In your writing, do you sometimes have problems discovering the ‘right’ word? I do. In trying to improve my own work, maybe I can help you.
There will be one more normal post in this series, next week, and then a final one the following week as a conclusion. What will I do then? I’m still pondering how best to help, so not sure at this precise moment! Suggestions? (I can’t guarantee I’ll follow them, though!)
Today’s words: Yawp, Yearningly, You’re the boss, Yobbish.
Synonyms are alternative words that have the power to convey exactly what you’re trying to say.
Yawp: Roget lists just two alternatives: stridor and ululation, both nouns. The SOED defines it as ‘a hoarse, raucous or querulous cry.’ However, I’m looking at it as a verb, which is defined as ‘shout or exclaim hoarsely…give a raucous or querulous cry; speak foolishly or noisily’, so will have to provide my own list of substitutes: rasp, croak, caterwaul, yelp, yawl, screech, squawk, and squeal.
Usage for Yawp:
‘Boris is one of those men, well-educated and superficially erudite but lacking either charm or common sense, who is incapable of speaking in public without resorting to yelling or yawping.’ Here the use of ‘yawping’ is useful as it contains two meanings; that of being loud and that of speaking foolishly. To use alternatives would require the employment of more than one verb to convey the same meaning.
Adverbs: words used to strengthen a weak verb, added to a verb in order to give it more power. Often, the best way to avoid their use is to employ a strong verb instead.
Yearningly: to yearn is to have a deep or passionate longing; the word is often used in connection with love.
‘Jeremy’s gaze followed Gemma yearningly as she sauntered through the ward.’ So, poor Jeremy is besotted with Gemma. How to express this without resorting to the adverb? ‘Jeremy’s gaze was fixed on Gemma, his whole face and demeanour expressing his desire and love for her.’ Have a go and see what you come up with. You’ll notice I avoided referring to Jeremy’s ‘eyes’ here: eyes are incapable of following, since they’re fixed in the skull, but the gaze, look, glance, etc can follow.
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.
You’re the boss: an expression either stating the obvious when applied to some senior employee or the employer. It can also be used in a satirical way to indicate the speaker thinks the accused is deluded about their own position or intelligence, etc.
‘“You’re the boss.” was Joan’s standard response when ordered to perform a task she actually saw as pointless. Always stated with that hint of sarcasm, which was unfortunately too subtle for her employer to detect.’ Of course, we could have Joan say “You’re in charge”, “It’s your company”, or, if she wanted to be a little more confrontational, she might dare, “If you say so, but I wouldn’t advise it!’ or something similar. Perhaps you can think of a response that carries the same tone without resorting to the cliché?
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.
Yobbish: irresponsible, badly behaved, as in the usual fiasco that is Prime Minister’s Question Time in the UK House of Commons; the nature of those oiks who make money from money in the City; the default mode of conduct from most right-wing politicians.
Language learners may find this link a useful aid for pronunciation, and there’s a great group page on Facebook here.
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