wordzly

The world of words, reading and writing

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

Words that Sound and Look Ugly

Words are beautiful. They allow us to communicate, to write, to speak, to sing, to read. Oh, what beauty pervades a word! Sure, words are a beautiful concept but there exists some words that are just plain ugly. I’m not talking about words with ugly connotations like pus or scum. I’m talking about words that are totally innocent in meaning but just look or sound totally disgusting. They don’t sit right with me: they have awkward phonetics or an odd conglomeration of letters. There’s just something about them that is cringe-inducing.

Freer

This just looks so wrong. There’s nothing particularly offensive when saying it, but the problem lies in the rift between how it is sounded and how it is spelt. I would much rather it be spelt ‘freeyer’. Also, the ‘fr’ sound is such as awkward one that makes words like Frack and Fructose ugly. These words are perhaps worse because they are paired with the harsh ‘k’ sound.

Gist

Again, this looks so wrongly spelt. Actually, spelt sounds really stupid now.

Purge

Cooperate

I hate that this word isn’t hyphenated. The rule of hyphens is usually that when a single-syllable prefix ends with the same vowel as the word starts with, you hyphenate it. So you have ‘de-emphasise’ or re-enter’. For some foolish reason this doesn’t apply to doubled up o’s. It looks like someone’s had a really bad go at spelling recuperate and it annoys me fiercely. Similarly, I hate Unselfconsciously. This word needs some serious hyphenation!

Undergird

Oestrus

Too many hissing s’s, not to mention that ‘o’. What does it think it’s doing there?

Extirpation

This word means to destroy or remove, so why not just use ‘elimination’? There’s just something utterly ridiculous about this word. I’m probably cheating by including it because I can’t help thinking of it as some bastard conglomeration of ‘turnip’, ‘derp’ and ‘constipation’.

Nugget

Udder

I have no problem with ‘utter’ so I’m not entirely sure why I don’t like this word. It’s udder madness!

Putative

I hate that ‘pew’ sound. It’s nothing anti-religious but pew is ew.

Ointment

It’s the ‘oi’ at the start. You can’t sound distinguished when you start by saying ‘oi’.

Cudgel

Seriously, the ‘k’ sound is so harsh and that ‘dg’ sound just makes it worse. I think that’s part of why ‘cunt’ is so offensive. It’s blunt. A blunt cunt. But for one of the most harshly-sounding words, I would go with conk. The bookending of that ‘k’ sound is guttural and the ‘nk’ makes this strange restrictive feel on the back of your throat.

Morsel

Drawer

The ugliness of this word probably comes from my difficulty in saying it. It’s basically just ‘draw’ but then it hangs around for too long. If I’m going to include words that are hell to say then I would have to add Texts. Maybe it’s just me but there’s no way of adding in that second ‘t’ without it sounding horrible, splitting up the word and adding a second syllable. I had to suffer through innumerable English classes trying to vomit out that word. That second ‘t’ has no place being there. Imagine if you put a ‘t’ in ‘checks’. Checkts. See, awful.

I suppose I should also mention Moist. It’s such an ugly word, in fact it’s recognised as the ugliest word in the English language. As much as I dislike the word I wouldn’t include it on this list because I think it mostly has to do with connotation. Sure, it has that ‘oi’ sound and the abrupt ‘t’ ending, but I think the problem comes from visualising what moist represents. I don’t have a problem with a moist cake but a moist tissue or a moist carpet? I think I’m going to be sick.

What about you? Are there any words you just can’t stand?

Advertisements

To Solve or not to Solve?

The main game with a murder mystery novel is to discover the solution before the detective can reveal it. It’s a race against time, a battle of wits between author and reader. But what happens if the reader is able to emerge triumphant? Has the author failed in their task to deceive? Should the reader be disappointed if they solve the ending or commend the author for playing fair?

If the reader can solve the crime then the author is definitely doing their job of creating a puzzle to test the reader. I’m happy to be wowed by an author’s clever trick but I want it to be more than just a trick. If I fail to reach the solution I want it to be because of the author’s superior intellect at hiding the clues or my failure to find them, not because the author simply decided against planting any useful clues in the first place. I would be much happier prematurely solving the crime than having had no chance at ever solving it. If you can’t solve it because the author is withholding information then they have failed to play fair and that is when you should feel cheated.

But does the author actually grant the reader the chance to solve the crime before the detective or do they merely grant the illusion of having this chance? I read a how-to book for writing murder mysteries and in it, the author suggested that the solution should only be obvious once it has been revealed. Certainly, as an author you want the reader to go ‘Of course!’ when you reveal the solution, but they elaborated on this by saying that the clues should only reveal the solution once the clues’ true meaning has been revealed. Basically, they were saying that the clues would only be of use once you had the solution and worked backwards from there.

To me, that doesn’t seem fair. What’s the point of having the clues if you can’t even use them? Wouldn’t you feel more cheated as a reader if you had no chance of solving the crime than if you solved it prematurely? On the seldom occasion that I have deciphered a clue or discovered the solution before it was revealed, I was pleased as punch. If you’ve used some intellect to work out the ending then I think that you would be proud of yourself. Most probably, you would boast about how clever you are to have solved such a difficult puzzle (I know I would). You certainly wouldn’t want to diminish that by complaining about how obvious it was.

Sometimes, however, they are much too obvious. Badly placed clues or far too obvious hinting do make the reader feel cheated. If you are just handed the solution then you’re robbed of the fun of trying to work it out.

So I feel that the author has a very fine line to tread. They must certainly make the crime solvable. But they must also make the reader work in order to solve it. There’s no fun if you never had a chance at solving it and there’s no fun if there was no chance of you not solving it.

Jeez, it must be hard being an author.

Grammar Nazis: What are the Limits of Tolerance?

Everyone knows one: that person that takes their love of grammar too far. (how could such a thing be possible!) Their Facebook wall consists only of correcting mistakes in other’s statuses. They see mangled syntax as sinful, grow tense when someone uses the wrong tense, and are averse to misused adverbs.

On the other hand we all know someone who flies in the face of all that is holy in grammar. To them, punctuation is merely a suggestion, not a rule; there isn’t enough time in the day for spell checking; they have a strong affinity for the caps lock key.

But which is worse: those that defy any attempts at proper grammar or those that enforce its every rule?

The point of grammar is to achieve clarity when reading, writing and speaking. We need clarity if we are to effectively communicate with others. So grammar definitely has an important role to play. But does it matter if we occasionally misspell or misuse a word? No, as long as your intended meaning is still clear. The stakes can be high when it’s the difference between ‘Let’s eat, Sarah’ and ‘Let’s eat Sarah’.

I do have my gripes though. I can’t help but add ‘ly’ to everyone’s adjective when they meant an adverb. ‘I ran quick’, ‘I laughed loud’, ‘I spoke rude’ all make me want to hit someone. (Preferably the person saying these.)

Incorrect tense is also annoying. ‘I done this’ is probably my most hated saying of all time. ‘I done this good’ just makes me cry. ‘I done this real good’: Now you must die.

I think we should also be more lenient with informal writing. I don’t care if somebody doesn’t capitalise the beginning of each sentence when they’re messaging me or there’s the occasional sentence fragment. Recently, a friend asked me ‘Weather’ I was free on the weekend, and I was able to cope with that because it was obvious what she meant. Abbreviations are usually fine as well when writing informally. You can take the ‘g’ off of ‘swimming’ and I’ll still understand what you mean, but I draw the line when ‘U start talkn Lyk dis cOs u a ganGsta’. And please, don’t just take the vowel out of every word. That’s not how you abbreviate.

So yes, little mistakes are fine as long as the meaning is still understandable. We should all aim for clarity but not get too caught up in getting everything write all the time. See?

The Clocks (Part 2)

This is what you want

And you have told yourself

This is what I want

           who I am

And they adore you

They say it with flowers

or a card,

at least…

But what do they want?

You                                                     are still unsure

If

You are living the dream

This is what you want,                        you remind yourself

EVERY DAY

One night Delia thought she could not see the dawn. And when at last the nighttime lifted and sunlight slipped through she saw that she was wrong. That shining shard tempts her hand. Her grasping fingers tip and topple all the bottles off the shelf into the sea. She finds what she was searching for as her hand produces a fine-tipped brush. Maybe she will try again. Her eyes are closed and they do not hear the sounds around her. The ticking of the clock. Seconds would not pass if she did not count them. The brush is placed upon a page and Delia sings for her daisy’s return. It struggles forward against the beat of the clock. Hush! She does not want to hear you! She pauses to breath as life continues. Life continues without her. Does Delia continue without Life? If Life does not need Delia, then does she need Delia?

Curiouser and curiouser…

The clock is asking her the time and as the midnight sunset whispers secrets to her, she watches the tide swell around her feet. If she is to go swimming then she cannot have so much extra baggage. Her books go, and the critics, and the fans and hardcover editions. Left alone, Delia contemplates.

There is time and always time

You do not know

You do not know

That time is always time

The time is always

That time is only time

That time is always and only time

And time again

You are told

There is always time

To change

Tick             tick          tick         tick      tick

Chime!

Delia looks down and, surprised, notices the clock resting in her hand. One moment to reflect and then she acts. With vigour previously unpossessed she throws the clock. its weight carves through space, striking the static ambience of the air. The world is standing still and Delia wonders if the clock will ever stop. It does. There is a reverberation of silence as it unites with the mirror. Both break in delightful poeticism. Life resumes as icy particles of the mirror rain down. The clock is no longer moving. It is broken and from it pours and inky blackness. Time? No. Words. Or something stronger…

Delia regards the clock. There is time on her fingers.

Delia: What do you have to say for yourself?

