Struggling to find the ‘right’ word for your writing? Me, too. Maybe, in trying to improve my own work, I can help other writers.
Today’s words: Off of, On the rocks, Offensively, Occhiolism, Obsolescence.
Redundancies: words serving no purpose. In speech, they’re spacers, giving the speaker time to think. But in writing they slow the reader’s progress.
Off of: frequently used by our friends across the pond, this is one of those redundancies with no apparent purpose. Off can be used as a verb, adverb, preposition, noun and adjective. We can say, ‘I got off the bus.’ Meaning ‘I left the bus.’ But to say ‘I got off of the bus.’ neither adds anything useful, nor clarifies the action. It simply adds a meaningless word to the sentence. One of those peculiarities you might add to dialogue to demonstrate the speaker’s not too bright. But not something to be used in narrative or in serious nonfiction.
Cliché: a stereotyped or hackneyed expression; a phrase, opinion or other element of language that’s so overused it no longer holds power. However, clichés come into being as the result of their original and effective ability to describe a situation or quality in apposite terms. Their use should be sparing: in dialogue, they’re fine, providing the speaker would use them. They are words or expressions we’ve all encountered more times than…Here, I could use a cliché to illustrate what a cliché might be.
On the rocks: an interesting expression with more than one meaning, this one can be used in the context of the bar, ‘A scotch on the rocks’, meaning a glass of whisky with ice (something a drinker of single malt, best sampled with the tiniest drop of water, would avoid). It’s also used to describe something, often a relationship, that’s in trouble. ‘Their marriage is definitely on the rocks.’ Like most clichés, it makes a point, but using it as a writer is lazy. Maybe try ‘Their marriage is failing.’ or ‘Their marriage looks likely to end soon.’
Adverbs: words we all use incredibly often, lazily taking the easy route instead of diligently looking for stronger verbs.
Offensively: we live in a world where people appear to be seeking offence, so comments that were shrugged off as inconsequential in the past are often labelled ‘offensive’ now. That’s an area for much discussion, so I’ll avoid it here.
Usage for offensively:
‘Brian, who used humour offensively, would often pass off an insult as a joke.’ We could say, ‘Brian, pretending to be humorous, would often insult someone and then laugh as if he’d intended no offence.’
Untranslatable emotions: The world’s languages contain numerous words for emotions (and other things) for which English has no equivalent. Most people know ‘schadenfreude’, from German, and ‘frisson’, from French, but there are more, and I’ll introduce some here from time to time.
Occhiolism: is the consciousness that your perspective on life is inevitably limited.
And, my own, sometimes humorous, sometimes metaphorical, definition of some common words for your entertainment, which I’ll list under The Delusional Dictionary.
Obsolescence: a quality built-in to products to encourage people to buy new rather than repair; an encouragement to waste precious resources with no thought for the future; an epidemic particularly relevant to technology, where products are made incapable of update so they must be thrown away and replaced with more expensive versions.
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