What’s That Word Again?


No, really. I'm a writer. At least my shirt seems to think so...
No, really. I’m a writer. At least my shirt seems to think so…

Bored. Last Thursday I was bored. The kind of bored that made me…bored. Thursday is writing night for me. I write other times as well, but Thursday is the standing date I have with my characters and stories and worlds outside of my own. And I was bored.

One would imagine that a person who can create whole other people in her head to have conversations with would never be bored. But that night I found all those people, well, boring. Some writers are more faithful than I, and will write through whatever state their minds are in, but I find that when I write while I am in that state my writing is (drumroll, please!) boring. I mean, I couldn’t even come up with a new word for boring.

Which leads me today to think of the words I use in my speech compared to the words I use in my writing. My mom’s New Year’s resolution this year is to use better and more interesting words than the usual slang we often fall back on. She came up with this idea after a refreshing conversation with a hairdresser. My mom left feeling uplifted and engaged, and isn’t this how conversation should be? I love this idea! So we started a list of words we would try to use.

My fall-back descriptors in conversation are “awesome,” and if I’m really excited, “super-awesome.” Oh yeah. There is some linguistic wizardry going on there.

Anyone who has ever had a conversation with me knows I have a hard time putting my thought into words. I’m certain those who have never read anything of mine, upon hearing that I consider myself a writer, must think to themselves, “Really?” And I appreciate that they keep that to themselves.

At least twenty times a week, I’m sure of it, I will utter a sentence that goes something like this: “I need the thing for the stuff it is used for and, dude, could you just, I don’t know, whatever, take care of it for me?” (Uncomfortable as that was to write, and I’m sure to read, it sounds even worse when I say it, because it is filled with awkward pauses during which I try to think of a better way to say what it is I am trying to get across, and then I get distracted at the way whoever I am talking to is starting to raise their eyebrows in anticipation of what I am trying to say.) I usually follow up one of those whoppers with this: “You know what I mean in English, right?”

My sister and I hold entire conversations like this. My husband, who by sheer time and location is the most often assaulted by these conversational drive-bys, is rather patient, and amused, by them. As he likes to say, he’s not laughing at me, he’s laughing near me. My son just interrupts with a completely new topic. It’s a habit we’re trying to help him break, and is usually followed by a gentle rebuke. “I wasn’t done, son.” “Well, it sounded like it to me,” he’ll say, and part of me doesn’t always blame him. But then I think about what I was saying. “You thought my sentence ended with the word ‘the’?”

So how do I  become a more eloquent conversationalist, with the goal of engaging others around me, not just talkin’ purty? I suppose I could start by scratching “super awesome” off the mental go-to list and finding a suitable replacement.

I have words I love to hear, and even to say, but they are not always conversationally appropriate. “Elbow” is really only funny if you say it by itself  and not in a sentence, and without context “banjo” really doesn’t make sense. I think adjectives and verbs are the arsenal from which I need to draw inspiration. Some nouns could be thrown in, like foofaraw. This is a word I could imagine myself using on a daily basis in my circus-themed life.

But I can’t imagine using the word “algid” without making an ugly face, like I had just discovered something furry in the fridge. And that word doesn’t sound to me like its meaning, unlike foofaraw. (In case you didn’t know, algid means cold or chilly. I just don’t see myself saying, “Darling, bundle up, it’s algid outside.” Right now WordPress grammar is not even recognizing it as a real word.)


So help me out here. What are some words you love, either for their meaning, or their sound? What words do you get lazy about in conversation, and fall back on out of habit? Mind you, not all words need to be impressive. I think life would be sweeter if I learned to say “whee!” more often. Example: when I am a little clumsy and slip on the ice on the sidewalk, or the exercise ball rolls out from under me and I feel embarrassed or frustrated at my own clumsiness, it would be great to say “whee!”






7 thoughts on “What’s That Word Again?”

  1. I find it’s richer to describe my characters with something more than adjectives. Often I’ll describe them by their thoughts. So if a character is in the middle of a conversation about “X” , there is a pause in the conversation, and the reader discovers what one (or both) characters think about “X”, including a short anecdote of a previous experience that includes some kind of action. And action over adjectives seems to help as well…then the reader fills in their own adjective.

      1. I hope not! Why do you ask? It does come most naturally when I’m talking to myself! ha ha

        I try to follow “The Elements of Style” when I write, and it does seem more formal than a lot what I read today…oh well!

  2. Words that are fun to say? Spoon (this you know), noodle (this you know too, ha), black zambuca (and I’ve never even actually tried it), tinkle (thanks mom), ood (this is subjective)…I’m sure there are more I can’t think of. Words I use too much, slang, instead of real talk? Dude, peace out (I don’t really know how this one started but it’s been going on for years), right on (this is fairly new for me), awesome (I think we all do this)…i could go on.

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