Letter to the Wordy Writer

“Words words words, I’m so sick of words! I get words all day through, first from him, now from you. Is that all you blighters can do?”

Audrey Hepburn sang these famous words with her now polished British accent in the renowned musical, My Fair Lady. Although not as widely acclaimed as other ballads from the play, “Show Me,” wherein a frustrated Eliza vents her frustration about all the empty words being uttered from her love interest, has always fascinated me. It’s a wonderful song to sing in the shower, too. She goes on to sing, after childishly jumping over fences and twirling with lampposts, “Never do I ever want to hear another word; there isn’t one I haven’t heard.”

That little diddy often circulates through my head when I’m reading a text rich with unusual language or editing one of my own papers while thinking, “Why did I say it like that?” Advanced writers recognize the realities that not only can one’s writing always improve, but there is also no such thing as a perfect work. However, once our grammar is polished, our story is set, and our characters have colorful voices of their own, we sometimes find ourselves taking unnecessary measures to make our writing sound “better.”

For example, an insecure/new/word-fiend writer could find many, many ways to say, “She picked up the book and ran her fingers over the rough cover.”

For instance:

“She gingerly snatched the book from its resting place to trace the familiar design of the hardback covering.”

Not so terrible, eh? Okay, well, how about this:

“The book found its way into her anxious palm, glistening under the glow of the corner of the lamp, and, with an insinuation of wonder and an insurmountable degree of zeal, she feigned to make contact with the work. Yes, her fingers traced that rough, abrasive surface as doting and forgotten memories from that very story seemed to swirl up her hand and misfortune her mind.”

Although that description may have afforded a few new vocabulary words to the reader, it likely confused him/her, too. Writers love words. It’s why we write; it’s what we do! Language is our craft, and the pen is our tool. Even Scripture warns of the great power our words can wield:

“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:6 NIV.)

No pressure, right?

As Christians and as writers, especially as Christian Writers, we have a responsibility to communicate responsibly. We ought not say things we do not mean, exaggerate on purpose, or deceive our audiences. While excessively descriptive passages are obviously not as serious as cursing someone with our mouth, it falls under the same principle: don’t say things you don’t mean. Going back to the girl in our example, after reading each one, it seems fairly certain that the clearest example was the first: “She picked up the book and ran her fingers over the rough cover.” With every ensuing description, I veered farther and farther away from my intended message. All those elaborate and continuous commas eventually distracted from what I really wanted to communicate. Although words are a vast and glorious gift which can always be explored and experimented with, they are just as capable of destruction as illumination. In the words of My Fair Lady,

“Sing me no song, read me no rhyme
Don’t waste my time, show me
Please don’t implore, beg on the seats
Don’t make all the speech, show me.”

Treat your audience like the worthy readers they are by showing rather than telling. It’s an old adage for a reason: it stills holds up. Dear Wordy Writer, put your words where they matter. Don’t over frillify an already pretty thing. More often than not, a few cleverly placed words are far more memorable than a copious number of SAT vocabulary words. For even more goodness on this topic, check out our “Avoiding Wordiness” video on YouTube! (End plug.)

Written by Karoline

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To Meme or Not to Meme

I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t enjoy a good meme. No matter what age, nationality, or perspective on life you have, memes speak to everyone. Commonly, when you think of a meme, you think of a random picture with a caption that fits just perfectly. It’s one of the best forms of communication, in my opinion.

challenge accepted

Being the meme connoisseur that I am, I had challengers who thought that they could win in a meme war against me. To show my wits to these challengers, I wanted to know where the term “meme” came from. Originally, the term is a shortened version of the word “mimeme,” a concept coined by Richard Dawkins, an English evolutionary biologist, who proposed the idea

“[w]hat if ideas were like organisms … They begin from a single location—the brain—and spread outward, jumping from one vessel to another, battling for attention” (Scarbrough). Dawkins argues that all life relies on replication, or memory, which is why the term relates well to the internet sensations we know now. Internet memes are an imitation of memories and pictorially depict reactions, which is why memes go viral. In Scarborough’s article, Dawkins says that some ideas become more successful than others, just like certain memes get more publicity than others. Especially in our social-media society, there is always someone posting, tweeting, blogging, or participating in whatever form of sharing s/he accesses. It’s human nature to react to it whether it be in a positive or negative way.

maybe

A meme is usually funny, so, if the comment was funny and you don’t want to necessarily reply back in a “rude” way because the words you type don’t always portray what you really want them to, a meme is a picture that can inflict an emotion/memory better. They can jog your mind to remind you how you were feeling when you first saw it. I don’t want to be arrogant, but my meme repertoire is pretty strong. I have a reaction for almost everything. It started as a way to respond to people when I didn’t feel like typing, and as it became more popular in social media, people unknowingly fed my budding habit which leads me to the self-proclaimed title of “meme queen.”

