I’m thinking that February’s Third Wednesday Hoo-Hah might profitably be spent on our words. Being “writers” ostensibly* it would seem that words are the be-all/end-all of our art and our (and our audience’s) engagement with said “art.” (FWIW),
I think I have a bit of a reputation (perhaps I flatter myself) of being overly picky when it comes to pinging folks for “writerly” words or diction. Given that I’m prone to often less-than-journeyman vocabulary myself it may be an instance of mutually kettle-pot nomenclature.
Today’s (2/1/21) tag line on the blog is a longish one from Stephen King:
“One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.” ― Stephen King
I think our word choices tell the reader more about us than they do about the story we’re purportedly telling. So
What are “writerly” words anyway?
Just big/long/sesquipedalian ones?
Or just obscure ones?
Or could they be ordinary words in unfamiliar surroundings (except in poetry where that’s what we expect)?
Or just unexpected?
My sense is that none of the above is always necessarily true; it’s kind of a “sniff test” (AKA the Raised Eyebrow test) – if a word in a particular context makes me think the writer is indulging in the “Hey look at me I’m writing, I’m writing!!!” sort of thing, I ping it as “writerly.”
Can a word be a writerly word in one context and le mot juste in another? Like Superman going grocery shopping would probably slip into his Clark Kent togs, no? But he’d never show up to confront the bad guys in his Nerd glasses and fedora?
Other subtopics abound and will no doubt suggest themselves to us in the next 16 days. All suggestions for diversions and digressions most welcome in the meantime, send ‘em along.
*ostensibly – I can never hear or use that word without fondly remembering Bruce “Utah” Phillips, who used to introduce himself at the beginning of a set with “I am a folk singer, and you, ostensibly, are the folk.” A wonderful storyteller was Utah – look up his “Moose Turd Pie” on Youtube. Also look up “I remember Loving You” a gorgeous song that he made his own many times over.