Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Words she wouldn't miss

source of quote: copywriters power word list

Writer Pam Williams has an exceptional vocabulary. For a moment I was going to use the word "incredible", but I think that's one of those words that has earned a well-deserved rest.  

With Pam's permission, I decided to use her comments as a guest post. 

And I adore malaprops. Here's a little history on them from Wikipedia: The word malapropos is an adjective or adverb meaning "inappropriate" or "inappropriately", derived from the French phrase mal à propos (literally "ill-suited").[2] The earliest English usage of the word cited in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1630. Malaprop used in the linguistic sense was first used by Lord Byron in 1814 according to the OED.
The terms malapropism and the earlier variant malaprop come from Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 1775 play The Rivals, and in particular the character Mrs. Malaprop. Sheridan presumably named his character Mrs. Malaprop, who frequently misspoke (to great comic effect), in joking reference to the word malapropos.
The alternative term "Dogberryism" comes from the 1598 Shakespearean play Much Ado About Nothing, in which the character Dogberry produces many malapropisms with humorous effect.[3]

Here are Pam's thoughts:

Some popular buzz words have come and gone before I pick up on the trend, although I agree with the ones you listed which should be released with a vote of thanks. They're definitely on the way out of fashion. In my novel I have a teenage subplot, and I saved at least a dozen pages by NOT having them say "like" and "ya know" every other word, as we hear in real life. It makes them far more interesting people. Most of my language complaints would be about journalists--oil-rich country, hammer out an agreement--and the cliches that unimaginative writers depend on. 

My mother had a genius for using cliches, but she was so funny we forgave her. I love malaprops. A character in my book is the malaprop queen, but much to my dismay, very few people know what a malaprop is, not even the critique group reading that novel. It means using a wrong word that sounds like the right word, with unintended humorous effect. For example, the character says the chicken dish she ate must have been laminated in honey and soy sauce, when she means marinated. I think that's dang funny. She tells someone she's glad they found their glitch in life when she means niche. In fact, a friend of mine read through a manuscript of the book and corrected all the intended malaprops, which was in itself wildly funny. 

A comedian years ago based his whole act on malaprops--and got a standing ovulation. So I'd say fad words come because people are charmed by them, stay long enough to become cliches (before I get in on the trend), and go when people get tired of them and something else more charming comes along. Cliches and buzz words should challenge writers to be more original with our flexible language. This is not turning out to be the long list you thought I'd have, but I'm more offended by badly written, boring language, and there's not space here to list all the cliches. 

You can visit Pam here:


Rachelle said...

Great points delivered here in a fun way! I have a friend who constantly uses malaprops and doesn't realize. It's so funny--things like, "I'm going to wear my cleated skirt." :)

Pam Williams said...

Thanks, Janet. Probably the funniest malaprop in my book is when the character says her granddaughter just graduated from high school as the "valid victorian" of her class. All the malaprops I used in the novel are ones I've actually heard. Love the "cleated" skirt!