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Subject: "What's in a word?" Previous topic | Next topic
Mesg #91229 "What's in a word?"
Author Weird Jim     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Jun 13th 2002
6262 posts
Date Mon Jul-30-12 02:13 PM
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I was reading an article on food guides (Canadian) this morning when up popped the following:

rethermalization technologies

It took me twenty seconds or so to understand what that meant. This of course halted my train of thought about the article. As soon as I realised what was being said, I laughed.

But then it occured to me that writers who use too many fancy expressions when they're writing a story tend to halt their readers enjoyment of the story, so I thought I'd come along here to mention my feelings about it.

This doesn't mean I think only very simple language should be used.

Weird Jim

"Good reading is the only test of good writing"
Robertson Davies. A voice from the attic 1960

  

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Replies to this topic
RE: What's in a word?, CatrinP, Jul 30th 2012, #1
RE: What's in a word?, Wandering Author, Jul 30th 2012, #2
RE: What's in a word?, mpv.muthu, Aug 02nd 2012, #9
RE: What's in a word?, Weird Jim, Aug 02nd 2012, #10
RE: What's in a word?, Linda Adams, Jul 31st 2012, #3
RE: What's in a word?, MarFisk, Jul 31st 2012, #4
      RE: What's in a word?, Linda Adams, Aug 01st 2012, #5
           RE: What's in a word?, MarFisk, Aug 01st 2012, #6
                RE: What's in a word?, Linda Adams, Aug 01st 2012, #7
                     RE: What's in a word?, MarFisk, Aug 01st 2012, #8

Mesg #91230 "RE: What's in a word?"
Author CatrinP     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Dec 05th 2005
2772 posts
Date Mon Jul-30-12 03:51 PM
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In response to Reply # 0

The wrong word can halt a story for a reader, not just a 'big' word. Unfortunately each reader is different is what they would regard as the wrong word.

For example; I read a story, set in English countryside in the 1920's, where the narrating character described the colours of the market around her, and she focused for a moment on the fruit stall - smooth red apples, dented oranges and yellows of the citrus fruit, bubbles of green grapes, prickles of brown kiwis.

And I'm like 'What? Wait up!'

See, because of a family member being involved in the production of kiwi fruit, I know that kiwi fruit were originally known as chinese gooseberries and the name change didn't occur until the '60's and that kiwi (without the fruit) is an American thing. The British and Australians call them kiwi fruit.

But how many others would know that?

Should only simple language be used?

Nah. Nothing wrong with simple language, I prefer to use simple words. Mostly becuase my own vocabularly isn't grand and highflauntin (arrogant, boastful, conceited, flaunting, grandiose, high and mighty, important, lofty, ostentatious, overbearing, presumptuous, pretentious, puffed up, puffy, self-centered, stuck-up, swanky, uppity, vain) but also because I come from a British background and mostly write to an American market and I keep out words I feel are too much Britsh.

But I also write to suit my characters.

A boy from the wrong side of the streets isn't going to talk, or think, using big words, so when I'm narrating using that boy all the words fit his background. An English professor is going to use big words, so the chapters narrated from his point of view use big words. A car mechanic would use words that revolve around mechanical things, a werewolf uses a different set of words again.

Each story, each character demands thier own vocabularly - big or simple.

And it doesn't mean that the story can't be a powerful story.

  

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Mesg #91231 "RE: What's in a word?"
Author Wandering Author     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Jun 01st 2007
1569 posts
Date Mon Jul-30-12 08:38 PM
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In response to Reply # 1

Mon Jul-30-12 08:39 PMby Wandering Author

I won't say I have your knowledge of kiwi fruit production... but when I read "English countryside, 1920s" and then "kiwi", my instincts made me uneasy. I couldn't have explained just why that wasn't right, but it felt wrong, anachronistic (as in fact it was). Of course, that may come from having read a number of books written in various times and places. It seems to have given me a fairly reliable if far from infallible sense of what is "off".

As for "rethermalization"... whenever I hit a word which shouts 'the author is trying to overawe you with absurd jargon', I move on. About the only time I'd find that word on a page and fail to be put off would be if the character using it was clearly meant to be a pompous ass. In that case, yes, that would be an excellent word to put in their mouth to show how they earned that reputation.

