Saturday, February 24, 2018

Word Choices!

I came across this video on my Twitter feed this afternoon:

Go ahead and watch. It's not very long. I'll wait. 

Yes, it's a press launch/ preview video for Lobby Hero, a Kenneth Lonergan play starring Chris Evans, which opens on Broadway in March. Yes, I'm going to see it. Yes, it feeds my interest in Broadway, which feeds my inspiration in my contemporary romance idea. Yes, it's Chris Evans' Broadway debut and that's very exciting. Yes, I'm still occasionally Internet-stalking Chris Evans.

But the thing my friend Jess and I found ourselves talking about after watching this video:

Bloviate. Temerity. Gauche. Or what we would call "SAT Words."

I had to look them up. And yes, he uses them correctly, so my reaction was, "Well, shit."

I'm not the kind of writer who uses SAT Words in her writing; at least, not the really far-out variations of vocabulary, the kind the thesaurus gives you as third or fourth options. You know: the ten dollar words.

There was a point--I think maybe in college--when I felt really undereducated, under-read, not as intelligent as the other students in the writing program, particularly when it came to vocabulary. I'm a fairly taciturn person until I get to know someone (and then I don't shut up). I'm what a teacher once described as "quietly outspoken." But I often thought that my word choices could be more precise (which is part of what's fun about vocab--more choices means more chances of a more precise nuance).

But I've come to realize that precise word choices doesn't have to mean overcomplicated word choices. I'm not writing literary fiction; I'm writing contemporary romance, short creepy horror stories, and I'll probably go back to historical fiction at some point. Fiction writing is about finding the right words to move the story along, to fit the setting and the genre, and especially the characters.

It is not about looking shit up in dictionaries and in the thesaurus.

And maybe this is true of all of us--that we use different words in writing than we do in everyday conversation and speech, depending on who we're talking to. I know I certainly do. 


  1. I use words I think are pretty basic sometimes that my siblings think are ten dollar words. I look at it like lesser used words versus actual big words. I'm not an actual big word kind of person. Like I don't think pedantic is a big word. I do think bloviate is a big word, and it's really funny to me that it's a word he chose to say in all the talking he was doing.

    I'm a big fan of using whatever is appropriate for the story and narrative. But it is annoying to have to look up a word every other page. I'm slow poking through The Virgin Suicides right now and I had to look up a word within the definition of a word yesterday. But in regards to the video, I literally didn't even hear those words. I think my brain just glossed over them.

    1. Pedantic isn't a big word to me either--but probably not a word I'd use in regular conversation.

      I had to read The Scarlet Letter in high school. There are a lot of words in Scarlet Letter that we don't use anymore or don't understand. Having to look up a word--and not having it in the dictionary--was frustrating. Actually, that whole book is frustrating.

      "Bloviate" was the one that stuck out the most to me in that little interview clip, though. You just don't hear it!

  2. Heh, in my first teaching job, my office-mate and I would have contests to see who could out-vocabulary each other (and assigning them the dollar values). Bonus points if we could work them into emails to parents. :D

    With fiction, I agree with you. Even when I go back and look at some of my older work, I can sometimes see exactly where I did not make a good choice when consulting a thesaurus....

    1. Working them into emails sounds fun, though :-)


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