Monday Writing Motivation: These are a few of our favourite words…

 In Monday Motivation, Richard Beynon's blog

We climb the stairs to the first floor of Ca’della Corte and mill about around the long dining room table. Liza says, out of the blue: “Persiflage…”

“Persiflage?” I say. It’s a word I don’t believe I’ve ever used but have a vague idea of its meaning. Something to do with inconsequentialities, I believe.

“It’s one of my favourite words,” Liza says.

“It’s a beautiful word,” Josie says, as we all settle at the table.

We’re waiting for the first course of a feast celebrating the start of our 2023 Venice Retreat, and inevitably, the conversation revolves around words and writing.

“What’s yours?” Liza asks.

I have many favourite words, some of which I’ve mentioned in these columns over the years, but for some reason the one that springs to mind is one I’ve never considered before: “Verisimilitude,” I say, “I’ve always loved that. It’s like its own definition.”

Josie agrees. “That’s one of mine too. I like vicissitudes and solivagant.”

I’d never heard of solivagant, and for a moment wondered whether Josie hadn’t perhaps merged two other words to come up with a non-existent portmanteau. I whipped out my phone, looked it up and immediately apologised inwardly for doubting her. “Solivagant: adj. and noun; 1. rambling alone, marked by solitary wandering 2. A solitary wanderer.

Monday Writing Motivation: These are a few of our favourite words…

Nico arrives with our first course: scallops. While he delivers the plates to each of us,

Fizz adds, “Obsequious and schadenfreude and hippopotamus.” Fizz studied classics and is fond of the German and the Greek habit of piling word upon word. Schaden = harm or damage; freude = joy. Hippos – horse; potamios = riverine.

Graham pours himself a small glass of prosecco, before passing the bottle on. “Sensuous,” he says. “It’s also one of those words that seems to sum up what it means.”

“Delicious,” Liza murmurs, and then tosses another word into the ring. “Lambent.”

I love the word. It, too, seems to express its meaning, as if the distance between the symbol (“lambent”) and the thing it symbolises (“glowing with a soft radiance”) has disappeared.

I point out the peculiar potency of adjectives ending in -id. I’ve written about this category of words before, but it’s worth reminding ourselves of their power and accuracy (if that makes sense).

“Think of them,” I say at the table, swallowing a truly unctuous scallop. “Pellucid, fervid, rabid, gelid…”

“… Candid, fluid, foetid, flaccid,” Eliza adds. “You’re right. They’re all excellent words.”

“… Squalid, morbid, stolid…” Jo says.

Outside, the bells across the city clear their throats and chime in unison. Nine o’clock. “Pass the prosecco,” says Trish.

“I think that’s my favourite word,” says Fred.

Nico arrives with our second course.

It’s going to be a good retreat.

Happy writing,



How about joining us in in Venice in 2024? We’ll be back at Ca’ della Corte from 2 to 16 October. Email Trish for more information.

Or join me in Stow-on-the-Wold for a weekend writing retreat from 24 to 26 November.


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