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Mesg #91245 "RE: What's in a word?"
Author mpv.muthu     Click to send email to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Oct 07th 2010
9 posts
Date Thu Aug-02-12 11:06 AM
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In response to Reply # 1

This is fully agreeable and in deed practical. Every character has its' own attitude, thinking,styles etc., and hence the vocabulary needs to match the same.

A reasonably simple language shall have the reception of both low and high end readers.

However, word is the most important aspect that greatly weighs in deciding the success of a novel.

Thanks for such guiding note.

mpv.muthu

  

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Mesg #91247 "RE: What's in a word?"
Author Weird Jim     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Jun 13th 2002
6262 posts
Date Thu Aug-02-12 06:40 PM
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In response to Reply # 1

I also suspect that kiwi fruit may not have appeared on th UK scene until air freight started. . Sure, refrigerated mutton, lamb and butter was being shipped by sea by the late thirties (possibly earlier), but for a luxury item like kiwis it may have been too expensive. I suppose there was a bit of greenhouse stuff available to the rich, (some, I've heard, grew their own bananas) but even there whole families had been virtually wiped out during the Great War so that there were few men who knew the trade left to run things. I suspect, before any women here get up in arms, that women had their hands full with more important jobs like bearing and rearing children for the next war.

However, most of today's readers might well pass the mention of kiwi by unless they had the knowledge that you have; but your point is well taken.


Weird Jim

"Good reading is the only test of good writing"
Robertson Davies. A voice from the attic 1960

  

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Mesg #91232 "RE: What's in a word?"
Author Linda Adams     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Feb 05th 2006
1548 posts
Date Tue Jul-31-12 05:49 AM
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In response to Reply # 0

But there's the other side of it, too. I always try to push my vocabulary a little -- it's necessity in doing any kind of fresh writing. Too many phrases end up sounding like everyone else because the same types of words are being used.

The words aren't anything fancy, but I've had novice writers cry, "Don't use that word! I don't know what it means!" Um, couldn't look up the word in the dictionary?

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Mesg #91236 "RE: What's in a word?"
Author MarFisk     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list Click to send message via AOL IM
Author Info Member since Dec 22nd 2002
44599 posts
Date Tue Jul-31-12 08:05 PM
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In response to Reply # 3

Well, I'm not for using fancy words out of turn, but there are times when they are appropriate. However, if the meaning isn't clear from the context, the author, in my opinion, has failed. It's fine to look it up for a better understanding because you're curious, but you should not have to read anything with a dictionary in hand unless it's a foreign language you're learning.

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Mesg #91237 "RE: What's in a word?"
Author Linda Adams     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Feb 05th 2006
1548 posts
Date Wed Aug-01-12 05:51 AM
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In response to Reply # 4

Wed Aug-01-12 05:51 AMby Linda Adams

It's one thing to say that "algorithm" is probably going to be a word that anyone but a scientist might not get, even from the context. It's another thing to take a relatively common word and demand it's removal because you don't know what they mean, even in context. The individuals in question were rather poorly read (apparent in other parts of critiques) and the words were relatively common -- I'd seen then a number of times in various novels.

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Mesg #91238 "RE: What's in a word?"
Author MarFisk     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list Click to send message via AOL IM
Author Info Member since Dec 22nd 2002
44599 posts
Date Wed Aug-01-12 04:40 PM
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In response to Reply # 5

Oh, yes, but also no. Demanding its removal is ridiculous. Requesting a better contextual explanation is perfectly reasonable. And of course the author has the right to ignore, but remember that the majority of critiquers you'll run into are better read than the majority of readers.

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Mesg #91239 "RE: What's in a word?"
Author Linda Adams     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Feb 05th 2006
1548 posts
Date Wed Aug-01-12 08:35 PM
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In response to Reply # 6

Unless you were in that particular critique group. I was surprised at the number of people who wanted to write fiction and didn't read much of it. We even had one guy who said "I don't have time to read!"

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Mesg #91242 "RE: What's in a word?"
Author MarFisk     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list Click to send message via AOL IM
Author Info Member since Dec 22nd 2002
44599 posts
Date Wed Aug-01-12 11:38 PM
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In response to Reply # 7

LOL! Those are the people you don't believe.

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