Of Words and Features


Tell us what you thought about the March 2010 issue.

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Post April 13, 2010, 03:08:49 AM

Of Words and Features

Oh my.

Sometimes the best respect you can say about a piece is "thank you for giving me something to disagree with". Since I don't believe in Devils, I shall become an advocate of something else.

---

Using big words doesn't make you someone who has found a thesaurus. After all, I needed to be introduced to it seven paragraphs down. (Thesaurus? Listen critter, go back to the Jurassic and I'll catch up to you when I catch up to you and Peter. Oh right, his name is spelled differently.)

It's rather tough to make anyone dive for a dictionary. That requires having a dictionary. And diving. Which requires swim lessons. This is the Google Age, so the correct phrase is "making someone race to Google the word". Which they do. Watch them. They love it. And Google loves the ad revenue. It's a Brave New World and I think Aldous Huxley's estate even allows fair use of the title.

I don't expectorate. I never have. So being given a false choice, I refuse to be reduced to spitting, 'cause that's vulgar. Lemme see ... nope, the Listerine bottle isn't helping. Closest I can come is Rinse. So with that red herring paragraph dispensed with, what's next?

I will be bold and daresay you DO mean that some of wish others of us would "dumb ourselves down". At least, I've been told that a few times. The downside of the LoL Rofl age is that people's vocabulary has been (9*decimated). That's right, decimating it once is not enough, because decimate used to mean "reduce by ten percent", not "reduce down to ten percent". It's the power of the popular media to reinvent any word however they like because what you hear 21 times is more important than what's right.

Hmm. "Even Shakespeare used small words at times"? Maybe, but he is the last intersection of words no one uses at all, so much so that he gets remade because no one can understand him in the original. My vocabulary is decent, but he's tough. But there's ranges in between Will and chat messengers.

P.S. Velociraptors made the movie studios a lot of money. Big box office returns justify any word.

My vocabulary increased at a geometric rate several times, because I was fortunate to be raised in a household that respects books. Nice juicy ones, that you can thump with your tail and sink your talons into. See Billy build a house. Build Billy Build. See Billy forget to waterproof the foundation. Wanna dive for that thesaurus now?

I have learned that because there are few *people* left who will teach me awesome new words, I shall have to let the zombies of the past teach me instead. Pshaw, 25 cheeseburgers to feed them is cheaper than an English Degree at a college. So I churn into the books, try to discern the definitions, and incorporate them into my vocabulary like a wanna be Olympic coach who realizes he is past his prime before he figured out he had anything worth sharing.

Wanna know why? Because when a little kid uses huge and unexpected word, they're DEFINITELY viewed as showing off! That's because their dumbed down audience doesn't know words like "intellectual elitist" and "precocious" ... which are huge unexpected words, and the logical loop here could power the electric needs of Painesville Ohio. Nay, I am sorry to say, such stuff just gets you shoved against the dumpster. So a little kid who isn't good enough to run parallel universe tracks of every thing he wants to say decides not to learn new words at geometric rates.

Fortunately, this changes about Sixth Grade when the worst of the Masses fail the tests which are full of such words, and they get shuffled off to courses like Home Ec and Wood Shop, where they learn Hotel Management and Specialized Trim Carpentry and make more than your average smart kid working at McDonalds along with every other college kid with the B+ average.

Vocaulary isn't a class. It's a side effect from discovering that Arthur C. Clarke is a better friend than Jimmy who now acts like a jerk to impress his new girlfriend. Our hero starts hunting for words, because he notices that the dismal vocabulary made George W. Bush the most ridiculed President in History, and the first Black President in history has a good vocabulary.

In these times when life is expensive but books are still cheap, vocabularies begin to expand. Is this a bad thing? No. We piss and bitch ... er, excuse me, lament, the decline and fall of the American Educational Empire, because somewhere along the way we developed a culture that doesn't respect nice words any longer.