Clock: (silence)

Delia: Then I win

Delia begins to write:

I am climbing out from pools of darkness. Finally I sit not to write but to create. Moulding mellow blurs in a sinking caress like clouds of careless autonomy. Autonomy is intoxicating. It revives my senses, awakening something inside of me that lets run an impenetrable stream of consciousness that unites with forceful resonance. My body is my canvas: splashing, streaking divulging ecstasy. In one single moment there is the invitation to thought. Eclectic collections that confound and compound, compressed into a single second. And behind all this lingers a familiar sensation hovering just outside the realm of consciousness.

Delia adds one final thought:

The subtle smell of Rosemary.

                                                                                                                                   

Postscript:

Clocks can see nothing apart from the present

Mirrors aren’t a reflection of who you are, but when you are (who you are)

The Clocks (Part 1)

I wanted to share another piece I wrote. This is a little abstract but there’s definitely still a structured plot going on. I was experimenting with some different styles and forms, and found something I’m happy with. It’s fairly long for a blog post so I’ve split it into two posts. Two posts for the price of one! You lucky duck!

                                                                               

Because the second is quick to pass our past is but a memory

Because the minute is soon to pass our present is immutable

Because the hour is yet to pass  our futures can’t define us

                                                                               

They chime in perfect unison, the clocks.

An atonal crescendo that builds in force, spilling out tumbling notes, choking the air with their delicate fingers, resonating one final note until they can withstand the pressure no longer.

They are of a volatile nature, the clocks.

Rosemary stands for remembrance, but nobody remembered that Delia’s first name had once been Rosemary. She had lost it somewhere in the pursuit of that romantic yearning to become a writer. Delia sounded much more stylish on paperback. It had been her dream to capture beauty in a web of silvery ink, to breathe life into a single page. Alas, people don’t want to read about dreams. Words are words are words. Delia had quickly learnt that what she wanted didn’t necessarily align with what the public wanted, so she gave them what they wanted. Ten years on and Delia’s heart has set cold. The beauty no longer visits her. She had lost more than her name by the time her first book was published.

Once she had danced only to the music within her. Now it is a different tune. The hands of the clock force her own. She submits to its eternal rhythm. It is easy to be seduced by mechanistic beats, as their pulse so perfectly matches your own. One thousand and one chests rising and falling in precise mechanised thumps. Delia sits and waits for the tide to wash over her, to be stimulated, to feel as if all this is worth something. Time gently trickles across her body. Shouldn’t you be writing?

None of this seems right. She should be able to feel something. She searches the room for where Delia could be hiding. She looks into the mirror and sees only a trick of the light. She could have sworn she had just seen…

Rosemary for remembrance

A mirror for resemblance

The clocks found humour in this but did not laugh. They cannot, for they are clocks.

Nine-fifteen

Chime!

Shaken from their reverie, the clocks join one another in blissful harmony: a sycophantic symphony. For six seconds they revel in companionship and then fall silent. It will be another fifteen minutes until they can meet again. This does not deter the clocks as they soldier on in gentle concordance. Softly, but surely, they march in perfect rhythm.

Tick    tick      tick         tick          tick

The darkness whispers to Delia as she gently plucks a soft white daisy from the corners of her mind. A gentle caress brings forth further whispers. Wandering souls drawn with some ethereal beauty. She must not let them fade. She flicks the tip of her fine brush and traces the contours of her memories. Letters slide and glide to shape her thoughts and as the tumbling piles of foam wash over her, like crashing waves over a silken sea, she creates. Beauty.

The clock chimes midnight as time flows gently across her skin like ripples on a star-stilled lake. It floods the room and stains her pages: those carefully crafted dainty pages. They cry rivulets of tiny tears as the lashing rain and flashing light beats beneath her tired lids. The pressure builds, bending the book to crack its spine and strip the blackness of its inky words. Once again the beauty has escaped her. All that’s left are words, as the hours pass and the water rises.

Y: The Secret Vowel

Everyone knows what a vowel is: A, E, I, O and U. But those are vowels, so what is a vowel actually? According to Professor Google, a vowel is a speech sound produced by a relatively open or free vocal passage. Everyone’s taught that all words need a vowel. But not every word does contain a vowel. Could there be a secret vowel? I present to you the letter Y: the craftiest of all the letters. Covert consonant and undercover vowel. In most circumstances it is a consonant but Y is actually considered a vowel in certain contexts where the Y sound is created with an open vocal passage. There are a surprisingly large number of words that allegedly contain no vowel, but thankfully do because of Y’s resourcefulness. How many can you think of?

My, Try, Sky, Fry, Why

Gym, Hymn

Myth

Crypt

Lynx

Lynch

Myrhh

Pygmy

Gypsy

And drumroll for the longest word ‘without’ any vowels (but we know better!):

Rhythms

 

Poor Mr. Y. He works so hard and never gets his dues. Y, I support you.

Post Navigation