A series of posts for all word lovers. Offering help for writers and language learners, these posts look at many different aspects of the world of words in the hope of stimulating your curiosity and enhancing your creativity.
This week’s words: Abstract, Epanalepsis, Kind of, Afraid of his own shadow, Pihentagyú.
Abstract: (this word can be used as an adjective, verb, or noun)- Roget lists these headers: insubstantial (adj), subtract (vb), shorten (vb), immaterial (adj), mental (adj), philosophic (adj), be concise (vb), description (n), compendium (n), abstract (vb), select (vb), take away (vb), and steal (vb). I’m examining abstract as an adjective here. Under the sub-heading ‘mental’ are a further 25 alternatives, including thinking, endowed with reason, rational, intellectual, conceptual, perceptual, cognitive and subjective.
Let’s look at usage for Abstract:
‘Abstract art is said to be appreciated in the mind of the viewer, but popular opinion often consigns it to the rubbish bin.’
‘Abstract concepts, such as ‘love’, ‘morality’, ‘freedom’, and ‘chauvinism’ are the very stuff of philosophy, where they are often contrasted with concrete thinking, such as ‘the man unshackled by superstition lives a life free of delusion’.’ For a more detailed discussion of these please follow this link.
In the first sentence, ‘abstract’ could be replaced by ‘conceptual’, but other suggested synonyms wouldn’t work.
In sentence two, there is no real substitute for ‘abstract’.
Figure of speech:
Epanalepsis: A figure in which the opening word or phrase of a sentence is repeated at the end.
‘Freedom, such as it is, may perhaps be better than no freedom.’
‘Life may be far from perfect, but is generally better than the alternative; no life.’
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: ‘Kind of’
‘The businessman was kind of like a dictator and treated his workers kind of like slaves.’ This is something that might commonly be heard in everyday conversation. However, as writers, we should try to be more concise: ‘The businessman was a dictator who treated his workers as slaves.’ This is much stronger and carries more impact.
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 effective 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.
Afraid of his own shadow: a phrase that means the subject is timid, given to nervous reaction to unexpected of sudden shocks.
‘Donald daren’t walk in the woods on his own; he’s afraid (scared) of his own shadow.’
Perhaps better in this form: ‘Donald is so nervous and timid he dares not walk in the woods alone.’
Untranslatable words: The world’s languages contain numerous words for emotions (and other things) for which English has no equivalent. I suspect most people know ‘schadenfreude’, from German, and ‘frisson’, from French, but there are many more, and I’ll introduce some here from time to time.
Pihentagyú (Hungarian) – describes quick-witted people who can come up with sophisticated jokes or solutions: like the wit of Oscar Wilde or Noel Coward. It literally means ‘with a relaxed brain’.
Language learners might find this link useful for pronunciation queries, and you’ll reach a great group page on Facebook if you use this link.
I contribute a monthly column to an online magazine, Pandora’s Box Gazette. I’m also dealing with the use of words there, so if you’d like to take a look, click this link.
I welcome your observations and suggestions here. Please use the comments section below for your ideas and thoughts.
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