Friday, October 11, 2013

Gargantuan (WOK Blog Entry #7: Words that are and should be)

“Gargan!  Chew on this!”  

The guard laughs as the beast lumbers toward the bars of its cage.  It is an ungainly monster, awkward in its chains, muscled flesh rolling beneath a coarse pelt of muddied fur.  There is the smell of blood and piss and years of hate.  

The beast glowers but drops its head in submission when the guard lifts his baton.  The monster pushes its snout into the narrow space between bars, muzzle rippling with pained grunts, growls; it snuffles and snorts then reaches through with clawed fingers, pulling at the hank of rotted meat the guard has left for it.  

The beast eats, eyes fixed on its captor.

We’ll credit the inspiration for that mini-tidbit to Jason Brown and his blog.  He’s been posting small pieces of fiction, intriguing glimpses into his fictional world.  It looked like fun.  And…gargantuan!  With a word like that, how could I resist writing a little something of my own?

My blog for this challenge is all about words, words I like, words I love, words that have rooted themselves into my psyche.  Gargantuan is one of my fun words, fun to say, fun to roll around on the tongue, fun even to mispronounce.

Yes, I spent years locked in an internal debate on how to pronounce this big beast of a word.  Gargan-chew-on…this rotted hunk of meat?  Seriously, this pronunciation makes monsters in my head!  The great beast Gargan!  

In case you’re wondering, this is indeed the correct pronunciation…although I think the pronunciation gurus use choo versus chew…I just like the one with teeth.

Seriously, I had some worries over this.  As I was growing up, I began to encounter words I thought I knew…that I’d been mispronouncing.  Often.  Epitome.  Just for starters.  Often actually has a “t” sound!  Epitome sounds nothing like it looks!  My tome of a dictionary confirmed that there is nothing remotely tome-like about the word!  I was horrified!

Yes, for any readers who feel the need to correct me…I do realize (now) that both pronunciations of often (with and without “t”) are acceptable.  But, growing up, I had discovered a missing “t,” the epitome of verbal faux pas.  I was young; this was tragic!

So, in looking at gargantuan…I thought I saw another missing “t” and I thought…gargan-tyu-on.  This is a little more exotic, which pleased me at the time.  I shifted my mouth around this new (and entirely wrong) pronunciation, an effort that raised no eyebrows at all because…have you ever tried shifting the hard choo sound to a tyu?  The differences are subtle to the point that no one notices.

Yes, I was and am that much of a dork.  

And, oddly enough, despite all this, despite the realization of my own hubris, a great deal of internal embarrassment, wonderment that no one had noticed my oh so subtle and exquisite use of “tyu” in the first place, I still love this word.  

Gargantuan…that which is gigantic, enormous, colossal…like an error, like embarrassment, like a beast in chains.  

“Gargan!  Chew on this!”  

Blogger's Note:  Playing a little catch up with my A-Z here.  


  1. Anna, I love your writing and your sense of humor that comes out, especially when talking about your "words".

    Your Jason-inspired story beginning was terrific. The first paragraph grabbed me. I hope you will finish this one and write more of these.

    Thank you. xoA

    1. I might! I was having fun with the monster! Thank you so much for your as always kind words! :-)

  2. Gargantuan is a great word; for me, it evokes P.T. Barnum and such other 19th Century characters who brought strange new wonders gleaned from the four corners of the world to small towns of the prairie: behold, Jumbo! The gargantuan beast from the deepest jungles of the Dark Continent!"

    1. Yep, exactly! There's just something a little more exotic about it...better than big or gigantic or what have you. Thanks for commenting!