I don't get sick and feel like shit. That's called feeling sorry for yourself. I got a cough last year that lingered like a tax audit, but I still gotta work, 'cause ya can't call in to work sick for 3 months straight. (That's right, nice and slangy there. Because alternating erudite diction and breezy talk is called creative dissonance, or some goddurned thing.)
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Post April 13, 2010, 12:37:19 PM

Thoughts on Writing Good...competently

I’ve always thought that when there are two crittters fighting, the best thing to do is land right smack in the middle of them.
I certainly agree that most authors would be more likely to hit the ‘review’ and ‘thesaurus’ buttons on the keyboard than to actually pick up a book, but there is a place in this world for the old ink and paper as well. I work at the Printing House for the Blind, and we have a room filled with dictionaries and thesauruses which are being poured over by 20-something employees each time I walk through. So those books must have some value to them.

Contrary to the respondent’s statement that “You DO mean that some wish others of us would “dumb ourselves down” (I edited the unneeded ‘of’) I didn’t come to that conclusion when reading the original piece. It seemed to me the author was simply saying, “know your audience”.

An example: Years ago I went to see the movie Interview with a Vampire with a group of co-workers. As we were happily exiting the theater, I remarked: “The thing I found most interesting was the way the movie was able to successfully incorporate centuries of history into two hours of visual enjoyment, while moving between two continents, and a variety of cultures and subcultures.” Blank stares. I then said, “I also thought Brad Pitt was really hot.” At this point, talking erupted and everyone began to compare Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt while heading towards the local eatery.

Know your audience.

I would balk at the respondent’s audacity that the worst of the masses (took the capital off the M) are shuffled off to courses like Home Ec and Wood Shop to spend their lives working at a hotel. Any work is respectable work, and I bristle up when smugness rears its ugly head.

Perhaps this smugness would better explain why a young boy was pushed into a dumpster, rather than this happening because they were jealous of his use of pronouns.

Intelligence is the ability to survive and thrive under most circumstances; an author often needs to use this criteria to make sure his story survives and thrives in a particular forum. As Seanan McGuire says, “There are going to be times when no, really, it is a visage, and those are baleful cerulean orbs. We need all the words we have because all of them fill vital ecological roles in our vast vocabulary veldt.” Well put.
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Post April 13, 2010, 01:29:24 PM

Critters!

And we're off, to squeeze a few more posts in before the next issue!

I meant my post like martial arts sparring, not a real battle.

One point is sometimes a well executed surprise can enlighten your audience. When you wheel off a note with interesting words, some people I have met enjoy just hearing the flow. But I'll add this - know your audience is not just the people, but the condition those people are in! I have scrambled THAT judgement lots of times. :/

Maybe I missed a note with my Shuffle Off To bit. "Home Ec" and "Shop" are terms from many years ago, and meant to be derogatory from those in the "smart classes". However, some Vocational schools have really amped up their courses, and becoming the senior manager of a hotel is nothing to sneer at!

Intelligence itself is a much more multihued quality, far above simple measurement tests. Those nifty numbers "sorta" correlate, but they also miss the external factors. Smugness is a tricky flaw to handle because classical crunching concepts is "respected by the system" aka grades, and kids who simultaneously gets poor grades and happen to be too active to sit still face rough times in many school settings.
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Post April 13, 2010, 02:31:29 PM

Polite sparring

Down here amongst the bottomland dirt farmers, and street mechanics, and hotel diswashers, we don't start a fight and then throw our hands up screaming, "I didn't mean it! Don't break my glasses!"
Perhaps Seanan McGuire will be more forgiving.
I recently found out that an infant's/toddler's brain absorbs new information at twice the rate of a teenager or an adult. Education starting at birth absolutely makes an incredible difference in how people function when they are adults.
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Post April 13, 2010, 04:31:20 PM

polite sparring the sequel

I went back to check the Flash Fiction contest for March, to see if I had metaphorically mopped the floor with you, and yes, it seems as if I did.
Deux Amis: 356 with 2 perfect 10s
Contentment Revisited: 427 with 12 perfect 10s
I'm satisfied.
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Post April 13, 2010, 05:24:39 PM

Re: Polite sparring

bottomdweller wrote:Down here amongst the bottomland dirt farmers, and street mechanics, and hotel diswashers, we don't start a fight and then throw our hands up screaming, "I didn't mean it! Don't break my glasses!"
Perhaps Seanan McGuire will be more forgiving.
I recently found out that an infant's/toddler's brain absorbs new information at twice the rate of a teenager or an adult. Education starting at birth absolutely makes an incredible difference in how people function when they are adults.


