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  1. isaac223

    isaac223 Active Member

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    Can Some Words Just Never Sound Good?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by isaac223, Jan 14, 2020.

    Ersatz. It just looks amazing. It's such a pretty word to look at! It means "impostor" and I tried to find some ways to use it in cases where I use "impostor", "fake" and "substitute" far too much... but the word "ersatz" just feels like an ersatz version of its brothers -- it doesn't feel like a real world. No matter how I try to use it, and no matter how many sentences using "ersatz" I look up, they all feel like ersatz statements where I'd sooner use the genuine article.

    It just sounds stilted and awkward no matter how it's worked into a sentence. Is it possible for some words to just never sound decent, that you should just avoid altogether no matter what?
     
  2. Richach

    Richach Senior Member

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    I think using more obvious words is more likely to keep the reader immersed in the story and using less known words that have the same meaning may mean the reader has to stop and think or worse go and look it up.

    Maybe you might be able to weave "ersatz" into a characters name. Or maybe a race of creatures. Not sure really. You would have to do it in a way so that the reader is not pulled out of the story, so maybe using for a different purpose might be best. :)
     
  3. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The most obvious way to work it in, without it sounding weird is to use it in dialogue. Have one of your characters say it. Perhaps sarcastically?

    I've heard people say it—actually fairly often. Usually when they mean something is a manufactured fake of lesser value than the real thing. An ersatz diamond, or a bottle of ersatz CocaCola, for example. And often with the connotation that the person who bought it, or is using it wants other people to think it's the real thing, or they can't afford or obtain the real thing. A degree from some ersatz university, etc.

    I suppose it would also be perfectly usable in a first-person narration, if the POV character is the sort who would use that kind of word, or thinks in that sort of vernacular.

    I think it MIGHT jar a bit in serious third person narration, though, because it isn't neutral enough. It almost sounds like slang—the way the word 'hokey' would sound in the same context. It might be amusing, if you were writing a comic story, though. Like Terry Pratchett might, or somebody like him.

    I just looked up the Collins dictionary definition, and it adds another nuance. It says ersatz is an adjective used to describe something that is disliked, because it's a poor imitation of something better. So the connotation isn't a direct synonym for 'imitation' or 'false,' but implies dislike of that substitution because of its inferior quality.

    I don't think I remember ersatz used to mean an impostor, though. Ersatz usually implies the fakery is glaringly obvious. In fact, impostors often get away with their fake status—certainly for a while, anyway.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2020
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  4. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Active Member

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    "The German population resorted to ersatz coffee made from acorns during WW2."
     
  5. TheOtherPromise

    TheOtherPromise Member

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    How I handle vocabulary in my writing is to stick with words that I would use in regular conversations. Since I'm comfortable saying the words, I'm comfortable writing them. Though I might double check to make sure I'm using them properly. Sometimes you think you know what a word means but you are slightly off.

    So with that in mind, if ersatz is a word that you'd casually drop into a conversation with someone, go right ahead and use it. If however you don't tend to use the word and only like it because of how it looks, maybe it isn't the word for you.
     
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  6. Steve Rivers

    Steve Rivers Member

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    Had

    ...looks perfectly pretty, simple and innocent.

    Put another had next to it and it becomes a revolting, ugly monster.

    Had had

    HAD HAD?! Hadhad!

    I hate having to revert from "##### had had enough." to "Having had enough, ####" It's so arrogant the sod makes me replace it with another word! ...and it makes me restructure sentences.

    But that ugly mother has to go, dammit! *Pokes hadhad with a pole* Go! Get back under that bridge you ugly troll!

    EDIT - *Reads post back. Ponders creating the new word "hadad"* :D
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2020
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  7. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Active Member

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    "James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher"

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_while_John_had_had_had_had_had_had_had_had_had_had_had_a_better_effect_on_the_teacher
     
  8. Steve Rivers

    Steve Rivers Member

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    *Nods*

    I'm SO using hadad now. It'd TOTALLY solve that.
     
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  9. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Ersatz doesn't bother me. I only recall seeing it in science fiction works, offhand, and maybe that makes a difference. You see a lot of unusual terminology in SF.

    Philip K. Dick liked the word "ersatz."
     
  10. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, he had had a conniption over the word 'had.' OR ...He'd had a conniption over the word 'had.' Using the contraction helps diffuse the awkwardness. Tricksy.... :)
     
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  11. A.M.P.

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Contributor

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    The correct way to use the word 'ersazt' in a book would be to associate with an elevator.
     
  12. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I actually used ersatz in my WIP punning it with the screenwriter Joe Eszterhas. The sentence needs work - it's towards the end of the first draft. For me it's the perfect pun or joke kind of word like ... what do you drive? A genuine Ersatz piece of C.R.A.P.
     
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  13. KiraAnn

    KiraAnn Member

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    Ersatz probably sounds awkward because it’s a German word originally. Coined in the 19th century, I believe.

    Mostly, I consider its use to be pretentious.
     

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