Word Wednesday: Utter

Learning new words and being able to find the word that means exactly what the story needs can mean the difference between a mediocre story and a brilliant one.

On Wednesdays we will identify an unusual word, provide its definition, and discuss its application or its impact.

As I was reading the other night, my finger accidentally brushed over the word “utterly,” and the result was this very late post. It turns out that the word “utter” comes from two different sources depending on whether you use it as an adjective or a verb.

As an adjective, “utter” means

  • Complete, total, or absolute
  • Unconditional or unqualified

This usage originates from a Middle English word for “outer,” which suggests to me an “out-of-this-world” feeling, but probably which ties back to a castle or a town from that time period, surrounded by an “outer” ring road that encompassed the whole town, as shown in this map of medieval Paris.Medieval Paris

As a verb, “utter” means

  • To express with a sound, whether it’s words or sighs
  • To express in written words or publish
  • To put money (often counterfeit) into circulation

This usage of the word originates from a different Middle English word for “declaring.”

While they both stem from Middle English, the different meanings of “utter” have utterly different roots.

Magic, Monsters, and Mommy

When my kids woke up yesterday and discovered drink stirrers, they immediately morphed into wizards.

“Sssssss,” goes D. “You’re a frog, Mommy.”

Dutifully, I “ribbit, ribbit, ribbit,” from the pillows until he gets bored.

“Sssssss, you’re Mommy again.”

“Oh, thank goodness. I was getting hungry and didn’t want to eat flies.”

Then T gets in on the action. “Zap!” she says, brandishing her clear wand. “You’re a monster.”

“Sssssss,” D says. “Mommy.”

“No, turn her into a monster,” T insists.

“Sssssss,” D says, “you’re a monster.”

“ROAR!” Replete with a deepened voice, hands gripped like claws, and wide angry eyes, I morph into Monster Mommy.

The kids scream, T with surprise and D with some genuine fear. He hides behind his big sister and peeks out at me. After a moment, I offer them an unexpected ROAR again. D screams again and wraps his arms around his sister’s waist. T comforts him with an arm draped over his shoulder. It was a priceless, precious moment I’ll treasure as their mother, even if they did look a bit like these lemurs.

“You better turn me into a Mommy again if you want cuddles,” I warn.

“No, not yet,” says T, but D is ready. “Sssssss.” He climbs up to snuggle in bed with me while T tries to undo his work.

“Your wand doesn’t work anymore,” I tell her. “Only your brother’s does.” And then T climbs up to cuddle with me, too. Best start to the day ever.