Les'see here. I separated the people from the message because we're all on the same side - we're Aphelionites looking to think on things. I'd also do my damndest to help if any of y'all were in trouble. So in the context of friends discussing ideas, I found a lot of places where my opinions diverged. Sometimes I get too fancy for my own good and wind up misfiring the tone, but I stand by the honesty of most of my main points.

We can create our own "local demographics". I don't think I know any dirt farmers or hotel dishwashers at all! Much like a skewed statistical sample, I can't claim to know "America", and I don't have that feel for the "pulse of the nation". I do have experience watching the endgame of focused vocational types making their life click vs scores of "sorta-bright" college grads unraveling from a kind of letdown after the structured pacing disappears.

I forge my own way, and tend not to make enough allowance for audience opinion around me, so I have to take responsibility for being unique. Congratulations on your challenge result, which confirms you are a fine writer.
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Post April 13, 2010, 06:40:17 PM

Re: Polite sparring

TaoPhoenix wrote:...I don't think I know any dirt farmers or hotel dishwashers at all! Much like a skewed statistical sample, I can't claim to know "America", and I don't have that feel for the "pulse of the nation"....


Well, then, Sarah Palin must be much smarter than you, because she knows what Real Americans think! (Hey, if you make the definition of "Real American" narrow enough, this is probably true...)
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Post April 13, 2010, 07:10:12 PM

bottomdweller wrote:

I went back to check the Flash Fiction contest for March, to see if I had metaphorically mopped the floor with you, and yes, it seems as if I did.
Deux Amis: 356 with 2 perfect 10s
Contentment Revisited: 427 with 12 perfect 10s
I'm satisfied.


If it's any consolation Tao, I gave your story Deux Amis, the most points in my vote. But I'm the proverbial turd in the punchbowl, so what do I know. :twisted:

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Post April 13, 2010, 07:34:16 PM

Talking like a book

davidsonhero wrote:bottomdweller wrote:

I went back to check the Flash Fiction contest for March, to see if I had metaphorically mopped the floor with you, and yes, it seems as if I did.
Deux Amis: 356 with 2 perfect 10s
Contentment Revisited: 427 with 12 perfect 10s
I'm satisfied.


If it's any consolation Tao, I gave your story Deux Amis, the most points in my vote. But I'm the proverbial turd in the punchbowl, so what do I know. :twisted:

Hero


I have a fan!

Meanwhile I think your Sig is disturbingly relevant here!
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Post April 16, 2010, 08:08:43 AM

Re: Of Words and Features

TaoPhoenix wrote:. . .Wanna know why? Because when a little kid uses huge and unexpected word, they're DEFINITELY viewed as showing off! That's because their dumbed down audience doesn't know words like "intellectual elitist" and "precocious" ... which are huge unexpected words, and the logical loop here could power the electric needs of Painesville Ohio. Nay, I am sorry to say, such stuff just gets you shoved against the dumpster. So a little kid who isn't good enough to run parallel universe tracks of every thing he wants to say decides not to learn new words at geometric rates. . . .



I was there, too. Only I got shoved into my own locker and the door was shut. I found out one thing, those suckers are not designed to open from the inside.

Thing is, I really was being an elitist, sanctimonious prig, and lording my 'superior' vocabulary over a bunch of hormone-soaked adolescents. It's only natural, really. They do the same thing with their BMOC football hero crap. It’s our version of trying to display the most dazzling plumage.

