Tag Archives: flinch

flinchworthy

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Flinchworthy isn’t in the dictionary as such, but of course it’s a word, and I’m not the first to use it. You see “flinchworthy,” it doesn’t startle you, you know what it means: something worth flinching at.

Flinch is a good word, rhyming with pinch and inch and cinch and starting with that fluttery, flicking fl. It apparently comes from Old French flenchir or flainchir, likely related to flechir ‘bend’, which probably came from Latin flectere ‘bend’ although there are some phonological issues unresolved. Worthy is an adjectival form of worth, which comes from Old Germanic *werþaz, which in turn comes from Proto-Indo-European *wert-, also the origin of German Wurst (‘sausage’), English weird, and Latin vertere (‘turn’, source of all those -vert words in English).

Well! That turned, didn’t it. And so do you, when you encounter something flinchworthy.

And there are flinchworthy things. We should not think that nothing is worth flinching at. If you always boldly go, unhesitating, you will at some point meet with grievous bodily harm. Elisa Gabbert, on Twitter today, wrote,

I’m reading a memoir that’s described as “unflinching” but actually it flinches a lot, it’s full of textbook flinching. Also I think flinching is fine; normalize flinching?

Yes. Although there are things I am happy not to flinch at, I am a noted flincher: just almost break a glass and you will see. Or drop a knife. Or scream. Or, if you’re a newscaster, stumble several times trying to say a name. Or, um, I suppose, do any of several things depicted in Un chien andalou:

Not everyone finds all the same things flinchworthy, of course, but if you meet someone who finds nothing at all flinchworthy, do try to survive the encounter and avoid them ever thereafter. Here is a small compendium of flinchworthy things:

Dropping of knives and near-breaking of dishes,
Webs that touch faces and toes that touch fishes,
Cold slimy celery, telephone rings:
These are a few of my flinchworthy things.

Spiders, loud bangs, being tapped on the shoulder,
Creaks from dark houses at night getting older,
Razors near eyeballs and worms that have wings,
These are a few of my flinchworthy things!

When the dogs bark,
When the wasps buzz,
When I see some gore,
I take out my list of my flinchworthy things
And add to the end… one more!