A series of posts for 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: Kaput, Erotesis, Absolutely necessary, Cross that bridge when you come to it, Anecdoche.
Kaput – Roget’s thesaurus lists the following headers: powerless, destroyed, dead, useless, dilapidated, and defeated. Under the sub-heading ‘useless’ are a further 66 alternatives including pointless, naff, unworkable, unfit, incompetent, nonfunctioning, dud, unserviceable, broken down, worn out, past it, and obsolete.
Let’s look at usage for Kaput:
‘Susan hunted through the box of spares, hoping to find the missing part, but every item that seemed likely turned out to be kaput.’
‘No point asking Boris to do the job. I’m afraid he’s kaput.’
In Susan’s case, the desired objects are all useless, so we could use that word as a substitute, as we could, ‘unworkable’, ‘unfit’, ‘nonfunctioning’, ‘dud’, and ‘unserviceable’. If we used the other suggestions, we’d be making assumptions about the actual state of the items.
In the case of Boris, ‘kaput’ is used as a euphemism for ‘dead’. It’s common to use euphemisms to describe people, and animals, who’ve died. I leave it to your judgment whether such use is valid.
Figure of speech:
Erotesis: A figure in which a question is implied but no answer is expected.
‘She’s wearing a bikini to go shopping in the town centre. Who does that?’
‘What’s the point of making promises if you always intend to break them?’ (In the case of politicians, of course, there is a point: they hope to fool at least some of the voters!)
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: ‘Absolutely necessary’
If something is ‘necessary’, then it is needed; indispensable. The addition of ‘absolutely’ only demonstrates ignorance on the part of the writer.
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.
Cross that bridge when you come to it: a phrase that means one should face the problem when it occurs. Often used to describe a situation in which someone worries unnecessarily over something that may never happen.
‘You’re concerned Brenda might be less efficient than Gloria, but we can cross that bridge when we come to it.’ We could say instead: ‘You’re worried Brenda might not be as efficient as Gloria, but we should wait and see how she performs before we concern ourselves.’
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.
Anecdoche: (Greek) A conversation where everyone’s talking, but nobody’s listening. So, not really a conversation at all!
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.
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