Looking for the Best Word? Tip #62


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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: Industrious/Indolent, Epizeuxis, In close proximity, Keeping up with the Joneses, Saudade.

Industrious/Indolent: These words operate as antonyms and it’s in that capacity I’m examining them.

Antonyms can be hard to find, and thesauruses usually don’t give examples. When lost for such an opposite, I grab ‘The New Nuttall Dictionary of English Synonyms and Antonyms’ published 1986, which generally solves my dilemma. Other such volumes are available.

Industrious – Roget lists the following headers: vigorous, attentive, studious, persevering, businesslike, industrious, and labouring. Under the sub-heading ‘industrious’ are a further 22 alternatives including sedulous, hardworking, unflagging, indefatigable, burning the candle at both ends, and efficient.

Indolent – Roget’s thesaurus lists only the noun, ‘indolence’, rather than the adjective. However these alternative words will give a clue to the use of the adjective, ‘indolent’: inaction and sluggishness. Under the sub-heading ‘inaction’ are many replacements. However, we’re looking for the appropriate adjective here, and that is ‘inactive’, and Roget lists 68 substitutes including still, not working, inanimate, sluggish, listless, languorous, supine and idle. (It’s unclear why the adjective has been excluded, but it’s an old book and perhaps the editors simply missed this during compilation).

Let’s look at usage for Industrious:

‘It’s common for workers to be industrious without becoming wealthy. Simple hard work doesn’t guarantee a good income.’

‘Shirley’s boss described her as an industrious young soul, but her rapid output made little difference to her wages.’

In both sentences, we could substitute ‘businesslike’, ‘hardworking’, ‘unflagging’, indefatigable’ and ‘efficient’ for ‘industrious’ without altering the sense.

Let’s contrast that with usage for Indolent:

‘Born into wealth and privilege, Ralph had adopted an indolent attitude to work and rarely raised a sweat unless it was to his personal advantage.’

‘The humid heat of the tropics made Mary indolent and reluctant to make any sustained effort.’

Here, we could use ‘sluggish’, ‘listless’ and ‘languorous’ in place of ‘indolent’.

Figure of speech:

Epizeuxis: A figure in which a word or phrase is repeated for emphasis.

‘Tony Blair’s mantra, “Education, education, education” may well have been an admirable ambition, but it needed cash to put it into place.’

‘She hoped he wouldn’t let her down. He wouldn’t. No, he wouldn’t do that.’


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: ‘In close proximity

If something is close to something else, the two things are in proximity, so we do not need to use both words to describe their relationship to each other. They’re either close, or one is in proximity to the other.

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.

Keeping up with the Joneses: a phrase that indicates the subjects are taking action simply to maintain the impression they’re as able to spend money, time, or effort as their neighbours.

‘I see John and Margaret have bought a new car; keeping up with the Joneses, as usual.’ We could say instead: ‘I see John and Margaret are trying to impress by buying a new car they probably can’t afford.’

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.

Saudade (Portuguese) – melancholic longing or nostalgia for a person, place or thing far away in distance or time – a vague, dreaming wistfulness for some phenomena that may not even exist.

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 where I also deal with the use of words. 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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