B is for the B Sides

In Praise of the B Sides — Write RightI trade in words. If I were to go back to school, I would probably study linguistics and etymology. I like history and learning about how words morph in spelling and definition. They delight the senses, and the perfectly placed word—it’s an experience hard to describe. It prompts delight, occasions a “yes!” or an “oh” and scribbles in the margin.

Unfortunately, I can’t use all my beloved words. Some might be wonderful words, but they miss the mark because of the audience. The words aren’t commonly used and require the aid of a dictionary. Others call for attention or cause the reader to think of the author as elitist, hoity-toity.

I save — and savor — those words because they could be the right word at some point in time. I practice and keep them, perhaps like a martial artist with his throws. He knows and practices them regularly, but only one or two of the throws fit a specific set of circumstances. He might question the refinement of a sacrifice throw, yet he does because he knows it could be the throw needed for a particular occasion.

Words are the same. They might not always suit the situation, but when they do, they do. Here are some of my current best “b” words, hence the “in praise of the b sides.”

Bachanalia

Noun. A Roman festival of Bacchus celebrated with dancing, song, and revelry; a drunken feast or orgy.

(Basically, Mardi Gras in New Orleans.)

Bamboozle

Verb. To deceive by underhand methods; dupe or hoodwink.

(I think not of the smooth-talking, snaky-snake salesman, but of the good ol’ boy Eagle Scout. He charms and confuses the retiree into investing her savings as she offers him lemonade and cookies. When she realizes her error, she hates herself for being deceived by such obvious duplicity.)

Beleaguer

Verb. To surround with an army so as to prevent escape; besiege; trouble or harass.

(Poor girl. She tries to get home after class only to get caught in a downpour. She looks like a drowned rat; her shoes squish; and her books drip water and ink. Her umbrella catches a gust of wind and turns inside out. An army might not encircle her, but the elements certainly do.)

Bereft

Adjective. Deprived or robbed of the possession or use of something; lacking something needed, wanted, or expected; bereaved.

(Bereft often is associated with “bereaved,” as in the case of a loved one. The word still means the same thing albeit applied to the context of love: the bereft person feels robbed of something precious. She grieves the loss.)

Boondoggle

Noun. A handicraft article made of leather or wicker; a trivial, useless, or wasteful project or activity.

(I’ve never heard of boondoggle used to refer to “a handicraft article.” I typically use the word as a verb rather a noun: I’ve been boondoggled! A person known for boondoggling can be called a “boondoggler.” It sounds like a Shakespearan insult.)

What are your favorite “b sides”? Share them in the comments.

Image: Pasi Mammela (Creative Commons)

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