According to a recent (and, I admit, pretty unscientific) experiment I carried out on myself, I reckon I’ve got a pretty good grasp of the English language. The evidence I gathered suggests I might have as many as 100 words in my vocabulary; just sitting there, available, and ready to use.

I know…it’s impressive.

Please don’t congratulate me – the fact is, I seem to have a natural flair in this area. I must have learned a couple of dozen words as a kid, just to get me through the day, but the other 60 or 70 have since just come to me, fully formed, as it were.

It’s a gift.

It has occurred to me, however, that there are some words which I know, but never use. I read them, or think them, and occasionally have them spoken to me by other wordy people, but have never had reason to use them myself.

It’s not that they’re not useful words – they’re just not very ‘me’, somehow.

For example, I have never once used the word ‘captivating.’ I say this with some certainty, because I would have remembered.

I have watched captivating movies, I have met captivating people, I have even eaten curries which left me captivated by the hit of garlic and ginger and the visceral pleasure of the spices.

But If I’d told the captivating person, out loud, that they were captivating, they would either think I’d been airlifted in from 1950’s Hollywood or I was some kind of sex pest.

If someone asked me if I enjoyed the movie and I replied, “yes…it was simply captivating,” they would naturally assume I was possessed by the spirit of an ageing upper class Edwardian lady and avoid me for fear of being sent “below stairs” to trim the oil lamps.

And, heaven forbid you found me whispering, in hushed tones, to the curry on my plate…

In fact, you know what – it is in conversation with a particularly great Bhuna that I have come closest to uttering the word ‘captivating’ out loud: “Oh, my dear, my spicy temptress…you really are looking utterly captivating tonight.”


I suppose you’re going to tell me you’ve never had a conversation with a plate of food!?

(Image: By Dina Said (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons)



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