G is for Glottal

 G is for Glottal—Write Right

Glottal sounds and appears to be an odd word choice. It certainly wasn’t the first word to come to mind when I started the latest installment in the Alphabet Adventure. Other words, like seashells left after the tide’s retreat, surfaced: glory, grand (related: grandiose and grandeur), garbage, glint (presumably because of Irc, a crow in the Pellinor series), and gainsay.

These words tumbled through my mind, and I considered them, a child deliberating which shells to bring home and which to return to the sea. A golden hue caught my eye, though, and I turned: glottal. I know this “seashell”; it acts as the title of a book of poems that I cherish, Glottal Stop.

These poems, written by Paul Celan and translated by Nicolai Popov and Heather McHugh, most likely land on my thoughts because of Celan’s history and current events. Celan lived through and for some years after World War II. The time period forever marked and changed him; he lost loved ones and experienced palpable hate.

Perhaps in response to the times in which he lived, his written language changes. His mother tongue, German, fractures. Words break or are mashed together; his poems often descend into silence. He cannot speak of the horror of what he’s witnessed, and yet—he does. His silence and his words give form to the terror seen and circumscribed on his mind and heart. He gives voice to horror and hope, darkness and light. His throat constricts, but he chokes out the words anyway, raw, bloodied, and true.


Verb. [Probably of imitative origin.] (1577) To talk fast or foolishly: JABBER. To utter inarticulate or animal sounds ~ to say with incoherent rapidity: BABBLE.

(The boy was so consumed with fear about the monster under his bed that he could only gabble in response to his parents’ questions.)


Adjective. (1928) Ordinary, commonplace.

(The little girl gathered a cluster of garden-variety purple flowers from the sidewalk cracks to give to her mother.)


Noun. [From the German, from gemütlich + –keit, an alteration of –heit, hood.] (1892) Cordiality, friendliness.

(Despite the townsfolk’ limited provisions, they exhibited gemütlichkeit to the sojourners.)


Adjective. [From the Middle English. From the Middle French gibbeux. From the Late Latin gibbosus, humpbacked. From the Latin gibbus, hump; akin to the Old Norse keikr, bent backwards.] (1400s) Marked by convexity or swelling: PROTUBERANT; of the moon or a planet: seen with more than half but not all of the apparent disk illuminated. Having a hump: HUMPBACKED.

(The gibbous moon provided little illumination to the footsore travelers.)

Glottal Stop

Noun. (1888) The interruption of the breath stream during speech by closure of the glottis.

(She attempted to share her overseas experience, but she couldn’t speak through her glottal stop.)

Goldfish Bowl

Noun. (1935) A place or situation offering no privacy.

(To be a celebrity these days is to live in a goldfish bowl.)


Verb. (1530) To seize with or as if with a grapple <as for a ship>. To come to grips with: WRESTLE. To bind closely.

(She grappled with the situation, attempting to figure out the best course of action.)


Noun. [Blend of guess and estimate.] (1923) An estimate made without adequate information.

(The constant shelling made his wristwatch either fast or slow, so he could only guesstimate the incoming troops’ arrival time.)


Noun. [From the Middle English. From the Old French, of Germanic origin. Akin to Old High German wisa, manner—more at WISE.] (1200s) A form or style of dress: COSTUME. Obsolete: MANNER, FASHION; archaic: a customary way of speaking or behaving. External appearance: SEMBLANCE, PRETEXT.

(As a time traveler, Polly was required to adopt different guises for her appearance, language, and mannerisms.)


Noun. [from the New Greek gyros, turn; from the rotation of the meat on a spit.] (1971) A sandwich usually of lamb and beef, tomato, and onion on pita bread.

(When in Greece, one must eat an authentic gyro.)

What are your favorite words beginning with the letter “g”? Share them in the comments.

Image: Markus Trienke (Creative Commons)