Find it hard to discover the ‘right’ word when writing? So do I, sometimes. In working to improve my own writing, maybe I can help other writers.
Today’s words: Shriek/Whisper, Spliced together, Stubborn as a mule, Science.
Antonyms: words that express the opposite of other words can be hard to find, because thesauruses usually give no examples. When lost for such opposites, if I can’t dig a suitable word from my deteriorating grey matter, I reach for ‘The New Nuttall Dictionary of English Synonyms and Antonyms’, my copy published 1986, which generally solves my dilemma.
Shriek: a shriek is a high-pitched, loud, jarring sound, often the result of fear, shock, excitement or a simple wish for attention. Roget lists the following sub-headings; feel pain, stridor, cry, lament, and weep. As a direct synonym, rather than an example of possible ideas, ‘stridor’ is the closest sub-heading, and that lists a further 61 suggestions.
‘When Clive crept up behind Joanne in the darkness of her bedroom, and cupped her uncovered skin within his wet, cold hands, she shrieked her fear. His triumphant laugh caused her to twist round and slap him hard across his grinning face.’
Whisper: a whisper is a soft, non-resonant quality of voice, and is often used to transmit a secret, gossip the whisperer wishes not to be heard elsewhere, or in a dangerous situation to communicate as silently as possible. Roget has this list of sub-headings; small quantity, sound faint, imply, hint, rumour, voice, speak low, and detraction. Like its antonym, above, ‘whisper’ can be used as a verb as well as a noun. Here, I’m looking at its use as a noun, so the closest sub-header is hint, which provides another 56 alternatives.
‘The whisper among staff in Downing Street was that Mrs May had utterly lost the plot. Secretly, they all believed the poor, deluded soul had gone completely mad.’
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.
Spliced together: to splice is to put things together, to join them until they become an effective unit. It’s used mostly in describing ropes and ropework, but has a slang meaning relating to marriage, where the couple are described as having been spliced. Since it’s not possible to splice a single item, and the result of splicing is always to place things together, the use of ‘together’ here is pointless. You can use ‘splice’ without any need for a descriptor.
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.
Stubborn as a mule: Most of us understand that a mule can display signs of persistence in refusing to do as its owner wishes. I have sympathy with the beast of burden, often cruelly treated and overladen, but we all know what the phrase means. ‘Anyone denying human influence on climate change must be stubborn as a mule in the face of all the evidence supporting the claim.’ We could say this in a different way; ‘To deny human activity is responsible for current changes in climate needs a failure of education, poor intelligence and a stubborn refusal to accept the facts.’
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.
Science: in the expressed views of a few, a system of belief similar to religion; an expletive denying the factual when it contradicts faith; a word despised by those who prefer myth and legend to truth.
I welcome your observations and suggestions here. And, if you’ve enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to share it with your followers and friends. Thank you.