If you ask me what my biggest writing fault is, I will answer “I over run with my sentences.”
You can disagree and think my writing is faulted for very different reasons, but certainly, my opinion is that I get lost and ramble on when I should just “.”
When I get into the flow and my fingers are dancing on the keyboard, the words just come and it is almost like speaking. The problem is that when we speak, we make so many errors with our English simply because the brain is processing thought far faster than it can process appropriate speech. When you get into that writers groove, the written word becomes imbued with the same errors that characterise spoken English.
A sure sign of “written thought” is the cliche. When I’m up against a deadline and my commissioning agent is yelling down the email pipe “Where are my 500 words on yak fur!”; cliches abound. The problem for me is that I find it hard to recognise when I’m using a cliche, so worn are the bad habits I have acquired with my English over the years. Frankly, it takes a second reading some time beyond any practical deadline for me to pick them up, or a second pair of eyes.
One of the New Year resolutions I saw posted up by someone or other, was a list of “banned” words and cliches. Honestly, that is what gave me the idea for this post and it piqued my interest in any event as one the main cliches they targeted is one I have recently acquired:
It is What It Is!
Now I use this in my personal life, though I don’t believe I have ever used it in my writing until now; even then, only to illustrate a point! The English practitioners at Lake Superior University in the ice ridden wilderness of the northern US, have seen fit to compile an annual list of “banned” words and phrases that should be avoided. As a student of colonial history, I had a wry grin upon my face at the thought of our rebellious colonial cousins seeking to preserve the “Queen’s English” 😉
Rebellious or not, I think they should be applauded for their efforts.
Unfortunately, the list is US English dominated.
One of the words that I was surprised to see in the list is “decimated”, and as one commentator correctly stated “..to reduce by one tenth” but I wondered if they realised the real origin of the word. The origin of the word comes from the Romans; “decimation” was the practice of killing randomly, one in ten of a Legion if it failed to perform in battle or was naughty in some other way. This was a practice adopted from the Spartans who would randaomly kill a portion of their slave population that supported their austere, fascist society. Decimation certainly should be not be allowed to become a cliche as the history of this word is far too powerful (and I am thinking of Michael’s earlier post on the history of words too). The main arguments put forward for banning the word seemed to come from commentators who were heartily sick of it’s overuse in the media and one comment in particular struck my eye:
“‘Decimate’ has been turned upside down. It means ‘to destroy one tenth,’ but people are using it to mean ‘to destroy nine tenths.’ – David Welch, Venice, Florida.
I believe David in Florida is well placed to understand the meaning of the word after the 2004 hurricane seasonwhich certainly appeared to decimate the neighbourhoods of DeLand, between Daytona and Orlando, which is my “home” in the US.
Focusing on “It is what it is” I spotted a comment from a Canadian with whom I share some affinity through my mother who resides in the underground city of Toronto:
“This is migrating from primetime ‘reality television’ and embedding itself into otherwise articulate persons’ vocabularies. Of course it is what it is…Otherwise, it wouldn’t be what it would have been!” – Steve Olsen, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada.
I feel humbled by my half-brother, trapped in Francophilic Canade across the waves, and promise, from this day forward, to have and behold, a tighter reign on my own flights of unoriginal verbal fancy.
Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme change mon ami!