Stuck on Words

Do you ever get stuck on a specific word? For a while, in conversation, everything was “fantastic.” The word lodged itself in my brain and became the descriptor for all manner of things when talking to people: “Oh, that restaurant was fantastic.” “The colors are just fantastic.” “That nap I took was fantastic.” Then, a few months ago while writing, I noticed lots of things were “curled”: his lip, their legs around each other, a thin wisp of cigarette smoke. And right now, the words “oily” and “ineluctable” have been bouncing around my head, begging for release. His motives are oily, another character makes an ineluctable judgment. Should I be worried? Is it totally normal and some creative divine intervention that sends these words to me to fixate on until I can find a suitable spot for them in the story? Or is it just my brain’s laziness in using the same word for everything (really, is everything fantastic?)? Is this too deep for a Monday?

It reminds me of a line from “Dead Poet’s Society.” Have you seen it?

So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do.

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April 21, 2014 / read / watch / LEAVE A COMMENT / 23

23 comments

  • We just watched DPS a few weeks ago with Cal. It was his first time seeing it, and I was reminded just how compelling a story it is. So, so moving, and it captures perfectly that angsty, teen time when you need a hero so desperately. You very need one. ;) Now we’re whispering “Carpe Diem,” constantly. That’s the down side.

    • I haven’t seen it in its entirety in years, I think it’s time I watched it again. I swore we had it on DVD at home, but I can’t find it! I want to climb onto my desk at work and see what happens. xo

  • oh, yes, this happens to me all all the time. it drives me bonkers. but for your book, psht. that’s what editing is for. or simply when you are finished and re-reading it from your balcony in paris you can break out the thesaurus a couple times. i do like i all those words you are stuck on though. i really need to find a couple good books to tide me over while i am awaiting a couple -not-quite-finished books to be completed and published ;) xoxo

    • Hah, I notice it when reading other books, too, if the author uses the same word too close together. It sends out a flare in my brain and I have to flip back a few pages and make sure I saw it. Why are words so tricky like that?
      If you need some recommendations, I LOVED Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore (you may have read that one already?) and Luminous Airplanes, most recently. xo

  • Hey Sis,

    I’m reminded of a great word my neighbor on Catharine Street used a lot; “craptastic”. I think he used it to describe things that were just fabulously bad (or good). It always makes me smile when I say it :-)

    Bro

    • Craptastic! That’s a good one! Really sets the tone for the level of awful-ness. How on earth did he use it in a positive way, though?? xo seester

  • “Eschew” is the word that I’m using way too often (and reading way too often) these days. I’ve got to mix it up and add some others to my list. Particularly because I’m probably not even pronouncing it correctly

    • eh-shyoo! Phonetics are hard :( That looks like a sneeze. xo

  • What a great film! I haven’t watched that in far too long, might be time for a re-watch.
    And this totally happens to me too. It’s so easy to get stuck on words, even when you know an alternative… some words just sound soothing to the ear or have a nice hand-written flow about them.

    • Same! And I swore I had a DVD somewhere but Jamal told me I must have been thinking about The Usual Suspects (how did I get those two confused? why don’t we own both?? so many questions!). I like your theory, some really just are pleasing to the pen or ear. I’ll take that over laziness any day! xo

  • Totally fine! I get stuck on words all the time, but force myself to figure out as many synonyms as possible. I love the Dead Poet’s Society and too often people overuse the word “very” (there are other words people!). My current word is “demonstrative”, don’t ask my why, I have no clue! Words will just pop randomly into my head and I’ll go “that’s a fantastic (ha-ha!) word” and feel compelled to use it any way I can.

    • Usually it’s in hearing it elsewhere that it makes its way into my brain. Of all the places I picked up “fantastic” (this is embarrassing), it was in the movie “Something Borrowed.” “Oh, yeah, Darcy’s fantastic.” Can’t believe I just admitted that. Demonstrative is a good one! xo

  • my word these days, incredible. which, as time goes on, makes the word lose it’s luster! things aren’t so incredible if everything is incredible. then it got me thinking to the roots of the words. something so amazing that it’s impossibly real, there’s no way that it is true… such a strange word.

    • It’s true, and words in general tend to lose meaning the more you repeat them (in a trippy way, sometimes. Say ‘swing’ fifteen times in a row and tell me it makes any sense). Oh, etymology is such a favorite subject of mine. My dad used to have an etymological dictionary that he’d open at random during dinner — we learned a a lot that way! xo

  • Dude. I am dying to read about this character and his ineluctable judgment. Very curious about what it was that was so irrestitable. That is what it means right? I had to look it up. Anyhow, I think it’s normal. I get really stuck on certain words too. My husband always points it out: You’ve been saying that word a lot. Haha

    • Ha, I think I made it sound more fascinating than it is, though I’m my own worst critic. Our heroine sees a character make a simple decision, thinking no one is watching, and it totally colors her perception of him. Ineluctably, a really negative association is made in her brain with his action. Is this just teasing you with all the vague-ness? Sorry!
      That’s a good husband you have there! I should ask my fiancé to point out when I overuse a word. I’m sure ‘fantastic’ is grating on his nerves by this point! xo

  • That’s such a great quote…Right. The repetitive word for me is great…There’s also gorgeous. My point is, I think it’s ‘normal’. By the way, finally watched Blue Jasmine (not kidding, I kept that movie for months!). My one word review: Meh.

    • Ooh, I’m guilty of overusing gorgeous, too. Every baby or dog I meet is a “gorgeous” little thing. I guess it’s more common to get stuck on words than I thought! At least I’m not alone ;)
      Sucks to hear about Blue Jasmine, but that seems to be the general consensus amongst people who’ve seen it. Oh well. xo

  • I haven’t seen the Dead Poet’s Society but I love that quote.
    I often have to go back through my posts and remove the ‘very’s and the exclamation marks. Both can add unnecessary emphasis and make things a bit too upbeat I find.
    I struggle to find enough alternatives to beautiful, stunning, pretty etc.
    I pick up a lot of good words from Liberty London Girl, she has a great vocabulary.

    • It’s such a good movie. Robin Williams is at his best. I think even Arthur and Evan would like it.
      I’m sensitive to exclamation marks, as you know, and am always very conscious about using them. I read a book last year that used something like 41 in the first chapter, and it just felt like the author was assaulting me with them by that point. xo

  • Ne t’inquiète pas; c,est normal parce que tu vas a Paris et tout it,s fantastic! A Paris tout retrouveras les nuances a nouveau

  • I think that’s totally normal brain behaviour. should I worry that I don’t know what ineluctable means tho???? nah, I’m foreign :)

  • Just having a browse of your novel writing section as it’s something I want to do SO MUCH but never seem to be able to actually get myself past the dreaded opening chapters… anyway, I think you should create an email newsletter for these words. I definitely need to expand my vocabulary (ineluctable? what is that?) and I love the way you explained them… curled, legs, wisps of smoke… beautiful! xxx

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