Which word does not belong?

When you tackle the Quandary, do you find that one word stands out as the most challenging to work with?

This question came up in recent correspondence I had with QQ veteran cusheamus.  I’d like to invite readers of Omnium Gatherum to join in the discussion.

It all started with the motley quartet of 1.26.2011.  Cusheamus wrote:

Today’s quandary is a good example of something that I find particularly difficult: making a convincing arrangement out of flowers from four different continents, as it were. Guerdon is via French from Latin and has a medieval feel; ding-dong ditch is pure Anglo-Saxon; bathetic is Greek; and gung-ho is Chinese.”  ??????Can you imagine a more dissonant chord?! Ugly, ugly, with only one chance to resolve it so it sounds like music and not noise.  Well, actually, resolve it so it sounds like language and not noise.??????  This is another layer of difficulty, in other words: not just using four difficult words in one illustrative sentence, but speaking four different languages in one illustrative sentence. I feel pleased with myself for even being brave enough to try. 🙂

My response:

I see what you mean about the particularly strong dissonance of this quandary.  I appreciate the reminder, as I’ve grown so accustomed to this dissonance that I often take it as a matter of fact and am more inclined to notice something out of the ordinary when the words fit together particularly well.??????  Often I find the challenge being at the boundary between three and four what I mean is, I can quickly find a good fit for three of the words but I spend considerable effort trying to integrate the??? remaining word the one really dissonant note.   I find this??? situation is sometimes more challenging than today’s, where none of the words seem to have natural affinities.   When three words do form a good fit, I grapple with the question of preserving my initial formulation (and jamming the fourth word in somehow) or scrapping it and looking for a way to treat the words more evenly.

From cusheamus:

I often have exactly the same experience you describe of having to shoehorn the fourth word into something that otherwise works quite well, which is fascinating when you start to think about it. Is it something about our neurology? You know how [alert: generalization coming up] it’s often easier and more satisfying to think creatively about odd numbers of things? An even number of something can have a closed, clunky feeling and adding one seems to open it up again.

More from cusheamus:

While acknowledging that observing anything changes it beyond recognition, I propose a modest, informal experiment: when we read the list of four words, starting at the top, notice how often it is the fourth/last word that doesn’t fit. That is, by the time we get to the fourth word, have our brains already begun on the first three? I noticed that strongly with today’s four [1.27.2011]. As I went down the list, I quickly had a picture in my mind of a detective looking at someone lying dead or severely injured at the bottom of a ladder, “procumbent” was there and a tremor of “dubitation” and some undeserved “censure”, but then “jobbery” stopped me cold. There was not remotely an actual sentence yet, just a sketchy picture with the word “jobbery” hangin’ off it.

Try to notice your pattern of seeing the words for the first time and see how often it’s the last word you look at that makes everything difficult. 

Comments from QQ participants are warmly invited — what’s your own experience of handling the words?

-Rudi

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