Some of us never outgrow that phase, and you can see it in their writing. Using big words when needed, is fine. You're not dumbing down by avoiding them, you're simply writing for your audience.

Look at Asimov. He didn’t use inappropriate words, he showed how intelligent he was by the complexity of his stories, not his sentences. And he was smarter than most of us, combined.

There is a difference between erudite, intelligent writing and showing off. It's not at all difficult to tell the difference, either. Ms. McGuire's advice--like her writing (I've read her first two novels.)--is excellent.

Bill Wolfe
"I am Susan Ivanova. . . .I am the Right Hand of Vengence. . .I am Death Incarnate, and the last living thing that you are ever going to see. God sent me."
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Post April 16, 2010, 12:25:34 PM

Peter

Yeah, what Bill_Wolfe said.
AND I believe the reason TaoPhoenix expected playful banter was because he knows the author of the Thesaurus piece. He says: "Thesaurus? Listen critter, go back to the Jurassic and I'll catch up to you when I catch up to you and Peter. Oh, HIS name is spelled differently." Huh?
In a close-knit international virtual community like we Aphelionites, people tend to spar a little with people they've met before online. Perhaps this is what TaoPoenix was doing - playful sparring?
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Post April 16, 2010, 08:47:09 PM

comments on all this

There is a star freighter full of comments I could make here.
I am going to refer back to the one regarding dictionaries. Then maybe another.

I have the Oxford English, The Oxford America, 2 German 2 French, a Latin and 2 Chinese dictionaries. I LOVE THEM.

I also have the Oxford on disc. I prefer paper because when I'm look up a word I find a whole shit load of others that are, I can use a big word here or like far out man. wink wink

A comment regarding shop types. If you know the math, trig that they have to understand, and understand the effects of the environment on wood (for one example) , the types of wood and how or what they do given a situation, one might no be so glib.

Now that I've said that I will mention, the critical comments regarding my writing have helped me. I may not like what I read from you all, but I care and I do seriously think about them. Others should too. If they don't then, go cry in a corner. A lobotomy for you!

BTW, The show not tell stuff is finally sinking in. My wife said the same damned thing! as you !!!!!!

See my FLASH, it's got to be better than the others. Ooops you'll have to guess and it's not even accepted yet. Crossed fingers.



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Post April 18, 2010, 06:21:14 PM

Re: Peter

bottomdweller wrote:Yeah, what Bill_Wolfe said.
AND I believe the reason TaoPhoenix expected playful banter was because he knows the author of the Thesaurus piece. He says: "Thesaurus? Listen critter, go back to the Jurassic and I'll catch up to you when I catch up to you and Peter. Oh, HIS name is spelled differently." Huh?
In a close-knit international virtual community like we Aphelionites, people tend to spar a little with people they've met before online. Perhaps this is what TaoPoenix was doing - playful sparring?


Sorry folks. When it lands a multiplex joke earns you the right to be called "Witty". But when it creaks under its own weight it falls flat like a Vegas performer forced to do 11 shows a day.

Imagine one of those SAT questions I hear they are getting rid of. Embedded is for Operating Systems, not puns.

Thesaurus ... Dinosaurs ... Jurassic ... Peter ______ (Fill in the Blank)
The correct answer is:

http://www.peterjurasik.com/index.htm

Thank you. Thank you. I promise not to be here all week.

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Post April 18, 2010, 06:23:59 PM

Re: Peter

bottomdweller wrote:Yeah, what Bill_Wolfe said.
AND I believe the reason TaoPhoenix expected playful banter was because he knows the author of the Thesaurus piece. He says: "Thesaurus? Listen critter, go back to the Jurassic and I'll catch up to you when I catch up to you and Peter. Oh, HIS name is spelled differently." Huh?
In a close-knit international virtual community like we Aphelionites, people tend to spar a little with people they've met before online. Perhaps this is what TaoPoenix was doing - playful sparring?


I don't believe I personally know any of you ... but I do like to playfully spar. Trouble is, I get myself in trouble 'cause I spar with anything that moves.

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