How to make your vocabulary 'Better than Great'

(NOTE: This is an updated version, containing a correction supplied by an alert reader as described in the comments below and with repaired code replacing the earlier garble.)

If there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

— Philippians 4:8

If you’re trying to follow the apostle’s advice, thinking about excellent and praise-worthy things will lead to talking and writing about them.

Before long, with all that experience on focusing on marvelous things, your vocabulary will get strained. Never fear! Simply consult “Better than Great: a Plenitudinous Compendium of Wallopingly Fresh Superlatives,” by Arthur Plotnik (Viva Editions, 2011). As Plotnik’s introduction puts it, “Praise Can Be Greater Than Amazing.”

Of “amazing” itself, Plotnik writes, “Perhaps because the word is so easily brayed, amazing became the It utterance of the millennium’s first decade. Never were so many amazed at so much that amounts to so little.”

Plotnik writes that adding fresh words to one’s vocabulary of superlatives is a better choice than re-using “beloved but worn-out superlatives.” (I like this man!)

“Better than Great” is his collection of “suggested alternatives to stale superlatives.” Here are his 15 categories, with examples from each of words I particularly enjoy and want to use:

Great: braw, brilliant, the crown jewel

Sublime: celestial, elevated, heaven-minted

Physically Affecting: concussive, dizzying, numbing

Mentally, Emotionally, or Spiritually Affecting: brain-crashing, edifying, mesmeric

Beautiful: bedazzling, embraceable, face by Renoir

Joy-Giving: asylum for the spirit, curative, pawky

Large: clinically oversized, extragalactic, mondo

Exceptional: edgy, happy mutation, not white bread

Intense: bedrock, mind-debugging, knife-edged

Delicious: binge-worthy, enticing, foodie heaven

Trendy: big-timer, a find, gilded in glamour

Cool: coola-boola, game, smokin’

Wicked Cool: illest, stompin’, ur-wired

Forceful: all pluck, brawny, eviscerating

Challenging Belief or Expression: fleeces logic, jams the brain, spectral

There’s even a “starter set” to help you break your present habits — words such as stellar, tweet-worthy, frown-flipping and blithe.

Many of the more obscure terms have short definitions at hand, and Plotnik’s gently humorous introductions explain each category’s origins. (If he finds his way to Chicago Now, I think his favorite category here would be Words Worth Defending.)

So when you want to find new-to-you words to have some fun, get out and defend, you can’t do better than “Better than Great.” It’s crackling good fun, a bumper crop of ways to expand your vocabulary.

It’s the flagship of cool!

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  • Thanks for providing a braw cheat-sheet to get us started!

  • In reply to folkloric:

    You're welcome! It's asylum to my spirit to see you use it so well.

  • fb_avatar

    Hi, Margaret,

    Love your inspiriting review of BETTER THAN GREAT, but then, as the author, I might be biased. Still, I think you've nailed the fun and usefulness of the book, and I think your choice of samples is concussively brilliant. One little typo slipped in: "amazing because the It utterance of the millennium's first decade. " The word "because" should read "became." Best wishes!

  • In reply to Arthur Plotnik:

    Hi, Arthur! How brain-crashing that you found this. I apologize for my error, but you (and readers after I write this reply) should find it's all jake now.
    Many thanks for your exquisite book. Please stop in any time for more word-centered fun.

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