Made up words are interesting, aren’t they? People use them with babies (inadvertently, not doing those children any favors) or to express a feeling words can’t quite describe. I dislike the wrong word for the wrong situation, even if in real-time I can’t figure them out. I’m not an apologist or a defender of arcane English rules and definitions, but at the same time, people can’t a go around saying something means another simply because it suites their purposes or they don’t know any better. A less stringent form of “laws exist for a reason, even if [I] don’t understand them.”
A Hint of Almost: The hardest part of writing (have I said that before?) are the ideas. Everything else is just footwork. I mean, technically, I guess editing is pretty daunting, because you have to cry yourself to sleep over everyone’s comments, but at least the idea and foundation are in place. A foundation to work from. (can I fit in any more cliches in a paragraph?)
Think about it, without that idea, there’s nothing else. No story to edit, no wet cheeks from crying.
The beauty of the orignal idea is there are no words, just an idea, a feeling that’s asking to be written. Nature abhors a vacuum. The page abhors being blank. It wants ideas to fill it. And no one gets to tell you the words are wrong and the grammar is horrible.
Importance of a Name: I read somewhere, probably in a Writer’s Digest email somewhere, that words are often misused. As a people, words are often used to represent something they don’t. Think: decimate.
Words mean something. They have to, otherwise, everything that we say or intend is meaningless. What this means is I am fighting a losing battle against those who insist words mean why people want them to and that context and connotation irrelevant.
Exhibit A: Snake vs serpent. Many, I hope, realize that these are not the same thing. The connotation of serpent is a large, evil creature. Possibly due to it’s inescapable religious subtext. A snake on the other hand can be harmless, the garden variety. People can be disturbed by both. A lot of people happen to not like snakes all that much, but saying a serpent slithered through the lawn on Saturday during gardening conjured a wholly different scene than saying a snake did the same.
I’m not disagreeing with Stephen Fry’s argument that words and meanings are meant to change over time and new words can be invented. That’s what the evolution of language means. But context and meaning should stand for something. Advocating that fewer and less are indistinguishable because everyone knows what the sign means is ignorant to the fact that words are similar but mean distinctly different things. The idea of writing should be, to some extent, to raise up the common denominator, not lower it.
And yes, supermarket signs are lowering that denominator. Holding fast to the meaning of a word, when that word has a specific meaning, shouldn’t be seen as pretentious or overbearing. Otherwise, there’s no point. If I walked up to a female or male friend and made luid remarks about the size of their chest or revealing clothing or their ethnicity, I should be held accountable, because those words mean something else than if I said them more kindly. (yes, I know, I didn’t say anything but it shouldn’t be hard to imagine)
Woods Between the Worlds: None of this is to say that I don’t endorse creating phrases or painting a picture that might not entirely agree with modern language. As long as the reader gets a vivid image, I don’t. Turning nouns into verbs (and vis versa) is a great past time of the English language. So is making words up. (Bet you don’t know the origin of “bedroom”)
Just, synthesized words and phrases need a concrete foundation. “Texting” comes from the act of sending “text.” Those have proper context in which they were created. That context cannot simply be “because I wanted it to mean that.” If it is, then the word has no meaning.
A Good Day to Dye: Feel is everything. When I’m writing, I’m not concerned with the meaning of the words. Nor, realistically, should I be. That’s for revising or editing. This is where I take a harder look at the sentence on the page and decide if it says what I want it to say. That extends to, but not only including, spelling and grammar.
If I use a phrase that someone says doesn’t make sense, I have to consider two things. First, did they understand what I was going for. Second, does it matter? Not every reader will understand. But revision is about sitting down and seriously considering the matter.
A good rule of thumb is, if the reader has to ask, I didn’t do my job. That’s the difference between “rereading because the page was dense and I think I missed something” and “I have no idea what the author was going for.” When reading review, because of man reviews have deadlines, there isn’t any time to think about the meaning.
Afterward: Odd as this may sound, I’m having a hard time keeping my posts in order. What I mean is, I tend to wander and deviate from the planned topic. For instance, towards discussion of word meaning in writing was originally a post on the confluence of ideas. So, that’ll have to wait until next week-unless I get distracted again.
I may write an unscheduled piece later this weekend, as a digression, to look at where I am in my own editing process. This will examine a look at the history of my own novel’s writing process, each step, and where I currently stand. Probably a retrospective on what each phase felt like and the daunting wall each appears. Hmm… Depending, that might replace my book review for the week. Both?