1. Malisky
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    Malisky Fuzz Overdriver Contributor

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    What about all the other words?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Malisky, Sep 25, 2016.

    I was curious about why some words although existent are not used anymore and why some people think that they shouldn't. I really don't get it. They are beautiful, unique words that simplify the text and give a more accurate meaning of what I want to say, but when reviewed from English native speakers they say: "Yeah, but we don't use this word so often". (So what? Start using it then). Then, they give me a suggestion with replacing my word of choice with another, that is somewhat close to the one I wanted to use and more commonly used. Why? I have to change my whole sentence then in an attempt to express exactly what I want to say and Ι feel like I'm blabbering for no reason.

    "Bemoan" is a unique word and it sounds good. "Complain" is close but it's not the same as it lacks the attitude, the psychology of the one complaining. "Lament", feels a bit more tragic and romantic. Nothing else, gives the exact same feel as "bemoan". Words are unique. Why use only a few popular words when there are so many that:

    1) Are the ones that give the exact meaning of what you want to express.
    2) Might sound better in combination with the other words in your sentence.
    3) Make your sentence shorter and less over-analytical.
    4) Get you out of boring iterations.

    I get it that they are not so commonly used in real life, but shouldn't this be a matter of choice? When I write, I write in 3rd omniscient. As a narrator, shouldn't I be able to use uncommon words that are spot on? I'm not a native, so I don't use very difficult words and surely I'm not writing literature. My work is not so difficult to understand. Some words might not be known by everyone. But... that's how I got to learn English. By listening to words I didn't know at the time and then looked them up, or guessed them by the context of the sentence. Anne Rice had been a very good teacher. When I started reading her books I was having a hard time with some words (a lot actually), but I was so engrossed in what I was reading so instead of giving up, I ended up reading another 5 of her books and became better in English. Win - win situation. She uses words that are not commonly used too. That's why I liked her writing style so much. The words she used were spot on. Helped her construct beautiful meanings in depth, along with beautiful images. But I don't write like Anne Rice. I treat language mostly as a code for communication and that's why it's important for me to be spot on with my meanings. I want to say what I mean and I want it to be clear. Nothing more, nothing less.

    In my dialogues, I don't use very unique words of course. I've been transcribing audios upon psychological studies for a while now and I know what a realistic dialogue sounds like. (Like sh...). In reality, if our responses were to be written down in detail then we would most likely figure that we haven't evolved so much since pre-school. There are of course some exceptions, but only some.

    Another thing is that I don't sound English enough... Well, really genius? What is even funnier is that I've been even criticized for not sounding Greek enough... by Greeks. Unbelievable. Seems like I'm doomed then. I belong in a non specified regional mentality upon my way of thinking. Go figure. What a bummer! :p
    (I'm waiting for the day that my amp tells me that I don't sound Guitar enough).

    What are your opinions upon the matter?
     
  2. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    Context is king. That's really what matters when you choose your vocabulary, right? I have no problem with any words being used as long as the context warrants its use.
     
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  3. vermissage
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    vermissage Member

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    You're not writing for your critics because if you were there would be no end to the changes you would make. You'd be like a weather vane, at the mercy of the wind.

    The wind that blows
    Is all that anybody knows.

    Don't be that anybody.
     
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  4. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I think everything from narration to dialogue should fit the characters.
    As an example we will use some thugish guy who has a limited vocabulary
    when he speaks. But when narrating he suddenly has a highly advanced
    vocabulary and mastery of the language. You might raise a few eyebrows.

    Alternatively what about non-humans (pick either side be it Fantasy,
    or Sci-fi). Perhaps they do not speak or narrate in a manner in which
    a human would, but possess the skills to effectively express themselves.
    How could they have realistic dialogue considering they for all intents
    and purposes cannot be studied in the real world when when it comes
    down getting a realistic sample to work from.

    Just thinking outside the box a bit. :p
     
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  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    My 2p....

