The #Write #Word? Post 31

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Struggling to find the ‘right’ word for your writing? You’re not alone. Maybe, in trying to improve my own work, I can help other writers.

Today’s words: Xanthippe, Xeric, Xenophobically, Xenophobe.

Words beginning with ‘x’ in English are few, and almost all stem from Greek. In fact, in my copy of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, two volumes with a total of 3,800 pages, only three pages are devoted to words that start with ‘X’. Amongst these, only three words are classified as adverbs. And I can find no redundancies.

Synonyms are alternative words that might say exactly what you’re trying to convey.

Xanthippe: Roget’s provides a single alternative header for this word; shrew. And, under shrew are a further 20 words including scold, virago, stramullion, harridan, tigress, and redhead (though I think most women with fiery locks would be justified in rejecting this particular synonym!).

Usage for Xanthippe:

‘Would Shakespeare’s play, The Taming of the Shrew, have been as successful under the title, The Taming of the Xanthippe, or would it have had the effect, as so many of his works have, of increasing the familiarity and usage of xanthippe?’

‘Donald, a man known for his retarded view of women, frequently referred to his long-suffering and patient wife as a xanthippe, having encountered the word by accident and borrowed it in a doomed attempt to look more intelligent.’

Xeric: another ‘x’ word. This one has no listing in Roget’s. It means characterised by dry conditions and is generally used in an ecological context. Possible alternatives could be arid, drought-ridden, waterless, desiccated, seared, parched, and scorched. Used in general writing, it might suggest a touch of the show-off in the author, but it could be of occasional help to a poet seeking something a little more in keeping with a specific verse.

Adverbs: words we all use incredibly often, lazily taking the easy route instead of diligently looking for stronger verbs.

Xenophobically: describes actions, thoughts or sayings with a deep antipathy to foreigners.

‘There are people ready to xenophobically apply blame for all of life’s ills to the presence of people from outside the area.’ Could, perhaps be better expressed as, ‘There are people ready to blame all of life’s ills on the presence of foreign residents in their area, regardless of a total lack of evidence.’

And, my own, sometimes humorous, sometimes metaphorical, sometimes controversial, definitions of some common words for your entertainment, which I’ll list under The Delusional Dictionary.

Xenophobe: a racist; someone prejudiced through ignorance regarding people of a different ethnicity; anyone, often of low intelligence or poor education, with an irrational fear of foreigners; a right-wing politician; a right-wing thinker (though, whether the word ‘thinker’ can be properly applied to such is open to debate).

Language learners might find this link useful for pronunciation, and you’ll find a great group page on Facebook via 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 see the most recent, please click this link.

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