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Culture / Entertainment

Now Hear This — Words That We’re Obsessed With

The Rhetoric of a New Year

BY // 01.10.19

I used to toss around words with no regard. Somewhat like a bull in the proverbial china shop. I can’t believe I am officially now about to say this, but… now that I am a writer (I have paychecks to prove it) I have truly found my love and hatred for words.

When writing something I know will go in the print edition of PaperCity I can sometimes ponder the right choice for hours. I will confess, for online, like this piece — not as much. Why you might ask? Because if I think of a better choice of word or turn of phrase I can simply go back and correct. Like a painting that can be worked on until the end of time, or at least my time writing for PaperCity or on this mortal coil.

Hopefully, that lead up doesn’t make you feel as though this weeks “Now Hear This” PaperCity Dallas office question will be weighty and overwrought (it took me a while to think of that last word choice).

Instead, this week’s question is meant to be fun. This might date me, but I still remember occasionally in years past getting one of those silly little “word of the day” desk calendars. I would often be amused with it up until February, but then begin ignoring those fascinating new vocabulary additions by early April and then completely disregarding the calendar by Memorial Day.

I’d like a regular spot on the weekly “Now Hear This” series to be focused on words. Ones that my friends and colleagues here in the office are recently fascinated by or find amusing or powerful. That said, here is the first installment of “Word’s We Want To Share.”

Also, join me in welcoming to the PaperCity Dallas team Maggie Wilson. Charming Maggie is a Houston native who graduated from TCU with a degree in English. She will be in charge of PaperCity’s community partnerships and the many events we throw throughout the year. I’m sure you will bump into her at one of those fun affairs in the near future.

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Christina Geyer, Dallas Editor in Chief

Fun fact: I keep journals and notebooks by my side whenever I’m reading magazines, books, or newspapers. Why? Well, foremost to write down facts, names, or things that I want to look up later in more depth. But, I also tend to write down words that I love and want to later use in my writing. This is a neurotic OCD habit that I started when I was a freshman in college — and it hasn’t stopped. 

So, here you go. A few of my favorite words from the piles of notebooks stashed in every nook of my office and apartment: aplomb, ineffable, serendipitous, ephemeral, fetching, wherewithal, caprice, scrupulous and mien. 

I also love words invented by or first used by great authors: mimsy, chortle, and slithy via Lewis Carroll… dexterously, blusterer, circumstantial, fashionmonger via Shakespeare. And, I swear, every time I re-read one of Jane Austen’s novels, I feel she has the best use of words in the English language. 

Rebecca Sherman, Home Design Editor

One of my favorite words is parvenu. It’s not to be confused with arriviste, which alludes to someone with less than our best intentions at heart. By definition, an arriviste can be a ruthlessly self-seeking person, especially one with recently acquired wealth or social status. A parvenu, on the other hand, is much more interesting and entertaining. And, if you dig deep enough, we all have a parvenu or two in our own family histories. 

According to Merriam-Webster, a parvenu is “one who has recently or suddenly risen to an unaccustomed position of wealth or power and has not yet gained the prestige, dignity, or manner, associated with it.” Texas has produced a lot of parvenus. Spindletop, a massive oil gusher in Beaumont in 1901, launched Gulf Oil and Texaco, along with an oil boom that lasted through the 1940s. Dirt-poor farmers became overnight millionaires.

The sudden influx of money had a positive, transformative effect on Texas, which had been predominately rural with no large cities. Houston and Dallas flourished as a consequence, and stores like Neiman Marcus opened to cater to the new money crowd. As the stories go, farmers who’d just struck oil would walk into Neiman Marcus still wearing their dirt-and-oil-splattered overalls to buy a new wardrobe. 

And it was the parvenus among us that helped shape Dallas in the 1980s, that unparalleled era that produced the Starck Club, J.R. Ewing, and McMansions. Everyone had money or acted like it. It was a place you could reinvent yourself, and there was plenty of that going on. We all knew someone with a mysterious European title, or who claimed to have a trust fund that was cut off after too much irresponsibility.

Dallas was booming, and new development flooded the city along with questionable real estate investments. This zest to impress helped fuel the Savings and Loan crisis of the ’80s and ‘early ’90s, which saw more than 1,000 lending institutions fail across Texas. But it wasn’t just the new moneyed who were making bad decisions — a selfish desire for wealth and possessions comes in all shapes and forms, including old money.

And that’s part of the reason I like the word parvenu so much. It implies that while the cash and influence might be there, the social graces and manners are only a generation or two away. Dallas was built on that kind of history.

Billy Fong, Culture and Style Editor

The first time in many years that I recall being fascinated by a word was from a scene in my beloved, Devil Wears Prada. It is in Miranda Priestley’s wonderful monologue when she dresses down her poor assistant Andy for not knowing “about this stuff” during a run through of fashion choices for an editorial. In her calculated, eloquent and monotone way Miranda says “blithely unaware.” I remember that moment in the movie theater wanting to grab my phone and look up the exact meaning of blithely. 

For my answer, maybe I’ll focus on alliteration and allow myself only a few today starting with the letter v: voracious, vapid, veracity, vexing, vehement.

Linda Kenney, Account Executive

Word of the Day? I love discovering new words. I usually find several new, wonderful words when I am reading books by English writers.

My latest discovery and my word of the day is palimpsest. Meaning a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for other writing, but of which traces remain.

I found this delightful word while reading Julian Barnes’ The Only Story: A Novel. Not only was it a fantastic read; I harvested several words from the book. Barnes is a Man Booker Prize winner and there is a good chance that you will find delicious words when you are reading something by a Man Booker Prize winner.

If you are planning to write a murder mystery, be sure to use the word palimpsest. Happy reading in 2019.

Samantha Olguin, Senior Account Manager

Putz and catawampus. Hopefully, that makes me all the more intriguing. 

Maggie Wilson, Events and Partnerships Manager

My word is gumption. I was reminded of this word after watching The Holiday. It’s a word I want to use and embody more in 2019.

If you ever have something you want our team to address, shoot us your thoughts via social media or email (@papercitydallas on Instagram; facebook.com/papercitymagdallas on Facebook; or yours truly, billy@papercitymag.com). Or, better yet send a message to the office, handwritten on the Smythson stationery of your choice — and feel free to include a bottle of Veuve. Champagne really helps get the ideas flowing.

Look for the next installment of Now Hear This from Billy Fong next week.

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