Books, writing, reading and words. I love them; do you?

The #Write #Word? Post 36

cant

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Struggle to find the ‘right’ word for your writing? Occasionally, so do I. Perhaps, in trying to improve my own work, I can help you.

Today’s words: Cant, Continual/Continuous, Calm before the storm, Chrysalism, Church.

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

Cant: Not to be confused with ‘can’t’, the contraction of ‘cannot’. The SOED lists ‘cant’ under 10 separate headings. I’ve chosen the one most likely to be used by writers: Ephemeral catchwords; affected or insincere phraseology, language implying piety which does not exist, hypocrisy. Roget lists the following headings; obliquity, be oblique, make oblique, propel, duplicity, falsehood, cant, slang, dialectal, neologise, be affected, pietism, false piety, be impious. Under ‘duplicity’ are a further 62 suggestions including hollowness, mask, fake, hypocrisy, insincerity, fraud, cheat, charlatanism, and low cunning.

Usage for Cant:

‘Felicity was delivering a lecture to her politics students highlighting the inadequacies and failings of the modern political world. She described the cheating, lying, cant and fraud that typifies so much of modern political behaviour and warned her audience against believing most of what contemporary leaders and politicians have to say.’

Words often misused: because it’s stolen terms from many languages, English often uses words that appear to mean something similar. However, as wordsmiths, we owe it to our readers to get it right, don’t we?

Continual/Continuous: Something that’s continual is always happening, very frequent. Something continuous is unbroken, uninterrupted in time or sequence. So, continual interruptions may prevent a speaker giving a continuous speech, but they won’t necessarily stop the speaker carrying on after each interruption.

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 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.

Calm before the storm: My guess is that most people understand this phrase to refer to a period of quiescence prior to some form of violent activity. Meteorologically, most of us have experienced that odd sensation of atmospheric peacefulness that precedes a thunder storm. Used metaphorically, however, the phrase has become a cliché and should be avoided. Perhaps use a different order of words in your sentence, a different structure to say what you mean. ‘Whenever Hank was unusually quiet, Sara prepared herself for the inevitable outburst of emotional fireworks she knew would occur.’

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 introduce some here from time to time.

Chrysalism: describes the sense of protective tranquillity brought by being indoors during a thunderstorm.

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

Church: a place where the deluded gather to pay homage to a mythical being of their own creation; any tribal meeting place where rites and rituals outweigh truth and honesty; a refuge, often characterised by peace and calm, where the spiritually deprived can discover an element of contentment.

Language learners may find this link useful for pronunciation, and there’s a great group page on Facebook here.

I contribute a column to a monthly online magazine, Pandora’s Box Gazette, where I also deal with the use of words. For the most recent, please click here.

I’m ending this series with a final alphabetical run and will then close this chain of posts and move on to something new. I’ll have produced more than a year of these word posts by then. The series will remain available in the archive, should anyone wish to use it.

Your observations and suggestions are welcome in the comments section below. And, if you’ve enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to share it with your friends. Thank you.

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