Terrifically Derelict

Devendra Banhart: Next to yours, any great linguist’s vocabulary looks Lilliputian. Do you remember what your first favourite word was? And what is your current favourite word?

Joanna Newsom: Hah! I remember for a long time my favourite word was “derelict”. Because I really like the Webster’s dictionary definition of it. It was highly—and probably accidentally—poetic. It had multiple layers of meaning, and I liked them all. Nowadays I kinda like the adverb “terrifically”, not for any poetic reason, but because classy old men use that word a lot. When they use it in the sense of: “Oh, I was terrifically drunk.”
I remember a documentary on the Mamas And The Papas, where David Crosby was being interviewed, and he said that Mama Cass was “terrifically fat”. It’s so incredibly disparaging, but the word “terrifically” gives it some odd quaint feel. I find that hilarious.


This question and answer between musicians was originally published on Uncut mag, Take 164, January 2011; right after Joanna Newsom’s Have One On Me won Uncut’s Album of the Year

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