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Sunday, January 5, 2020


FOR THE LOVE OF WORDS – by Elizabeth Clements

     Writers love words and fill pages with them. I love discovering new words, but if the word is too unfamiliar, it has pulled me out of the story to ponder the meaning when the context leaves me clueless. When I head for the dictionary, the “mood” created in the story evaporates and I am once more brought to my own reality.
     We have been told in writing courses to keep it simple, to write at the level of a sixth-grader and this is what newspapers employ. But what’s the fun in that when there are so many deliciously wonderful words out there? The dictionary is full of them. The more syllables in a word, the more interesting they become, and have a rhythm all their own. There are also one-syllable words that can pack a punch.
     I recently binge-watched a new series on Netflix called “The Witcher”. I admire the imagination that went into the creation of the creatures and critters and was immediately pulled into the dark and mysterious world of another time. It was definitely medieval and yet it was much more. Unique yet familiar in its plot but spellbinding in its depiction. Dangerous times when it’s best to close the shutters at night and stuff rags around windows to not emit any light for lurking evil. So when our valiant hero drops the succinct f-bomb, for the first time, I’m stopped dead.
Yes, research has supported the word exists since the 15th century, yet to me it seems far too modern. I’ve been a movie-goer since I was a child and in the hundreds of movies I’ve watched growing up, I never encountered that word until Hollywood decided in the late 1960s to add expletives (and explicit violence) to some movies to make them more “realistic”. Perhaps that trend can be blamed as far back as Gone With The Wind when Rhett Butler declared, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” To the best of my knowledge, I think that was the first time an expletive was used in a movie and it created shock waves and quite probably set a precedent.
     Also, to this day I have never forgotten my stunned reaction to watching Clockwork Orange—for me a most shocking view of violence for this naïve and sheltered farm girl. Then along came Bonnie and Clyde and in my opinion, the 1960’s brought a new age in movies and a definite loss of innocence evolved. So, is it any wonder that we hear children these days uttering words as they play which would have had my mouth scrubbed out with soap when I was their age? Astonishing is the fact that growing up, I never heard the f-bomb, although my step-dad used the Lord’s name in vain quite often.
I think expletives, besides being succinct, are used for shock value—at least originally. I read somewhere that the use of the f-bomb shows a lack of imagination on the part of the writer. This can be argued, although I admit I don’t like the word and only once—in extreme agitation, did I not only use it once, but three times in rapid succession as I viewed my upended beef casserole splattered on the floor. My sons were very young and very shocked and still love to bring it up when we reminisce around the family table after a good meal.
The f-bomb is most often used in a display of intense emotion or action. When used, that word does not require additional elaboration, such as, he said angrily. I think my little anecdote can testify to that.
     I love writing but sometimes it can be frustrating when I seek that elusive word that precisely describes what I want to say. While writing my first draft I’m content to let the words flow (or stumble) and just get the story down. Editing, on the other hand, can be an exercise in frustration. I have been amazed I’ve spent an hour on one paragraph. One time I remember I had written a perfect description and accidentally lost it and mentally beat myself up trying to replicate it. That was on a word processor dinosaur from the 80’s that didn’t have the cut and paste function of the current computer programs. And I never got the rewrite worded so perfectly like the first time.
I recently watched Pride and Prejudice for the nth time and was captivated anew by the way Elizabeth and Darcy spoke with such elegance that I found myself leaning forward to catch every word.  Keira Knightley, with her beautiful English voice, captured the essence of Victorian romance with her impeccable enunciation, thanks in part to the screenwriter’s skill with the speech of that era.               Amazingly, my husband has watched the film numerous times, too—sometimes even without me.
I love big words and believe what’s the point of even having them if we’re advised to stick to simple words in our writing. I remember the first time I heard gobsmacked. I had to think for a moment what it meant—gob and smacked. Oh, how delicious an image that conjures. One can almost titter over that one.  And that ridiculously long but whimsical word in Mary Poppins…supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (I had to go to Google to ensure I spelled it right) automatically makes me smile.
      One word, however, that does not make me smile is procrastination. It resembles me far too much. Procrastination has been the bane of my existence, most noticeably as I grew older. Yet, as I ponder over when that trait got the best of me, I realize exactly when it became my biggest vice: porridge!
      Porridge and cabbage rolls with sauerkraut are the most vile foods created. And one perhaps the most vile—boiled spinach. But I digress. Porridge was the breakfast food in winter and my mother made it with water (not milk like a friend of hers). I would stare at this gob of glue in my bowl that not even sugar could improve and procrastinate lifting a disgusting spoonful to my mouth until it was time to run for the bus. I got away with that tactic a few times…until one night it was my supper. Thankfully time has dulled further horrors of that loathsome food, although I admit porridge can be reasonably palatable when cooked with milk, then a little cream and a good dollop of strawberry jam or cinnamon and sugar. I loved Cream of Wheat which was a treat when company came to stay and the guest cooked it <grin>.
     Would you believe I never had pizza until I was nearly nineteen and never had Chinese food until my twenties? But to this day I still love the fragrance of fresh-baked bread. Mondays was bread and laundry day and as I ran into the house after school, the buns were just finished and four loaves were in the oven and potato soup and dumplings simmered on the stove. I couldn’t wait until supper; I’d steal a bun and tear it open and stuff the insides into my mouth and sometimes I was quick enough to grab a second one before my mother caught me. No wonder that bread, to this day, is my favorite comfort food. And potato soup.
     What foods bring back memories for you, either good memories or not so palatable?

