happy.

Which words nearly made the grade but were dropped in favour of your final choices?

There were loads! Flicking through my notebook... Doe, gnome, astral, book, chignon, crackle, doodlebug, elk, ermine, fiddle, fenberry, galloon, hexad, imp, junco, knobble, lasque, mist, nimble, obsequious, pirouette, quiver, scrim, tinsel. I'll stop there.

And here are a couple of early entries that didn't make the final draft:

Obsequious: If you are obsequious you are super-obedient, to the point of being servile. As nice as it is to be helpful, do remember that no-one likes a doormat. And if they do, you’re probably best steering clear of them.


Lover: Lover has been with us since the 12th century. More recently, I had a lover. I loved this lover. She was beautiful, and her lips were two halves of perfect. But this lover was allergic to me. I think I made her sick. I don’t see that lover any more.

Have you always been a fan of words? Do you know what your first word was? Any words you particular loved (and over-used) as a child?

Yeah, I think I have. Can't think of many specific examples, although I do remember loving 'diorama' when I was in high school.

Do you think our taste in favourite words change over time? Have yours?

That's a really interesting question, and one I'd not really thought about. I think the answer's most definitely a yes. Vocabulary does change. Just look at how many words get added to the OED (and taken out) every year. Twerk, anyone? And I think that we're probably getting more new words and
at a faster rate because of the internet and technology. It's a good thing, I think.

A bit of a morbid question here (sorry, it’s the crime writer in me!) but, imagine you’re on your
deathbed…what would you want the final word you breathe to be?

Ha! Oh I don't know. I'd like it to be something like 'goodbye', or 'thanks', but knowing me it's more likely to be 'Oops.'

Are there any words you actively dislike? Not because of their meanings (racism, homophobia etc) but because you don’t like the sound they make?

Dumbbell. Mulch.

You really enjoy writing short stories and flash fiction but you haven’t written a novel yet. Is
that because words hold more power in the short form, or some other reason?

Nah, I think words hold the same amount of power regardless of the story length. There's an argument that they stick out more in shorter stuff but every story/novel/whatever needs to use the right ones.

I’ve recently been thinking about my writerly bucket list. It includes: ‘See a poster of one of my books in a train station' ‘Win an award’, ‘Make the Richard and Judy Book Club selection’ and ‘Become a Sunday Times Bestseller’. What’s on your writerly bucket list?

And I'm sure you'll get all of them! I guess mine are pretty similar to yours. What would be really cool, I think, would be if someone animated one of my stories. That I'd like to see. But, really, as long as people keep on enjoying what I put out there then that's me happy.

Thanks Nik! I can’t wait to read the next two books in the series and wish you every success with BEAUTIFUL WORDS.

So for anyone who’s desperate to find out what WHIFFLE and
EFFLEURAGE mean do get yourself along to Nik’s publisher’s website and get
yourself a copy: http://www.roastbooks.org/beautiful-words.html

Or buy it on Amazon: Beautiful Words: Some Meanings and Some Fictions Too

Or you could enter my competition to win yourself a copy.

All you need to do is leave a comment letting us know which is your favourite word and why and Nik will pick his favourite. The competition closes on Friday 6th June 2014 at midnight and I’ll announce the winner within a week of the closing date. 


Nik Perring is a short story writer and author from the UK. His stories have been published
in many fine places both in the UK and abroad, in print and online. They’ve been used on High School distance learning courses in the US, printed on fliers, and recorded for radio. Nik is the author of the children’s book, I Met a Roman Last Night, What Did You Do? (EPS, 2006); the short story collection, Not So Perfect (Roastbooks 2010); and he’s the co-author of Freaks! (The Friday
Project/HarperCollins, 2012). His online home is
www.nikperring.com and he’s on Twitter as @nikperring Beautiful

Words is out now and available from all good book retailers.


T McDermott said...

My favourite word is Lagom

Anonymous said...

My favourite word is "Synergy". Long before my husband (a man of few words) became my husband, he described our relationship as synergetic. 20+ years on it remains the most romantic thing he's ever said. I know.

Clare Barry said...


To me this means lingering at a quirky doorway or sauntering towards the park. I like how the word sounds and that it makes me think of lovely strolls in the city, getting lost or discovering something new because I wasn't in a hurry to reach my destination.

I love Nik's book cover - beautiful!

Jo Cannon said...

Gosh, it's difficult to just pick one, but I think I'll go with 'pocket'.
I'm not sure why I love it so much, but I think it's because it sounds like a secret.

Cheryl said...

Enigma - which has been used to describe me on more than one occasion. Its a nicer way to say I'm a little weird at times but I really like it

Kim The Book Worm said...

Discombobulated! A very grown-up way of saying "all of a dither" and my Nan used to say! Love that word! Love the idea of this book. Thanks for an opportunity to win. Kim x

Annieye said...

Modges is my favourite word, mainly because they spoilt your tea, made you sick and were definitely not to be seen in the modern 1960s mum's shopping basket, for fear that your children's teeth would turn black. (Oh .. The terrible shame of being a mum to children whose teeth were black)

However, Modges were slipped into your small, grubby hand by grandparents, offered out of white paper bags outside the school gates, appeared as if by magic from behind your uncle's ear and then, on the glorious day you were first given pocket money of your own, brought from the corner shop and waved defiantly under your mum's nose, who shook her head and said "I give up. Don't blame me when all your big teeth fall out."

mad muthas said...

I like 'incandescent' - it's a great word to say out loud; words only really come alive when they're spoken and it's a metaphor, when applied to a person, for a passionate feeling (whether positive or negative) that's transformative. It's light and heat together. Powerful stuff.

vampyre1979 said...

Crunch is one of my favourite words because it evokes more than one sense when I think of it. I taste it, see it, feel it, hear it :)

joe rotheram said...

I encourage my girls to write their favourite words/phrases in a 'magpie' book for future use; I love that a grown-up has taken it a step further!

My current favourite word is effervescent: it describes both my tinnitus and my girls (in oh such different ways!)

bt-thecraftygardener said...

I love the word comfort because it evokes soft, warm feelings and memories of being cuddled by my mother when I was ill. Curling up in a chair with a blanket in front of a fire, reading a favourite book. Comfort is cats and dogs in my home. I hate the word got!

CL Taylor said...

From Sam Knott who couldn't post her comment so ask me to:

My favorite word is gezellig. It is Dutch word. Good old Google Translate translates it as cosy. But it is so much more than that! It is an atmosphere that brings a smiles to every face; a joyous moment of happiness and sheer fun with both friends old or new; the memories of good times gone by; and a word that can connote dreams of the future. For me it embodies the best if the Dutch culture, and it demonstrates that language should not just be limited to the dictionary of your culture but should extend to languages unknown where other words simply capture the moment, expression or feeling deeper and clearer than anything in our dictionary....