Happy April Fools Day. Hope you’re having fun with your trickery and deceit!! Okay, just kidding. I hope your having fun with all of your pranks and jokes, just keep it above board and classy.
Today I want to talk to you just a little about words. Ooh how original you say, a writer talking about words. Well sit your little self back down sir or ma’am, I’ll “try” to make this original and interesting.
We all know that words have power. Even the Bible says that. But do we take the time to choose our words carefully? Do we make sure that they get across exactly the point we are trying to convey? Or do we simply throw our words around like a little kids do bubbles on a Summer day?
A few days ago, I was talking to someone who was writing a letter. There were a lot of very concise words in this letter, and I said “wow, you’ve used a lot of big words in there.” She replied “well the person right it is not ignorant.” I didn’t mean it as an insult, nor do I believe she took it that way. I simply forgot one thing, words mean something.
As a writer, I usually think I need to get rid of the “fluff.” The extra words, the padding. But sometimes those words are necessary to get the point across, not just filler. I think this is a newer belief in writing.
If you look at an excerpt from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, written in 1868, you will see how expressive she is, and how she paints a picture with her words.
“The clock struck six and, having swept up the hearth, Beth put a pair of slippers down to warm. Somehow the sight of the old shoes had a good effect upon the girls, for Mother was coming, and everyone brightened to welcome her. Meg stopped lecturing, and lighted the lamp, Amy got out of the easy chair without being asked, and Jo forgot how tired she was as she sat up to hold the slippers nearer to the blaze.
They are quite worn out. Marmee must have a new pair. I thought I’d get her some with my dollar, said Beth. No, I shall! cried Amy.I’m the oldest, began Meg, but Jo cut in with a decided, I’m the man of the family now Papa is away, and I shall provide the slippers, for he told me to take special care of Mother while he was gone.”
She could have just told us that the girls were sitting by the fire, and thinking warm thought about their mom. They noticed their moms house shoes were worn, and that she needed a new pair, and that Jo believes that she is the “man of the house,” while their dad is in the army.
Another example and one of my new favorite songs because of the lyrics and the melody, is Mountains Of Mourne. Written by Percy French in 1896, the song tells us of an immigrant living and working in London. He talks about the women he sees there, as opposed to the women in his native land. He doesn’t say “these women look fake, and wear too much makeup.”
He says “There’s beautiful girls here, Oh never you mind, beautiful shapes nature never designed. Lovely complexions of roses and cream, but let me remark with regard to the same, that if at that those roses you venture to sip, the colors might all come away on your lips. So I’ll wait for the wild rose that’s waitin’ for me in the place where the dark Mourne sweep down to the sea. ”
Now obviously this type of writing will not work in every genre. If you’re reading an article on a new policy coming from Washington, you probably don’t want to read a long dissertation on what paintings are in The White House. But for books and stories, it helps if the writer paints a picture with their words.
So what can we do to improve our vocabulary? Well, I have a few suggestions.
#1 Read that big book with all of the words and definitions in it. Okay, well you don’t have to actually read the dictionary, but you can. If you have a smart phone, you can download the Dictionary app, which oddly enough will connect you with Dictionary.com. It will send you the word of the day, and even has a handy button where you can hear the word, so you will know how to pronounce it correctly. In honor of today, the word is ninnyhammer. Go look it up!
#2. Read a variety of books. Read books that are older than you. Read books from the last few centuries, and see how the writing differs from today.
#3. Learn to love the thesaurus. There are others words out there that describe what you want to say, find them!! Just don’t go over board……
So there you have it folks, my words on words. And just because this is my blog and I can, I’ll leave you with Keith Harkin singing Mountains Of Mourne.
Well save me a Diet Coke my friends, and I’ll see around :),