Thursday, September 2, 2010


I have started to enjoy the word chucklehead. On the rare occasion that I read or hear it I almost always chuckle. On the much more common occasion that I think it, I want to chuckle but don’t.

It’s a word I used to hate—or really not even think of as usable—but now want to employ daily, if not hourly. On the way to work, I say to the car ahead of me, Nice time to decide you need the leftest lane, chucklehead. Or at some bar: that sure is an engaging story about why you got custody of the kids, chucklehead. Or at the gym: I don’t know if flailing away at the row machine will make that woman on the biceps curl want to go home with you, you sweaty chucklehead.

I think I love the tension within the word—it’s a low-class sort of word that someone would deploy against someone felt to be even lower class. It’s something a semi-fool would use when exasperated with someone else’s semi-foolishness. I think I might build an entire story around someone’s propensity to diagnose others as chuckleheads. Chucklehead will be to my story what phony was to Catcher in the Rye.

Here are some other things I’ve grown to love as I’ve grown older:

browser-based video games
foreign films
unusually long poems
indoor rock climbing
air travel
run-on sentences

What about you? It could be anything! Or to bring this back around, a little, to matters literary: are there words or styles you've come to use in your writing that you used to avoid entirely? I know that in the past few years my default fiction style has grown reckless and tight, whereas I used to want to develop something more lyrical. I've also started explaining things much less, whereas I used to go on and on and on and on and on and on and on. These changes are probably for the best.


  1. I was noticing recently that I really like to use "arthritis" or "arthritic." Used to that would be too specific an ailment for me--too much like diagnosing the character, "the man with Hepatitis A"--but my mom used to just talk about her arthritis all the time, mentioning it by name, and that kind of ownership of one's ailment has become kind of endearing to me. Endearing as an immensely painful and inflammatory disease can be, anyway. I feel like apologizing to my mom now.

  2. I could see that one. That's a fun word to write/say, so that probably doesn't help.