What’s in a Word?

Dear Readers:

I have been researching pronunciations and definitions of words lately. My husband and I while away our lunch hours together reading Karen MacNeil’s Wine Bible. We have completed France and are meandering through Italy, learning about unknowns such as ailoi, Ghemme, and Cremant. Is it any wonder we need to consult a dictionary? Last week’s bulletin from our church detailed the distinction between a homily and a sermon. I should probably know this after my sixty plus years as a Roman Catholic, but I don’t. So I shouldn’t be surprised when my critique readers are puzzled by words I grew up hearing: biffy, soda jerks, Burma shave. In early drafts of my story I experimented with unusual verbs such as “Virgie slivered her hand between his fingers.” My critique members all crossed that verb off as ineligible, being too unusual. It would confuse my readers. Distract them. Slow things down. Or maybe even stop them altogether. So I acquiesced – but now I wonder is it really that bad to stop the reader? Maybe we all should stop more often and think about what we read, or say, or think? I know that Markus Zusak certainly didn’t shy away from unusual verbs in The Book Thief. But maybe when one is writing from Death’s POV, one takes liberties. The plot thickens.


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