Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H: Haunted (A-Z Blog Challenge: Evocative words)

I've been pondering the word "haunted." As a word nerd, I like the word quite a bit. It's got that fairly unusual "au" sound that feels good in my mouth, but drags the eye and makes you wonder if you've spelled it correctly. It sounds wonderful in a variety of regional accents.

It's versatile as well, serving as a verb or a noun, an adjective or an adverb in its various forms. Haunt. Haunted. Haunting.

It's both a good and a bad thing.

If I am haunted by my past misdeeds, then I get a hunted look in my eyes. (More word need joy for the connection between Haunted and hunted.) I might come to look kind of ghostly version of myself: pale and hollowed out.

But I can also be captivated by a haunting melody that lingers in my mind long past the moment of listening.

The heart of the word seems to be in this context of lingering. In many stories, ghosts haunt because they haven't let go and moved on. In fact, a trope of that genre is finding out what they've left unfinished and helping the ghosts move on. I'm a fan of the genre and the way horror and sadness and mystery all meld to form a tight little package. They often have a wonderful sense of true closure.

Of course, the word isn't limited to ghost stories.

If I am visiting my old haunts, I am lingering in places that I used to go to often, but probably don't commonly go to anymore. In a way, I am visiting the ghosts of my past selves, the people I was at various ages and times of life.

Emotions, too, can linger past the welcome point. Generally, we don't describe ourselves as haunted by the more explosive emotions like rage, but by the quieter, more internal and melancholy ones like guilt or grief or despair.

Come to think of it, even that haunting melody isn't all good. If I'm describing the music as haunting, as opposed to, say, catchy, I probably feel a little unquieted or unsettled by the music. Even while I admire its beauty, I am bothered by it, disturbed.

These days, I am mostly haunted by words. Guess it's time to write some more!
This post is part of the Blogging from A-Z Challenge.


  1. What a wonderful word! I write for the same reason. Great post!

  2. It's natural to want to dwell on the nuances of words both in their meaning and in their construction, how they feel in your mouth and the sound they make as they escape your lips -- or your pen.

    Your discussion of the word "haunted" forces me to ask myself where I appear in the stratum that lies between "haunted" and "non-haunted". All I can say is that some days I'm haunted and some days I am free.

    Let's not forget the word "remembrance" as it relates to haunted. To be haunted you first have embrace the memory of what is haunting you. For Marcel Proust, the remembrance began with the taste of toast in tea. What is your remembrance that haunts you? Something you've said, something you haven't done, something you did. We are all haunted by something.

  3. Haunted Remembrance? Sounds like one heck of a memoir, Jason.