Here is an excerpt from the first book of my trilogy, Beneath A Horse Thief Moon that involves food. Mike gets his own story in Beneath A Fugitive Moon:

      Mike whipped off his brown hat, revealing a long rope of wavy golden hair tied back in a tail. He leaned down from his horse and swallowed up Sara's small hand in his big one and in a voice that rumbled like distant thunder, said, “I'm Mike, Miz Sara. And you can call me anythin' you want just as long as you call me for supper.” His huge grin could swallow Texas.
Sara laughed, surprised that she liked Mike instantly and was not intimidated by his size.”
“Can you forget about your gut for once?” Josh teased.
Mike grinned. “I try, but it keeps growlin' at me.” The blond giant dismounted and stood a head taller than his friends.
Sara looked up, a long way up. “Oh, my, your Mama must have fed you real good.”
“Yup, she surely did, and twice on Sundays.”
Everyone laughed.
“All funnin' aside, Miz Sara,” Mike said. “We're here to help. We don't expect no pay from you, nor would we take it. Not even from this big jackass.” He playfully slapped Chase on the back, nearly bringing Chase to his knees.
“That goes for me, too,” Josh said, nodding.
“Won't you come in and have a cup of coffee and some pie I just made?” Sara said.
“Pie! Now that's the best offer I've had in a month of Sundays,” Mike rumbled and smacked his lips in anticipation. “She a good cook, Chase?”
“Wait till you taste her stew.”
For such big men, their footsteps were quiet as they filed in after Sara. Mike sniffed loudly. “Son of a bitch, somethin' smells good.”
“That's why it's called sonofabitch stew,” Chase said.
“I think I'm in love.” Mike gave Sara a smile that could make an angel give up her wings. “That smells mighty good.”
            “If you hold your mouth just right you might even get some for supper.” Chase released a silent sigh. Everything was going to be fine now that his two friends had arrived.


  1. My mouth is watering after that amazing excerpt! And fresh bread is always a delicious treat.
    Thanks for sharing, Elizabeth

  2. Aw, thank you, Lindsay. Glad you liked it. And now my mouth is watering for some warm, crusty bread. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Your comments on porridge made me smile. As a Scot I was brought up on it for a start on cold mornings - and yes. We make it with water and salt. And I like it that way. I was brought up using large words and tend to have to remove them from my writing. As far as favourite words to say? I love the words 'sausages' and 'mellifluous' and the way they roll around the palate when you say them.