Social media has definitely influenced the meme era. In fact, the millennium generation has made a calendar that shows which meme was used most during each month. Once a meme goes viral, you’ll notice it being used for everything: celebrities making faces at an award show, a Vine snapshot, or a great catch by a football player that seems too good to be true. It can be lavish like someone adding seasoning to food in the fanciest way possible, or a reference about any exaggerated post, or as simple as a little girl smiling awkwardly resulting in memes referencing uncomfortable, awkward situations. Anything can be coined as a meme at any time, no matter how simple or mainstream you think it is. One does not simply meme and be great. It takes practice and dedication for a “meming” career path and to reach a level of extraordinary frivolousness.

kanye approves

Scarbrough, Jenna. “What is the origin of the word ‘meme’?”. Mental Floss. 07 March 2005. Mentalfloss.com/article/61843/what-origin-word-meme. Accessed “05 April 2017”.

Written by Celeste

Image credits: Preparing and Fast TypingChallenge AcceptedSmart ThinkerMeme CalendarKanye Approves

10 Uncommon Words We Need to Bring Back

Due to a sometimes cringe-worthy marriage between young teens and social media, new words are getting created all the time. Hashtags and Snapchat videos can circulate these hip terms fairly quickly. Some of my favorites include the ironic use of “bae,” the not ironic use of “yeet,” and the always proud, “retweet!” Language is quickly evolving, more so now than ever before. That’s fine; however, along the way, I think we’ve neglected to use some great old-fashioned words. Some of them are so seldom used that they sound like entirely new words when spoken. I hereby request that we, as an urban society, start paying homage to the following forgotten words.

  1. Groovy. This is a word not so much lost as it is underappreciated. When someone asks how you’re doing, instead of responding with the typical, “I’m good” or, “I’m fine,” try throwing in a, “groovy.” Most of the time when people hear it, they look at you funny but they usually laugh, too. Don’t overuse it, though, lest it lose its luster.
  2. Dandy. This is another one that I like to throw into introductory conversations. It’s fun! It’s different! It’s positive! It’s…dandy!
  3. Gruntled. Most of us are familiar with the word “disgruntled.” Yet, we always seem to leave its equally charming antonym, “gruntled,” to rot in the dictionary. It means exactly what you think it would: to be content and satisfied. I like this one because it doesn’t sound pleasant, but the meaning of it is.
  4. Piffle. Piffle is nonsense. To me, this sounds like it would be an onomatopoeia for blowing puffs off a dandelion, but it isn’t. Similar to wonderful words like “impossible” or “outrageous,” “piffle” is simply another way to say, “that’s ridiculous!”
  5. Curmudgeon. You may not know it, but you’ve met a heap of curmudgeons in your lifetime. They are bad-tempered, cranky folk who are difficult to please. Anybody who has ever worked in fast-food has encountered countless curmudgeons. Can I get an amen?
  6. Loquacious. I remember learning this in an elementary literature course and thinking, “Hey, that describes me!” “Loquacious” means talkative. Next time your friend won’t stop going on and on, consider groaning, “Ugh, you’re so loquacious!” instead of the overused, “Shut up!”
  7. Subterfuge. This one can have varying implications, depending on the context. You can subterfuge someone, meaning, to deceive or trick. It is also possible to subterfuge a rule or escape a consequence. The word sounds mysterious, and the meaning of it is too. How groovy!
  8. Grumpish. Curmudgeons are often grumpish. When somebody frowns or snaps at you, you might say, “Why so grumpish?”
  9. Gorgonize. This word is derived from mythology. Medusa, for example was a gorgon. As a result, “gorgonize” means to hypnotize someone. I admit, there probably isn’t much room in daily conversation for this one, but it’s a good word to keep in your back pocket in case you want to impress somebody.
  10. Twaddle. Last but not least, never spew twaddle! Twaddling is to write or speak in a juvenile manner. Twaddle produces poor grammar habits and repetitious speech patterns. By applying the above words to your vocabulary, you can more easily avoid the atrocity which is twaddle.

What are some of your favorite words?

Written by Karoline

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