Offering help for writers and language learners, this series of posts is a resource for all word lovers.
This week’s words: Fabricate, Fairly, Desbundar, Facts of life.
Fabricate – Roget lists these headers: compose, produce, imagine, fake. Under the sub-heading ‘fake’ are a further 24 alternatives, including forge, plagiarize, trump up, rig, spin, cook up, and invent.
Let’s look at usage for Fabricate:
‘It’s not unusual for political candidates to fabricate policies that are exposed as lies when they move to positions of power.’
‘The model was furious when she discovered the photographer had fabricated images of her, making her face and body so close to perfection as to be unbelievable.’
In the first example, we could replace ‘fabricate’ with all the alternatives, apart from ‘plagiarize’, without altering the meaning of the sentence. The second example would need some restructuring to enable the substitutes, however.
I’ve selected only one meaning of ‘fabricate’ here. You’ll see that the word has a multitude of meanings, so its use needs to be carefully controlled if your writing is to be accurate.
Redundancies are words serving no semantic purpose. In speech, they act as spacers, giving the speaker time to think. But in writing, except when representing natural conversation, they impede the reader’s progress.
This week’s example: ‘Fairly’
‘Jennifer was fairly happy with the outcome of her arrangement with Jake.’ We could say, ‘Jennifer was content with …’
Using ‘fairly’ as a modifier weakens the verb, so it’s better to select a more specific verb in the first place to express true meaning.
Untranslatable words: The world’s languages contain numerous words for emotions (and other things) for which English has no equivalent. I suspect most people are familiar with ‘schadenfreude’, from German, and ‘frisson’, from French, but there are many more, and I’ll introduce some here from time to time.
Desbundar (Portuguese) –shedding inhibitions by having fun.
Cliché; a cliché is a stereotyped or hackneyed expression; a phrase, opinion or other element of language that’s been so overused it no longer holds any power. However, clichés usually come into being as the result of their original ability to describe a situation or quality. Their use should be sparing and appropriate; in dialogue, they’re acceptable, providing the speaking character would use such expressions.
Facts of life: an expression originally describing the anatomical parts and biological processes involved in sexual encounters. It was used to protect the shy from potential embarrassment at describing sexual body parts and the acts for which they’re used. In common with most euphemistic clichés, this one’s intended more as protection for the user than the reader.
‘George would probably have taken more care with Sophie if he’d had the facts of life explained to him.’ It’s doubtful that the ‘facts of life’ would’ve been graphic enough to persuade the young man to take more care. But, we could say, ‘George would probably have taken more care with Sophie if he’d understood that having sex with her could cause her to become pregnant.’ As writers, it’s incumbent upon us to call a spade a spade (another cliché) or, to use proper language to say what’s on our minds, rather than to wrap our ideas in cosy and weak synonyms for truth.
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