The #Write #Word? Post 47

Finding it hard to discover the ‘right’ word when writing? Me, too, sometimes. In trying to improve, maybe I can help you.                                       

Word cloud via

Today’s words: Naiad, Natural instinct, Naked truth, Nude.

Synonyms are alternative words that have the power to convey exactly what you’re trying to say.

Naiad: Roget gives us a couple of sub-headings; nymph, and mythical being. Under nymph, it lists the various types of nymph along with the titles of those that appear with specific names in Greek mythology. A naiad is, of course, a river or water nymph. Under mythical being, it lists a further 40 alternatives. However, these are not real substitutes but the various named or generalised mythical beings invented over the centuries, mostly in western cultures. It’s interesting to see, probably due to the date of the original compilation, that no current gods are listed here, despite the fact that all of these, too, are entirely mythical. Perhaps a modern version of the thesaurus will one day include these, although that may prove problematic if it were to include the Hindu deities, which are said to number around a million!

So, there are no real substitutes for ‘naiad’, except for the more general ‘water nymph’ and the descriptive ‘river nymph’. The word is used by certain poets in a metaphorical sense, and by writers of some fantasy works, but is otherwise rarely employed, and I include it here only as an illustration of the way language can keep alive ancient customs that no longer have any real relevance. It may also sometimes be used about a female lover of water as an affectionate label.

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.

Natural instinct: anything instinctual is, by definition, natural. There are no ‘unnatural’ or ‘artificial’ instincts. The modifier ‘natural’ is therefore unnecessary here and ‘instinct’ can be used alone.

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.

Naked truth: what is the naked truth? It’s the truth without any overlying fabric to hide its reality; it’s pure fact, without opinion or elaboration.

‘If you want the naked truth, never ask a politician, priest, or businessman; ask someone you trust.’ We could say the same thing without the cliché; ‘If you want the facts, avoid politicians, priests and businessmen and go to a source you can trust.’

And, my own humorous, metaphorical, and often irreverent, thought-provoking, and controversial definitions of some common words for your entertainment, which I list under The Delusional Dictionary.

Nude:a prude’s label to enhance the titillation effect of a picture of someone wearing underwear; partly clothed; someone exposing some of their skin in an advert or dishonest editorial piece. (Nude has only one real meaning: entirely without covering; anything else is either partially clothed or semi-nude.)

Language learners may find this link a useful aid 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.

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.