Friday, June 3, 2011

Are We Losing Words?

I get this feeling every-so-often that we have losing words.  I find I drift into comfortable patterns of expression and stay there.  Other people do this too, I've noticed.  For example, I find I use the word 'look' at lots.

  • He looked at me.
  • He looked over the room.
  • He looked sick.

Not the best writing admittedly.  So I force myself to change my patterns of expression and replace (almost said look there) weak words with stronger ones.

  • He stared at me making me nervous.
  • He scanned the room with his eyes searching for obvious signs of forced entry.
  • He turned green and his cheeks expanded.  I thought for sure he would vomit any second.
Much nicer; revised and expanded.  But this is all basic Writing 105 stuff, right?  And I'm sure we all do it and it is a normal part of the writing and revision process.

However, that doesn't change the fact that I miss words like cajole or vehement or zeal.  They sound great but often do fit my writing.  I suppose it is the poet in me.  I love the sound of words as much as using them to express thoughts and ideas.

And yet...

The conspiracy side of me wonders why we don't see more variety in writing and wants to put the blame on technology and the pace of life in the 21st century.  The theory goes that since we are bombarded (there's a good word) with tons of more information than we can take in, we have been forced to strip down all communication to the bare essentials.  This carries over to our entertainment and when we read, longwinded prose is dull and uninteresting.  We want stories that get to the point, say what they need to, and more on.

I'm sure there are exceptions to this, but for the most part this makes sense to me and certainly fits my reading habits and tastes.  I think my concern is what that means for the language and for writing in general.  If we all stop using interesting words and writing variety becomes extinct, then reading a story is like reading instructions for assembling the kids' swing set or bicycle.

Is that what we want?  Probably not.

Then what can we do to stop it?  Practice expressing the same thought in many different ways.  I do this occasionally because different characters will express themselves in different ways.  I should probably do this more.

No comments: