You can’t SUCCEED, PROCEED, or even ENTER without it! Yes, the lowly E is NEEDFUL, REQUIRED — the KEYSTONE, EVEN, for most English words.
Fans of cryptograms can tell you that the letter E, and the combo of
are the first things they look for when setting out to solve the puzzle.
That said, did you know “English” started out milleniums ago meaning a fishhook?
The Angles, a West Germanic people who immigrated to the British Isles, hailed from the Angul district of Schleswig, which is just south of modern Denmark. Their homeland, part of the Jutland peninsula, was shaped somewhat like a fishhook so its inhabitants used their word for fishhook to refer to their country. When they sailed across the sea they brought this name along, plus the words angler and angling. They weren’t the only Germanic people who came and decided to stay; the squeezed-out locals tarred them all with the same brush: Anglo-Saxons.
An Ethnic Legend: We have a friend whose parents immigrated to Canada from Denmark. When she was young, her father told her that the original inhabitants of Britain couldn’t talk; their only communication was grunts and squeaks. He claimed the Angles were the ones who taught the British how to talk. I’m not sure where he learned this bit of history, but we took it with a grain of sea salt.
Convolute(verb) means to coil, twist or entwine Convoluted(adjective) is something quite COMPLEX and difficult to follow. Our word originated centuries ago with the Latin verb convolvere, meaning to roll together, to intertwine.
Yesterday I saw this fine example of “convoluted” in the book I’m reading. This multi-published author normally produces polished work, but this sentence slipped past somehow: The customers at both tables were openly staring at them with curious expressions on their collective faces.
BUT… – We’ve already been told there were diners at two other tables. – Faces is already a plural noun. Scratch COLLECTIVE. – Where else would they have curious expressions but on their faces?
My suggestion: The other customers eyed them curiously.
Here’s the opening sentence of an article in a Christian newsletter. Brief but rather twisted: “To read what Jesus said when He prayed for our oneness with Him and the Father gives one many thoughts.”
I can’t think of a brief way to clarify this, but here’s my suggestion: Many thoughts come to us as we read Jesus prayer (John 17:21-23) where He asks his Father to bless his disciples with a unity of faith and purpose.
If you wish to curry favour when writing your latest novel, dear, do your best to trim the excess; make your meaning simply clear.
Another of my favourite C words! Doesn’t it even sound a bit sneaky? A clandestine meeting or operation is one done secretively, especially if the activity is illegal.
CENTI-anything means one hundred, but has anyone actually COUNTED all the feet on a centipede, or is this just a rough guess? This CRITTER’S colour CLASHES with his environment.
Last but not least, if you want to impress your doctor with your grasp of medical matters, ask him if you have too much CERUMEN in your ears.
Are you as amazed as I am how fast March went by? We’ve come into April and I see that various bloggers are doing daily prompts and writing challenges. There’s a National Poetry Writing Month, or NaPoWriMO. (You can see a list of participants HERE.) There’s also an A to Z writing challenge. I’m not sure if there’s an official word list, or you make up your own.
The idea of using a letter a day appeals to me, so I’ll make my start belatedly with the letter A and offer you two words, one useful and one intriguing.
A delightful addition to a writer’s toolbox! They act like seasoning in writing; a sprinkle here and there brings out the flavour, inviting your senses to take part in the scene. “Snoopy did his happy dance” has much more flavour than “Snoopy danced.”
However, every now and then a reader meets a writer who’s a real AFICIONADO of ADJECTIVES, inclined to add them with a too-liberal hand. Writers need to think of ADJECTIVES as the FIBER in their sentences — and realize that modern readers aren’t beavers. Most of us aren’t willing to take the time to gnaw our way through high-fiber paragraphs. I’m inclined to toss a book after the first few pages if it takes too much chewing.
In the following example, see how using many adjectives slows the action down:
For the tenth time that evening Mother pulled the blue-flowered cotton curtain back and peered through the single-pane, white trimmed window that looked over the grass-bordered gravel road coming toward their home. She saw only the crimson sunset on the horizon, the coral-streaked clouds over-layered by a band of magenta rising into deeper purple. As the dusk settled she scanned the road but saw no sign of the old bay mare and the rough-hewn brown wagon in which Father went to town. With a worried frown she turned away, wiping her flushed, tear-stained cheek on the lacy linen handkerchief, a gift from her own grandma, that she always carried in her pocket. She went back to her tiny ten-by-ten-foot farm kitchen, shadowed now by the dimness of the sunset, and proceeded to deal with the cooling remains of the abundant meal she had so lovingly cooked.
Now, here’s the low-fiber version: Mother pulled the curtain back and peered through the window for the tenth time that evening, seeing only the sunset on the horizon. No horse and buggy carrying Father home to them. She turned away, wiping her cheek and going back to the kitchen to deal with the food still sitting on the table.
Writing instructors these days are saying: “TAKE OUT all the adjectives and only put back in the ones that are necessary to clarify the picture.” Something to think about.
This is an old Latin word I came across in my search for intrigue. Are you an ANTIPODE? Or would you call me one?
Whether you’re ANTIPODAL or not depends on which side of the world you’re standing on. According to one source, ANTIPODE literally means “people who have their feet opposite.” That is, people who live on the opposite side of the world so the soles of their feet are pointing in our direction. So as I see it, you Aussies are all antipodes.
By the mid-sixteenth century, the concept had morphed into “something or someone on the opposite side of the world/planet/moon.” Nowadays ANTIPODAL can also mean entirely, or diametrically opposed. These adjectives add a lot more punch than a simple “He’s opposed to your scheme.“
Seeing this word piqued my curiosity. What’s the difference between OSCILLATE and VACILLATE?
Pursuing this inkblot of thought has put me on a cloud nine a-puff with a plethora of delectable VERBS!
Over at one of my favorite hangouts, Merriam-Webster, I’ve learned that Oscillate means to swing back and forth, or move back and forth between two points For example: an oscillating electric fan. You can oscillate between opposing beliefs, feelings, or theories For example, the way people’s moods and views on whatever tend to do. Oscillate can mean a variation from a fixed or given point For example: Stats, interest rates, test results that vary from the norm. Or how clean your laundry actually get compared to those in the ads for new Blastout laundry detergent.
All the lovely & useful words explained for comparison sake: swing, sway, vibrate, fluctuate, waver, undulate
When I hear the word OSCILLATE my mind automatically goes to a fan, because it carries the sense of a regular or timed back & forth.
Vacillate means: – to waver in mind, will, or feeling, hesitate between choices – prolonged hesitation from inability to reach a firm decision. Pondering, “Should I or shouldn’t I?” is vacillating if you do it for long.
Or to sway through lack of equilibrium, to fluctuate, oscillate. When I think of VACILLATE, I automatically think of indecision.
More lovely and useful synonyms: Hesitate, waver, dither, teeter
Word lover that I am, this is like a trip through the chocolate factory, inhaling the aromas. I hesitate to promise I’ll put all these useful verbs to use –and I may vacillate at times as to which one to choose – but it’s always good to understand the nuances.
Sad to say, I feel anything but mighty today. For the past while I’ve felt more like I’m falling apart, with a couple medical issues taking front+centre stage in my thoughts. On Wednesday I had a couple of medical appointments: a blood-flow-to-the-heart test to figure out why I’m so short of breath these days; the other about a hernia I’ve developed. The Dr tells me this calls for me a surgery to repair that issue. And a wait of several months until that can be done.
Fandango’s One-Word Challenge this morning is INTANGIBLE. For some reason this morning I’m feeling an intangible blue fog. Lots to do but don’t feel like doing anything kind of cloud. Maybe I need a long walk. For most of the past week we’ve been afflicted with a howling, chilling wind — even the cats haven’t wanted to set foot outside. No rain or snow, so yesterday the dust was blowing. Thankfully today’s calm and I should take advantage of that.
Now back to the title of this blog post. “Might he” and mighty. This morning I read a thread on GoodReads where a reader was reviewing the query letter of a wannabe author. Reviewer comments on the plot where the “pro-tag” (supposed to be protag, short for protagonist) “looses it” (loses it) when his parents disappear. And she reminds the writer that for his query letter, he must present his summary in “present tenths.” (present tense)
I had to laugh! I won’t be hiring this reviewer to beta read my book. 🙂
Merriam-Webster has been doing a series about this sort of mix-up. They’re calling words and phrases like this EGGCORN words. Explaining that “egg horn” was once the mixed-up version of ACORN. They also use the example of “to all intensive purposes” — which should be all intents and purposes. “All over sudden” instead of all of a sudden. Makes me think of my cousin, who was wont to say, “the whole toot’n taboodle” instead of the whole kit and caboodle. What eggcorn words have you heard lately?