Column: Wordy worship of verbolatry – or is that grammatolatry?


Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

I’m a proud “word nerd.” I love words; I collect them like baseball cards. I like weird words, wonky words, witty words and even a handful of Welsh words. As a person prone to collecting things, I hoard words like a doomsday prepper stashes toilet paper. Is it an illness? Probably. But it’s cheaper than golf.

Do you bow down at the altar of epeolatry? If so, you worship words. I promise you’re not the only adherent to this phonetic pastime. Other words for word-worship are “grammatolatry” and “verbolatry.” While I’m not qualified to dole out spiritual advice, your words have the power to give life or to take it from someone. Even when anonymous or through social media, your words can either make someone’s day or make them miserable.

Verbomania is a “craze for words.” I’m not a psychiatrist, nor am I Dear Abby, so I can’t prescribe medication or give medical advice. However, if you have an appetite for language, maybe consider a helping or two of alphabet soup. By doing so, you can rightly call yourself a “verbivore.”

You may consider yourself a “logolept.” If so, you’re a word lover — a verbal virtuoso. A word wizard. A defender of diction. A prose pro. A lexical legend. You get the idea.

On the other hand, maybe you know someone who’s terrified of words. I doubt you have gotten this far into my column while suffering from “logophobia” — the fear of words. Many people have a fear of speaking in public or have an aversion to speaking altogether.

Did you know there’s even a word for people who have a fear of long words? It’s called “hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia.” Weighing in at 15 syllables, this word is a tongue-in-cheek word that means the same thing as “sesquipedalophobia.”

As someone who often gets paid by the word, I have no problem extending prose to ridiculous extents. The words we use  matter and we need to make them count. It’s no wonder people get booted from Twitter for the equivalent of yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. Just as the clothes we choose to wear on our bodies can express our identities, the words we allow to flow from our mouths and keyboards shape how people see us.

While life can often feel like a nonstop chwyrligwgan (Welsh for “merry-go-round”), our words give us the opportunity to shape it into something either awesome or awful. It’s up to you.