Ob-la-di ob-la-da

by Karen Jeynes

If you know me at all it’s probably obvious I’m a little obsessed with words.  That’s from “ob”, meaning against, and “sedere”, to sit, implying that I’m so excited and enthralled by words I can’t sit still. Happily though I am perfectly capable of being a wordnerd whilst sitting – and even, on occasion, lying down.

The nice thing about being obsessed with words rather than, say, One Direction, is that I have an endless supply of objects of affection, and I can remain oblivious to rumours about who Harry is dating now (He is one isn’t he?). Words don’t complain that I’m objectifying them if I pin posters of them to my wall. Even the most obscure has a place in my affections.

And while some may obstinately object, I’m often amused by how pliable words are, morphing to suit circumstances. Take obnoxious for example – it originally meant exposed to something harmful or “noxious”. Nowadays we might say that being exposed to an obnoxious person was harmful.

I obviously wouldn’t want you to feel obligated  to share my obsessive ways. Obedience is not a prerequisite here, that would be obstructive to the cause of word-loving. But observing the ebb and flow of the language is a great opening to new linguistic worlds. And opportunities to play with words abound. Like obsequious – we all know what “ob” means by now, and sequi means to follow. Like a sequel. So “The Return of the King” would, logically, be obsequious.

In my quest for more options of linguistic objet d’art, I asked a friend of mine, an oboeist, to oblige me with a list of her favourite words for my collection, but the obstreperous woman was obdurate, and all I could obtain from her was a list of obscenities. I had obviated this response and didn’t allow her obstinacy to obtrude. I forgave her for this and numerous other obstreperousnesses, and I obtained, by way of paying obeisance to an obese abbess, passage to an oblong abyss – no, no, let me stop. I’ve let my obsession possess me too long. It’s time I obtunded it, or even rendered it obsolete. Obliterated it entirely.

As Obi-wan said, “you want to go home and rethink your life”.


And once I’ve laid the habit to rest, I can write it a nice obituary.

Karen Jeynes

About Karen Jeynes

Karen Jeynes (@karenjeynes) is a playwright, dramaturg, wordsmith, proponent of the Oxford comma, and collector of words. She has been known to rub her hands with girlish glee on discovering a new one. She experiences high levels of angst over misplaced apostrophes, sometimes having to have a bit of a lie down. She is perilously partial to puns. And also alliteration.


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