Word Soup is a word game I’m addicted to on my kindle — just throwing that out there.
The last couple days we’ve been having a discussion on my James Gang yahoo loop about words — commonly misspelled words, misused words, word errors in books, how grammar rules have changed and punctuation rules have loosened a bit — depending on the publisher in my case.
Somehow the discussion rolled around to “big” words. You know, those words you don’t immediately comprehend that jump out and you and leave you scratching your head as to the definition. The words that have you reaching for your dictionary.
Not surprisingly, I have an opinion on this subject 🙂
Let me preface this by saying I LOVE words. At last count I have somewhere around 50 dictionaries/thesauruses and yes, I actually use them. I don’t solely rely on the thesaurus with the Microsoft Word program when I need a substitute word for a book I’m working on.
But for me there is a line with my love of words that keeps me from thumbing through the dictionary and finding a word like this one to use in my book:
demulcent dih-MULL-sunt adjective
At first glance, I thought the word would have something to do with light — think translucent. I admit I have no basis at all in Latin so I have nothing to base that assumption on besides my previous experience with words.
So what does the word mean?
Example sentence: The lozenges had a demulcent effect, and my sore throat was soon feeling much better.
See now this is where I take issue with using a bigger word than a more common one. The writing advice I’ve always taken to heart is this: Why use a two dollar word when a fifty cent one will do?
That’s not to say we shouldn’t try and expand our vocabularies and learn new words. I should point out the writer of that advice in this case was giving advice to new writers on maintaining clarity of thought — and severely limiting the excessive use of adjectives both common and obscure.
There are times when I enjoy a trip to the dictionary in what I’m reading — but most of the time, I’m like…seriously? Why are you trying to impress me with your intrusive language skills? Impress me with the story. Don’t pull me out of the story and send me to the damn dictionary.
Which is why I rarely read literary fiction. It’s also why I write genre fiction.
So tell me, are you one of those readers who immediately grabs a dictionary — or uses the look up function on an ebook reader — when you run across a word you’ve never seen before? Or do you shrug and keep reading?
Share with me the most obscure word you’ve found that you like or loathe — or your favorite odd ball word and I’ll toss your name in the hat for a $10 gift card from an online retailer!