Books, writing, reading and words. I love them; do you?

Looking for the Best Word? Tip #61



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A day late: sorry, my Mac was undergoing repairs. Now fixed!

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: Fight with, Epistrophe, 12 noon, fish out of water.


Fight with: belongs to an odd category of words known as contronyms. A contronym is a word that is its own antonym; a word that has two opposing meanings! Of course, in this case, it’s not simply a word we’re examining, but a phrase: Fight with is a short piece of English that needs careful attention, as context alone won’t always identify the true meaning of your sentence.

Let’s look at usage for Fight with:

‘Men often fight with each other.’ This sentence could mean that men are prone to fighting one another, in which case, the sentence would be better expressed: ‘Men often fight against each other.’ It could also mean that men fight together, in which case it might be better to specify the nature of the fight: ‘Men often fight battles together.’ Or ‘Men often fight with each other in a common cause.’ Always look for potential ambiguity when using such phrases.

Figure of speech:

Epistrophe: A figure in which a word is repeated at the end of consecutive clauses or sentences.

‘It can look like love, it can taste like love, it can even feel like love, but it’s lust, not love.’

‘That politician claims to care about equality. He pretends to promote equality. He speaks about the benefits of equality. But everything he actually does undermines the very concept of equality.’


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: ‘12 noon

‘I’ll meet you by the village pump at 12 noon.’

It might be argued that we need to specify ‘noon’ here in order to distinguish between that time of the day and midnight. But, in reality, we simply need to use either ‘noon’ or ‘midnight’, since both of these express the idea of 12 o’clock. ‘I’ll meet you by the village pump at noon.’

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.

Fish out of water: a phrase that means someone is operating in a space or environment in which he is uncomfortable or out of place.

‘Poor old Brian has no idea what to say to those women; he’s a fish out of water.’ Perhaps we might express this better: ‘Poor old Brian has no idea how to behave with those women or what to say to them.’

Language learners might find this link useful for pronunciation queries, and you’ll reach a great group page on Facebook if you click 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. 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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