Help for writers and language learners; these posts look at different aspects of the world of words to stimulate curiosity and enhance creativity.
Next week’s post will occur in the New Year of 2018 and I’m intending to use that change to alter these posts slightly. I expect they’ll become slightly shorter, but only time will tell!
This week’s words: Renewal, Retronym, Reflect back, Rings a bell, Rubatosis.
Renewal: – Roget’s thesaurus lists these headers for Renewal, which is a noun: duplication, repetition, newness, repair, revival, and refreshment. Under the sub-heading ‘revival’ are a further 40 alternatives including recovery, refreshment, resurgence, economic miracle, rejuvenation, rebirth, palingenesis, regeneration, and awakening from the dead.
Let’s look at usage for Renewal:
‘Around this time, many people, especially the optimists in our midst, look to the New Year as a point of renewal, a way to make a new start.’
‘George looked at the letter and realised he would have to find the money soon; the renewal of his motor insurance was imminent!’
In sentence one, we could replace ‘renewal’ with ‘rejuvenation’ or ‘rebirth’. But in sentence two, we could really only use ‘revival’ if we want to retain the sense.
Figure of speech:
Retronym: is a new name for something already existing that has been modified. The newer name distinguishes the existing from the replacement, which often occurs as a result in advances in technology.
‘George replaced his acoustic guitar with an electric guitar as soon as he could afford to make the change.’
In this sentence, ‘acoustic guitar’ is a retronym for ‘guitar’, since there was no need for a distinction to be made until the electric guitar arrived. It was then that ‘electric guitar’ also became a retronym for ‘guitar’.
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: ‘Reflect back’.
A reflection is an image produced by a mirror or other shiny surface. Reflecting as a mental exercise is the act of looking again at something that has happened. The word ‘back’ is unnecessary, as one cannot reflect sideways, forward, up or down, only in retrospect.
‘Sarah reflected back on the events that had brought her to this strange, unsettling house.’ This would be better expressed: ‘Sarah reflected on the events that had brought her to this strange, unsettling house.’ Or, ‘reflected on’ could be replaced with ‘looked back at’.
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.
Rings a bell: an expression meaning that an incident, word, or sight reminds the observer of something similar. The etymology is a little uncertain, but the phrase has been found in print as far back as 1830, though that instance seems not to have any reference to memory. There’s a theory that it might stem from Pavlov’s experiments with dogs. However, the earliest example of a metaphorical use I can find is a short story, ‘The Singer Passes: An India Tapestry’ by Maud Diver in 1934. And, of course, we do use bells to remind ourselves of certain events: church bells to remind congregations to attend, alarm bells to remind people to either wake up or to escape a burning building!
‘Georgiy glanced across the street at the woman. “Her face rings a bell, but I can’t recall her name.” he said.’ We could replace this with; ‘Her face reminded him of someone he thought he knew, but he couldn’t recall her name.’
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.
Rubatosis: The unsettling awareness of your own heartbeat, especially when alone at night, or in an unfamiliar and potentially threatening situation.
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 observations and suggestions here. Please use the comments section below for any ideas and thoughts.
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