Word choice: play and invention
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Author:  Jebibubbles [ Wed Jun 06, 2012 5:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Word choice: play and invention

No doubt, any writer has to be conscious of word choice in order to write effectively. While I enjoy playing with words - at times to a fault - I think I found an example of how it can be a negative. The following is a sentence that caught my attention as I read a research article for my senior term paper.

Take "young adult." In popular parlance the term refers to someone between, as they say, puberty and adultery, or at least someone in the teen years, say twixt twelve and twenty.
Yikes. I don't know about you all, but "puberty" and "adultery" are two words I would not expect or want to find in conjunction. Although the author surely intended to simulate an alternate understanding of adultery, I could not get past its primary denotation. It was jarring to read.

Similar to word play, I think word invention can be equally as unnerving to a reader. A buddy and peer of mine also remarked on another strange case of word choice: problematizing. As he put it, it sounded like a Bushism. I'm not sure I take issue with that particular instance, but at the same time I could see how it seems questionable.

I do wonder how such word choice can hit or miss the mark...

What are your guys' thoughts on word play and invention? When is word play effective? When is it simply bothersome? In what case does an invented word sound like an intelligent alteration, or a goofy cop off?

Author:  Raya [ Wed Jun 06, 2012 6:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Word choice: play and invention

I too take exception to the "young adult" comparison. This is not a brothel! At first, I thought it was a typo of "adulthood," i.e., someone trying to find the right word. I read it again and realized they MEANT to say "adultery." What the...?

As for word invention, I have given up doing my small part to keep the English language pure. There are too many incursions from too many sources. Therefore, the secret is in finding a clever word invention that lends itself to the context.

"Problematize" is a monstrous word and has no business being allowed into text at all, IMO. However, take a situation where a character is prone to swearing, but it is a children's swearing allowed there. So how do you portray this character? You make up words. It will make it all the funnier if your mind is clever while you are doing it. Can you visualize a peg-leg pirate stumping up and down the dock because his ship pulled out without him? He is waving his fist, making his parrot squawk, as he roars invectives like, "Scrapdoodle, you misbegotten sons of putrid chow puppies"? Here you can be as creative as you like as long as you protect tender readers' ears/eyes.

In short, invent words if you must. Just be creative about them.

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