Tag Archives: favorite words of famous authors

My Favorite Words – Dan Rather

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Dan Rather is an American journalist who has won Emmy and Peabody awards for his work as news anchor for the CBS Evening News for 24 years. He initially ended his broadcast with the word “courage” but received a great deal of criticism, so he changed it to “That’s part of our world tonight.” Rather was also a frequent contributor to 60 Minutes. He has written eight books, including Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News (2013) and What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism (2017). Rather discusses his two favorite words that evoke memories of his parents:

My two favorite words carry strong associations with my parents. When you think about it, they were the first people to teach me the use of language, so I guess it stands to reason that my favorite words remind me of them. My father’s word was “courage,” a word that meant a lot to him beyond the dictionary meaning: coming from his mouth it was a one-word pep talk in tough times. A fine old word — ”take heart” — and a benediction I continue to invoke (but no longer on the CBS Evening News). My father tried all his life to give his children the things we’d need, not just dinner on the table but tools for the future. Courage — the word and the spirit — he gave us aplenty. On my best days, I hope I’m worthy of my father’s legacy, at least a little.

In the neighborhood where I grew up, there was a field or vacant lot that my mother always called a “meadow.” It was the most beautiful word she knew. Mother was strong and gentle, and “meadow” has a strong and gentle sound: the stretch of the short e and the long o clipped off. For my mother, the word conjured images of sunshine and peace, of nature that didn’t threaten even if it wasn’t altogether tamed. Those images fit my mother, too.

Read related posts: My Favorite Words – Robert Ludlum
My Favorite Words – Simon Winchester
My Favorite Words – Steven Pinker

My Favorite Words – David Foster Wallace

For further reading: Favorite Words of Famous People by Lewis Frumkes


My Favorite Words – Julia Glass

atkins-bookshelf-words

Julia Glass is an American novelist and freelance journalist and editor. Glass is best known for Three Junes, her debut novel that won a National Book Award for Fiction (2002), and The Widower’s Tale (2010). Glass discusses her favorite word, widdershins, drawn from the world of folklore:

As a child, I was a robust consumer of folklore from every conceivable culture. One of my favorite books was a volume of Joseph Jacobs’ fairy tales, with commentary by W. H. Auden (though his name did not impress me then). The best and most haunting tale in the book was “Childe Rowland,” which begins when three boys are playing ball with their sister on a church lawn and she vanishes into thin air. The brothers­ — who will, this being a fairy tale, set out on serial quests to rescue their sister — discover that she’s been abducted by a sorcerer because she ran around the church widdershins: in the opposite direction to the sun (that is, counterclockwise).

From the moment I read that word aloud, I fell in love with it; I’ve used it more than once, though very selectively, in my fiction. To this day, it evokes mischief, superstition, and black magic, yet also the dire solemnity of saving a loved one from peril. (It also summons up a grisly illustration from the book: the youngest brother, the ultimate hero, in the necessary act of beheading an innocent horseherd.) During an extremely painful period of loss and grief in my midthirties, I remember thinking that it felt as if my life had gone widdershins. Just now, pulling that book off a shelf and paging through it for the first time in a few years, I dipped into Auden’s charming afterword and learned that a Scottish synonym for widdershins is wrang-gaites — and that the opposite of widdershins is deiseal. How many rich, delicious words the world contains, and how fortunate I am to be in the business of using them!

Read related posts: My Favorite Words – Robert Ludlum
My Favorite Words – Simon Winchester
My Favorite Words – Steven Pinker

My Favorite Words – David Foster Wallace

For further reading: Favorite Words of Famous People by Lewis Frumkes, Marion Street Press (2011)


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