Friday, April 16, 2010


You know what word I like? (And no, it' s not "published." I mean a real word.) Eclectic. It sounds like a bunch of spare parts crashing against one another in a burlap bag. Say it with me. See what I mean? Another one of my favorites? Supine. I feel the need to yawn and stretch at the mere sight of the word. I suspect we all have favorite words. My son is currently partial to "idiot" and "crud." (Yes, in case you're wondering, I am mother of the year.) I recently attended a legal training seminar where we engaged in that groan-inducing ice-breaker where you interview someone you don't know and then introduce them to the group. We had to find out something about our interviewees that most people don't know. (I thought about telling my interviewer I had buried my family under the Magnolia tree, but chickened out.) Guess what I found out? Lawyers really like the word "aficionado." You could say they are aficionados of the word aficionado. Not one person was a lover of art or a collector of wine or a horseback rider. They were all aficionados. Either the group didn't notice the blatant overuse of the word, or didn't care, because they kept using it. To the point where I was giggling to myself.

As writers, we need to be aware of this potential problem, especially when we craft an elegant sentence using one of our favorite words. In Pat Conroy's latest book, South of Broad, he used the word "repose" so beautifully that I reread the passage and then marked the page. Of course, then I noticed when he pulled out the same word in the next few pages. And again later in the book. The overuse not only lent a sense of commonality to a luminously crafted sentence, but it also took me out of the story. I doubt he even knew he'd done that. (Though, what do I know? He might have done it on purpose and I totally missed the point. I am the person who didn't realize The Story of Edgar Sawtelle was a retelling of Hamlet, so you should probably take my literary observations with a boulder of salt. That said, I'm sad to admit I didn't love South of Broad--a first for me, with respect to Conroy.) I doubt most of us know we use certain words more than we should. Not me, though. Nope. I have an eclectic vocabulary.