24 Oct Some Words About Words
I wish I had a command of the English language such that an abundance of interesting, appropriate words presented themselves for my use. I wish I had enough words in my lexicon to allow me to avoid overuse of the words I do know and like, and I wish I had the creativity to use words in unexpected, fresh ways.
But I don’t.
So, instead, I have become a one-woman Language Crank. This allows me to notice in the things I read word use that I find boring or uninteresting, or evidence that the writer has concerned herself with thoughts other than the fact that the phrase she has selected has been used a zillion times before. Maybe it’s too much to ask that consideration be given to word choice; undoubtedly I’m picky and again, cranky, but with so many wonderful words to choose from, I yearn for writers who choose some of them.
Here are some of my observations (and complaints):
Overuse of the word “host” to mean “a lot.” As in, “A host of problems were raised.” There are a host of other choices, among which are: oodles, billions, gobs, heaps, loads, masses, piles, plenty, scads, tons, batch, bevy, bundle, group, number, multitude, countless, incalculable, legion, myriad. And what about “many”- we don’t have to fall back on something that is overused in an effort to avoid saying what we mean, do we?
Overabundance of “a shock of hair”. In novels, anyone who has a lot of hair on or around his or her forehead has a shock of hair. Lazy.
A lot of people “pad” around. It’s a pretty good word and nicely captures the going about quietly in socks that it calls to mind. But too many people are doing it in books these days.
Redundancy: If the writer- or speaker – stopped to think about it, this doubledouble speakspeak might stop. Consider:
arrive on the scene
Boring old friends: Many words seem to come with an understood partner. Match these old friends, for example:
- Cruel 1. Lie
- Blithering 2. Bystander
- Innocent 3.Hoax
- Heartfelt 4. Idiot
- Barefaced 5. Apology
None of these word uses are WRONG – just not very interesting. And for word junkies, it’s great fun to read words used in thoughtful, interesting ways. I hasten to add that I understand that not everyone attends to the use of words to this degree; many readers and listeners are happy, and rightfully so, if the words just convey meaning. But wouldn’t it be fun to explore the possibilities that words can offer?
For example: Select some verbs for this sentence:
“Lavinia ________________ into the room just as the meeting started.”
Sure, she could WALK into the room, but wouldn’t it be intriguing to learn more about her? And just imagine what you can tell us!
Thus ends today’s whining from The Language Crank.