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bear by san

March 2017



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can't sleep books will eat me

What writers do when they should be writing:

We argue about whether you should ever use the word "iridescent" in a work of fiction.

(I have certainly used every word on that list, in published fiction. Except effulgent. Which I'm going to run right out and put in whatever I write next, because I am the imp of the perverse. But then, I have noticed that I talk a great deal about qualities of light, something to which the esteemed Ms. L. is apparently opposed.)

I must be the anti-Margo; I have lists of words that I am saving up for when I need them: sesquipedalian and amaryllis and floccinaucinihilipilificatrix. Periastron and tideline and paddereen and lucifugous. (I sometimes save the really good ones up for use as titles, or they somehow wind up supplying the entire plot of a work of fiction.)

But I like simple words, too, especially ones that are marvelously evocative of a time and place all by themselves, hard old Old English words or loan-words from other languages. Jarl and scop and hate and gild. I like onomatopoeia. Howl, scree, hush.

I like the rhythms and sound-patterns words make when you put them together. The hush of waves amongst the stones. Why amongst and not upon? Because amongst sounds like waves on a pebble beach. (I think that one's on The List as well.)

I like the subtle games you can play with them, with echoes and root words and meanings. There's a scene in The Stratford Man where words like raptor, rapture, rapt, rapacious show up a fair amount. Once per word, but there's a reason for it. They all come from a Latin root meaning to seize. Somebody has just made a rather bad bargain....

Some words are once-every-couple-of-books words (arrogate, for example) which you don't want to use too often but which you can probably recycle a few times in a career, and some of them are the sort of words that could become a personal tic if used, oh, more than once. (horripilation, which I found myself using in Patience & Fortitude, and was as delighted to have finally found the scene where it belonged as I was sad to realize that I probably wouldn't get to use it again.)

Ah. Words.

My drug of choice.


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I feel moved to comment that I really like the word 'iridescent'. It reminds me of beetles. And petrol spilled on water.

And opals, too.

(I'll also cop to a distict fondness for 'limned', too - which seems to be another of Margo Lanagan's verboten words - particularly when used with regard to sunrises and sunsets over water.)

Ah. Words.

My drug of choice.

I think the word is, 'Word.'

efflorescence.... hey, i even spelled it right..
Yeah. That's the one that gave me an entire short story plot, just from the existence of the word.

Mmm. Words.
The very idea that people would list words and, without it being a joke, say they should not be used is ludicrous. Why the heck else do we have words? Thank you for your word usage.


I think a sense of humor about all this is implied . ;-)
I thought "effulgent" was back to being a hip postmodern horror reference, after Spike used it in his infamous Victorian love poem-turned-slam performance.
That was my very first thought. Well, second, actually -- first I bristled in defense of "iridescent." Who doesn't love "effulgent" after:

My heart expands,
’tis grown a bulge in it,
inspired by your beauty…

Don't fight it. Just let it wash over you and turn your brain to mush.
The hush of waves amongst the stones

Lovely line. Thank you. Not just because of the sound of the word but because (at least for me) it calls up an image of water swooshing _through_ and draining from a pebble beach. (It's a particular stony beach in Suffolk, to be precise.) What I'm trying to say is that for me 'amongst' isn't just the right word for the sound, but also that 'telling detail' that anchors the story in the real world.

Shutting up now before I embarrass myself further!
I love that sound.

Fssshhhhh---shooosh. Fssshhhhh---shooosh. Fssshhhhh---shooosh.

Every one of those words has been used to describe a character's EYES in recent Clarkesworld slush!
...her effulgent, iridescent, limned, paranoid eyes....
I'm fond of precision in speech, and went through a to-do of late where I realized that the word I wanted to use, flense, while absolutely the right word to describe ripping flesh off one's hand (more exact than flay, as with a knife, or skin, as with childhood booboos), was not the right word for a narrator who does not come from whaling country.

In sum, godlike narrators, or extremely worldly ones, are the greatest!! Because they let you indulge language choices that more limited, local narrators do not.

(Interdict, apogee, desultory, bloviate! Also, idiolect, enmity, and igneous.)
BLOVIATE! I must use that WORD!
I love iridescent. I love limned--both of them have to do with quality of light, and I love reading descriptions of light, and seeing them.

I have a place for effulgent, and it's just (I think) the right word at that single place.

Nine and ninety ways, I guess.
'Whilst'? What's she got against every single soul in the U.K.?

I like tangy, exotic words. I like musty, obscure words. I like collectors' words. They add spice to the stew.

I think the only words I would forbid are certain combinations. "Eldritch ichor". "Mighty thews". "Unashamed in her nakednes".
I forbid certain words in certain contexts.

By which I mean, don't make "ejaculated" a speaking verb.


IMO, there are words that should never be used, but those ain't them.

When I was reading slush for Lenox Avenue, I noticed that I wasn't buying stories that used these words:


Not consciously. It was just that those words were markers for stories that weren't very good.

Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.

—Mark Twain

Re: Wordz

*g* I use massive when writing about large objects or animals. (There just aren't enough good words for large+weighty+bulky) Other than that... Hmm. In dialogue, or ironically.

I tend to overuse "little."
There's really no point to writing in English if you don't use it.

Besides ...

::rolls around, wallowing in words::
Yeah, really! These sissies can go back to French where they belong!
*hands Bear dictionary page, wadded very small and ready to tuck into pipe*

*loads own pipe*

BTW, on behalf of those of us who grew up with a default dialect with some archaisms floating around in it, Miss M can take her list and go home and pout. I learned to say whilst at my granma's knee. It's a part of my heritage, just like the recipe for a congealed salad that calls for a 10-cent can of crushed pineapple, and leaving the mop and broom behind when you move.

On the other hand, there are Some People who shouldn't be left alone with a thesaurus.


Isn't whilst common British usage too? I've heard in conversation and seen it in blog posts, more than once and recently.

As a reader, in most contexts I would probably whimper slightly at iridescent (and run away screaming at "obsidian"), *unless* it was obviously the best word to convey precisely an intended meaning, and had clearly been carefully chosen. I have read too many things where "iridescent" == cool word for "shiny", which makes me wary, but not unable to appreciate when potentially pretentious words are being used well. I've used the word "accretion" in virtually every piece of writing I've produced in the last 5 years, but I have an excuse 'cause I'm an astronomer, not a writer. :-)
Heh hem! It's Dr L! Indeed, twas in the process of obtaining said Dr-ness that I became averse to "limned". Too many wanky philosophy PhDs almost killed it and "sublime" for good. Margo's opposition is forcing me to attempt to love it once more.

Arguing about words is writing. We are all of us working very hard indeed as we thrash out the virtues of "pellucid"!

"Amongst" is totally on the list. If you check out Margo's blog you will see that it's called "amongamidwhile" largely because I continually torment her by using "amongst", "amidst" and "whilst" wherever possible. I love the sound of 'em. As you say, if you swap 'em out for the boring "st"-less version it don't sound right no more.

Oh, academic writing! Surely you came to hate brilliant and explicate too (also possibly hiterto-underappreciated), and if you tell me you loathe the unnecessary quote-mark I will declare universal forgiveness of all instances of comma-splicing!
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