Ted McCagg is a creative director in advertising in Portland, Oregon. In his spare time, for the past five years or so, McCagg has been keeping a blog,"Questionable Skills" -- the content of which consists almost entirely of drawings, some of them the bracket-style rankings that are a familiar feature of March Madness.
A few months ago, McCagg began using his blog and his bracket system to answer a question: What is the best word ever? Not the funniest word or the most erudite word or the most whimsical word ... but The Best Word, full stop. What if, you know, the scallawag could eke out a thingamajig that would help him select the least milquetoast morsel from our linguistic smorgasbord?
Today, McCagg has answered his question. The best word ever -- according to deep lexicographical research, science, taste, and common sense -- is this: diphthong.
McCagg got the idea for the project, he told me, while he was sitting in a restaurant. "I was listening to a few people talking at a table near me (I'm a chronic eavesdropper) about their least favorite words," he explains. "The requisite 'moist' and 'panties' came up, each met with the collective 'ewwws.'" It occurred to McCagg how passionately people feel about words -- not only in terms of their hatred for certain words (underpants, slacks), but also in terms of their admiration for others. "I started thinking about the words that I loved," McCagg says. "Ubiquitous. Kiosk. And yes [your correspondent's personal preference among the choices], Hornswoggle."