Looking for the Best Word? Tip #36

Word cloud via Prowritingaid.com

Help for writers wishing to make their work more interesting, varied, accurate and effective by using the best words, and providing language learners with insights into some oddities of the English language.

A good thesaurus gives alternatives for the idea of a word, but not all are true synonyms: context is vital. One way to check suitability is to place synonyms into the sentence to test if they make sense. But it’s not foolproof, so a good dictionary is essential.

My dictionary of choice is the two-volume Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. And I use the 1987 edition of Roget’s Thesaurus for word selection. I’ve installed WordWeb on my Mac for times when I’m in a hurry and the apposite word evades me. Also, I’ve downloaded the Kindle edition of Kathy Steinemann’s ‘The Writer’s Lexicon’ to consult whilst editing my fiction, so I can inject more variety to the text.

However, I try to dig the best word from my overloaded memory first: it’s good mental exercise, which I need on a regular basis! Other books of words, which I consult when a word escapes me, live on reference shelves behind me.

So, to this week’s word: Adynaton

This is the name for a figure of speech that uses impossible or unlikely situations for emphasis.

Examples of usage:

‘Justice will return to the world the instant the forest writes a symphony on the joys of logging.’

‘She’ll accept your proposition the moment Jupiter becomes a satellite of Earth.’

‘He’ll agree with your theory the day the Atlantic turns to single malt whisky.’

These all cite unlikely happenings as triggers for desired events. The contrast of the desire with the unlikely event emphasises the impossibility of it ever occurring.

For language learners, here’s a great group page on Facebook.

I welcome observations and suggestions here. Please use the comments section below for your ideas and thoughts.

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