Most of us have words we’re fond of, some for their meaning, some for their sound, some for the feel of them on the tongue, and some rare ones for all these pleasures at once. I like “cellardoor” and “pickle relish”—they’re quick and merry and clear, I’m fond of “melancholy” for the slowness its pronunciation demands—a little hitch that fits with a depressed spirit. Some words are unpleasant for more than their connotation. They offend the ear. “Snort,” for example, and “grunt.” And let me say that “scudzy” is one of the ugliest words in many ways. There are worse ones.
When I’m reading a writer whose work I’m not familiar with, I often jot down the first twenty-five words that catch my attention—they may be common words, but they’re the enticement. Read aloud, taken out of their sentences, they still present tone, authority, and subject matter. It’s the language of the book and the author, and a kind of intimate exchange before delving into that world.