This is clearly subjective, but some words really sound like the thing they describe (personal favorites: puffin; bulbous; fidgeting). Do you have an example of such a word (or, alternatively, of a word that sounds like the exact opposite of what it refers to)? What do you think creates this effect?
Bollocks is one of my favourites. Not in its original Anglo-Saxon sense, but as an alternative to nonsense. I mean, you couldn’t say, Absolute bollocks, my dear, and expect people to take it as a compliment, even if they’d never heard it before.
Onomatopoeia. That’s what it’s called, this words-that-sound-like-their-meaning thing. No one learns stuff like that anymore: alliteration, assonance, metaphor, simile…
Does it matter? Probably not, particularly if your writing is of the I ❤ NY, c u l8r variety. But I’m old, and it’s part of my job description to mourn the passing of bodies of knowledge. Which I do. With no effort at all. And why not? It gives me no pleasure to know that kids have smart phones and guns but no appreciation of their native language.
I know nothing about synapses and neural pathways, but I’m pretty sure that having a brain attuned to language is far more positive than having one attuned to the buzz of your smart phone – which, as we all know, never buzzes when you want it to anyway. There’s something so elegantly encompassing about language: susurratingly soothing, curtly caustic or even deliciously decadent. You can wallow in it, flip it like pancakes or fire it with deadly accuracy, and what’s more it’s free.
Maybe that’s the problem. If we had to pay to get the most out of it, we’d be trading it like diamonds, by now.