If talk is cheap, it’s because the supply usually exceeds the demand.
Rambling speeches and bad writing litter our lives. If talk is cheap, it’s because the supply usually exceeds the demand. But the best words, the right words, fit snugly enough to keep out windy disquisitions.
We each treasure certain words, jingling them in our imaginations like rare coins. We store them up until we can find the best occasion to spend them in conversation or deposit them onto a page in the hope of gaining some interest.
Even people who are not known as lovers of language have favourite words that sparked joy in their childhoods or that simply feel good in their mouths. My uncle Phil, who probably never read a book in his life, labeled anything negative as “ambiguous” (“I have an ambiguous feeling about that horse running in today’s fifth at Belmont”) and anything positive as “laudable” (“Her eggplant was so laudable, I had two plates”).
I used one of my favourite words, “careen,” in a recent column, and the number of readers who commented on it surprised me. Fans of the word, they were happy to see it up and around again. It was like “careen” had been sick or was just released on parole. I asked readers and friends for their favourites. Responses poured in.
Lisa D. Saunders said that when she was very young, “I loved the word ‘thicket’ so much that I would whisper it quietly to myself. I’ve moved on, but nothing has replaced it in my affections.” Krysia Nelson loves the word “caper” and wanted to make sure I understood that she meant “as in adventure, not as in the edible garnish.”
Did seven people declare fervid affection for the word “crepuscular” because they were writing at dusk? Perhaps it should not have surprised me when five friends put forward the word “plethora,” since I’ve always believed there should be a movie starring “Plethora: The Goddess of Excess.”
Following in the path of elegant words beginning with the letter P, my student Nicole taught me that there’s a word for the smell of the earth right after it rains: petrichor.
Joan Muller’s word was “flense,” which, she said, “spellcheck had mocked most cruelly.” I had to look it up. And today, therefore, I learned there is a term for the slicing of the skin or fat from a carcass, especially that of a whale. I kept reading and learned to my chagrin (another favorite of mine) that if I’d read my Herman Melville or my Cormac McCarthy with more care, I would have already been familiar with flensing.
So, basically, I flense my first drafts (they are very like a whale). I’ll use all the words that come to mind and some that arrive at the keyboard apparently having bypassed my mind altogether, reaching my fingertips via the ether (ahhhh, the lovely “ether”). Half of what I write doesn’t make it to the last version or even the second-to-last version (which every one of my students knows enough to call the “penultimate” because that’s an irreplaceable word, too).
I save all iterations, however, just in case. I’m a draft-hoarder, collecting junk I write and piling it up in heaps inside files innocuously labeled “Outtakes.” It’s the same impulse that makes people put rusted cars up on cinder blocks. I’ll admit that it’s a small flaw (flaw — strong, short word, good mouth sound; overused when referring to fictitious characters but not used often enough when referring to actual human beings) or a foible (fun to say). Either way, it’s not a habit I’m wont (a little archaic, but nevertheless handy) to change.
Some words are like pizza toppings in that they can be way overdone, but in the right measure, they’re delicious. These include “calamity,” “finagle,” “ineffable,” “grimy,” “flout,” “elixir,” “swig,” “gaudy,” “tousled,” “austere,” “jubilant” and “fey” — oh, could I go on.
As a writer, I roll around in words the way cats roll around in catnip. The effect is the same: delirious with pleasure, I abandon myself. I toss them around, self-indulgently making a mess I know will have to be cleaned up later. Sometimes, though, fortuitously (“graceful, always with a happy ending”), they slip into place.
Pick your favourites, but hunt for more. You’re as good as your word.
There's no quiet rule at this open-air reading park wedged between two lanes of traffic just outside Indonesia's capital, a city of some 30 million that is notorious for having some of the world's worst traffic jams.
Two architecture students from Ajman University have beaten more than 50 participants from the country’s top universities to win the P&T Architecture Student Competition Awards.
The Pew analysis indicates that the 22 per cent of American adults use Twitter — far less than the 69 per cent using the leading social network Facebook.
His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member, Ruler of Sharjah, and President of the University of Sharjah, UoS, on Monday inaugurated the 13th Annual Scientific Research Forum organised by the University under the theme, ‘Multidisciplinary Research to maximise Sustainable Impact” at Al Razi Hall in Medical and Health Sciences Colleges at University of Sharjah, UoS.
The Federal Authority For Government Human Resources’ (FAHR) decision to activate the Remote Work System for all ministries, authorities, and federal institutions, effective Sunday, March 29, for a renewable period of two weeks, is timely.
March 2020 has been another challenging month for humankind, who is collectively battling the coronavirus that is causing COVID-19. This illness emerged as an outbreak in Wuhan, then became an epidemic that challenged China, and now is a pandemic that has crossed international boundaries and is affecting 199 countries and territories around the world. As of Saturday afternoon, the total number of reported coronavirus cases were 614,063.
Governments across the world have responded in radically different ways to the COVID-19 crisis. Some are denying its seriousness. Some are blaming others. More and more are enacting restrictions on personal freedoms that are without precedent in peacetime. To defeat the virus, governments need to take a strictly evidence-based approach in order to learn rapidly from all countries’ experience. That will require cooperation and coordination.