Favorite Words

Jeanine Basinger
A few weeks ago I read The Star Machine by Jeanine Basinger, which is an interesting book of Hollywood biographies woven around the question of what makes a movie star and what events and personalities affect that process. It's a good read; I recommend it.

I just finished reading Charles McGraw: Biography of a Film Noir Tough Guy by Alan K. Rode, which is remarkable because it's about a character actor. It, too, is a good read; I recommend it.

Ms. Basinger is a film scholar from Connecticut. Her favorite word is "soupcon," as in "a soupcon of a doubt" or "a soupcon of suspicion." The word "soupcon" seems to pop up out of nowhere every 20 or 30 pages in her book. Me, I'd say you'd want to use a word like "soupcon" maybe every third book or so, but that's just me.
Alan K. Rode
Mr. Rode is a film historian from California. His favorite word is "truncated," as in "a truncated career" or "disappointed with his truncated role in the film." The word "truncate" in one of its forms appears every few dozen pages. Me, I'd save a word like "truncated" for more special occasions, but that's just me.

Now, me, I'm not from Connecticut or California. I am from the Rust Belt. I don't usually go around using words like "soupcon" or "truncate." People I know would laugh or throw things if I were to talk like that. I have a different favorite word.

My favorite word is "Rat-phuck," as in "Stalin was as big a Rat-phuck as Hitler" or "O.J. Simpson is a murdering Rat-phuck." I mutter things like, "Last week some stupid, drunken Rat-phuck crashed his car into a utility pole and cut my cable service for almost a week." The term "Rat-phuck" is colorful. It tends to catch people off guard. It's a delightfully surprising word with a multitude of uses. Try it out some time and see if your friends aren't surprised. Try saying it when you aren't even mad, and your listeners will be doubly startled. Yes, it's that kind of word. It's a Rust Belt word. You may borrow it whenever you please.
Anyway, buy or borrow Jeanine Basinger's book if you're at all interested in Hollywood history. Mr. Rode's book is a bit more specialized but should certainly be of interest to any film noir enthusiasts. (Read more. It's good for you. And it prevents you from becoming a boring and listless Rat-phuck.)

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