  4. My mom was a great cook, Christine, but rolled oats was foreign to her. It was awful. Then friends came for a visit and Gerti cooked breakfast because her hubby was fussy. I later discovered it was Cream of Wheat she made, not porridge. A big difference. I love big words, too and like to say them aloud because I love the way they roll off the tongue. I, too, have to cut them out of my writing. Two other words I really love are cherish and sweetheart. So many wonderful words. Thanks for stopping by. I love your words (and your writing).

  5. I may not always write with those big words, but I also will challenge my readers with words they may not be familiar with. It is the teacher in me coming out.

    If is makes you feel any better, my ex wouldn't eat porridge. He said it was only good enough to be fed to pigs. LOL

    Nice post. Doris

    1. I love learning new words, and the longer some are, the better as they have a rhythm all their own. It helps if there is some root word in it to give me a clue to the meaning. Thanks for stopping by, Doris. You're always so kind.

  6. I like porridge made with very little water and some salt. I make it thick enough to cut.
    I imagine, Doris, that your ex would not like it very much.I loved the word 'disgusted' when I was a kid.

    1. Some words create emotions or reactions simply by the meaning. Like suspicious and delicious, cherish and abhor, sunshine and sparkling, to name a few. And I can definitely related disgusted with porridge. I'm glad you like porridge, Lindsay---where were you when I was six and didn't want my porridge??? LOL

  7. I am presently binging on WITCHER. I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I like the fantasy and medieval scenario in the series, but I find the excessive use of foul language (some of which as you mentioned is modern day) and nudity an exit from good story telling. They use several modern day phrases and words that take me from the story line. I'm not certain that the writers aren't doing it on purpose.
    I like to read a story that has one or two words in it that are new to me. It's like a happy little discovery. Too many of these "big words" just turns me off because it feels like the author is just trying to show off. What I really like though is when an author uses common words to magically describe something in a whole new way that just surprises me and sparks my appreciation for the imagination that came up with that imaginative description.
    All good things to your corner of the universe, Elizabeth...

    1. Sarah, In your new release, Cursed, you display that gift of using "common words to magically describe something in a whole new way". You definitely have that wonderful gift of imagination. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Elizabeth,

    I will confess to being a user of expletives in the most flamboyant ways possible. I've read that statement also about a writer's use of f*** being a lack of imagination on the author's part. I agree with that ONLY if the writer drops it out of context or character. If the writer is keeping her language and word choices appropriate to the genre and the particular character, it work for me -- everyone's mileage will be different, though.

    I get a warm, fuzzy feeling when I smell freshly baked apple or cherry pie, because my mom makes the absolutely best apple and cherry pies. Conversely, the aroma (and taste) of meatloaf gags me. My mom's was (and is) awful. *shrug* lol

    1. I've never been comfortable with swearing but it's more from conditioning than anything else. My mom never swore and I'd "get" it if I swore. The only period while growing up was during a slight rebellious stage in grade nine where I hung around with three girls who swore, smoked, came into class late. To be one of them I at least swore but I was never comfortable with it and amazingly, when I began grade ten, two of those gals dropped out of school and I stopped swearing. However, in my much later years I find myself less tolerant with stupidity and use a few "words" except not the f-bomb or the Lord's name. I absolutely agree that expletives have to suit the character and/or occasion and I hope I didn't come across as preachy or a prude about it in my blog. I think probably all the books I read growing up and into my twenties were detective or historical and there just wasn't swearing in, for example, Jean Plaidy's historicals about the queens and kings of England, etc., or in all the Harlequins and the Mary Stewart books I found so fascinating. I wrote like I read and that was sentences with a subject, verb and clause, just the way I was taught in high school English and the books I read. That's why my first book was rejected years ago--way too formal and perfect grammar/dialogue. It took me a long time to discover I had to not only "tighten" up my writing and kick those adverbs out the door, but also "loosen" up my dialogue. So, when I entered my ms in contests my improved style was faulted for fractured sentences. Even one-word sentences. And as for pies, Kaye, absolutely no pie can come close to the fragrance of warm apple pie (but I love cherry pie, too). Thanks for chatting, Kaye.