    You've simply got to decide how much of this critique on arcane vocabulary you are going to take to heart. I agree in full that restricting one's writing lexicon to a few thousand pedestrian offerings is ridiculous, but what @Spencer1990 mentions about context is also a very key factor. Bemoan is not so esoteric a word that it cannot be understood on its own, without contextual support, so that one I would have written off as just a critic with a limited vocabulary or a critic who worships at the alter of Stephen King. I would have smiled, said thank you, and ignored the advice. You have to learn when to politely ignore. But if you genuinely reach for something that hasn't seen the light of day in Anglophonia since the 50's, then, at the very least, you need to give even me, lover of words, some contextual direction as to what you're talking about. I don't mind reaching for the dictionary now and then. Just the other day Samuel R. Delany had me look up solecism when I came across it in one of his books, but I had a good idea what the word was going to mean just from the context (and from a vague memory from university days) before I verified that yes, indeed, it means a grammatical mistake in speech or writing. And with delight I tucked that word into my hat in order to offer it up in some future engagement. And voilà, here is that occasion! :bigcool:

    There are writers who do manage to turn out wonderful books while limiting their use of vocabulary. One might even say there is a certain art to working within this restriction. Arthur C. Clarke is one such author. His work is benchmark and fundamental to the genre of Science Fiction, yet you can eagerly work your way through one of his books without ever once needing to look anything up, even if it were the very first Science Fiction novel you ever read. He never wrote for just "the in-crowd". On the other hand you have China Miéville, whose work should pretty much come with a dictionary as a gift with purchase. Both authors are incredibly successful, well received, constantly referenced, and though Clarke already has his seat on the Mt. Olympus of Science Fiction, Miéville will surely also have a seat in those lofty climes.

    You do also mention that English is not your native language, and while your original post in this thread leads me to believe that you have an excellent grasp of the language, there may always be some idiomatic gaps that arise. I am a polyglot and I work as professional interpreter and have done so since I was in my very early 20's. I'm now in my mid 40's. Even with that length of experience in the field, there are still occasions when I make use of a construction or a phrase that I know to mean exactly what I need it to mean, but which nonetheless evokes a raised eyebrow of :wtf:. Later, when I recap the day's interpretation with the clients and ask about that raised eyebrow moment, I invariably get: "No, no. We understood perfectly. It was just an unusual/old-fashioned/rather technical way to say it. We don't usually speak that way, that's all." *shrug* Those moments are ones you will have to learn to judge on an individual basis.

    So, to answer this question:
    Of course it's a matter of choice. In creative writing, everything is a matter of a choice. Everything. I'm re-reading José Saramago's Blindness right now. Other than the dialogue-without-quotes that he uses and delivers in that most Latino of story-telling styles, he also makes use of another very Latino writing idiosyncrasy where entire paragraphs made up of many, many clearly distinct and complete sentences are all separated only by commas, rather than full stops. The rules of orthography for both Portuguese and Spanish indicate that this is a mistake for the same reason it's a mistake in English: comma splice. But it's very common for Latinos to create not only comma splices, but serial comma splices until the end of the paragraph. It's given a pass, or grudging acceptance in the same way that stranded prepositions are grudgingly accepted in English. I personally abhor stranded prepositions, and in any critique I give I will point them out when they are found in the narrative. The writer is free to ignore my advice as overly pedantic, or to take my advice if they are trying to groom a more precise delivery. It's the writer's choice.

    ETA: All of the above presumes some flavor of 3rd person pov for the writing. I do not ever write in 1st person, but I agree with @Cave Troll, whose post is clearly directed at 1st person pov writing.
     
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  6. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nice margins.
     
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  7. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I blame a class that I am taking in community college for that. :p
     
  8. Malisky
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    Malisky Fuzz Overdriver Contributor

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    Thank you for your replies. I see your points and I agree with you. Maybe I overreacted because I saw a pattern in someones comments and I couldn't figure his true opinion upon the matter, because he never explains what he means or whether something is important to change or just a plain suggestion. This gets me frustrated sometimes. Yes, we tend to disagree from time to time but I trust his input overall. Sometimes I don't understand it though, which makes me question whether I'm right not to follow each of his suggestions or whether I'm just being stubborn. (And him, being the native gives him the upper hand). I guess it'll show when it's done. I feel much better now. I understand your points. Thanks. :)
     
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