Hatrack River
Home   |   About Orson Scott Card   |   News & Reviews   |   OSC Library   |   Forums   |   Contact   |   Links
Research Area   |   Writing Lessons   |   Writers Workshops   |   OSC at SVU   |   Calendar   |   Store
E-mail this page
Hatrack River Writers Workshop Post New Topic  Post A Reply
my profile login | register | search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » My New Least Favorite Word

   
Author Topic: My New Least Favorite Word
Christine
Member
Member # 1646

 - posted      Profile for Christine   Email Christine         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Countenance

I never really loved the word. I can't think of a time when I've actually used it in writing just because it seemed like one of those words that was trying to hard.

This week I read "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley. I think someone bet her that she couldn't use the word 500 times in one book. She sure showed them! If I never hear the word again, it will be too soon.

So the lesson here: watch out for overused words. We all fall victim to them from time to time, even authors of the classics.


Posts: 3567 | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
Administrator
Member # 59

 - posted      Profile for Kathleen Dalton Woodbury   Email Kathleen Dalton Woodbury         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I never got around to reading FRANKENSTEIN, so I don't know, but I wonder if Shelley used "countenance" as a verb and as a noun.

Did you notice, Christine?


Posts: 7998 | Registered: A Long Time Ago!  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Robert Nowall
Member
Member # 2764

 - posted      Profile for Robert Nowall   Email Robert Nowall         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Well, early nineteenth-century literary works were more florid and wordy than they would be as time progressed. Sometimes I think these have to be translated into Modern English much like any other work in a foreign language. (Not that "wordy" is a thing of the past---take Stephen King, for example.)

Besides, I'm sure a lot of readers who picked up Frankenstein were disappointed---with a couple of exceptions, it's nothing like any of the movies.


Posts: 8230 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Countenance appears forty-eight times in the edition of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein I tested, in every case as a noun synonymous with demeanor. I didn't locate any synonyms of countenance, like, bearing, aspect, attitude, or less precise ones, figure, posture, expression. Countenance is a precise term, forty-eight times might be excessive usage in a novel-length story for a three-syllable brick of a word. I didn't stumble on it the several times I've read the novel.

[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited January 18, 2009).]


Posts: 3410 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Christine
Member
Member # 1646

 - posted      Profile for Christine   Email Christine         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I understand that classics are of a different time and I wasn't really commenting on the book so much as my aggravation with the overuse of a single word. Some may notice it, some may not, but it's always best to try to mix up your words, especially when it comes to words like countenance.
Posts: 3567 | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
philocinemas
Member
Member # 8108

 - posted      Profile for philocinemas   Email philocinemas         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Extrinsic, I hope you had that on E-books or something. It's been a while since I read Frankenstein, and I don't remember being bothered by the word. However, I would hate to have gone through and counted each time I saw it.
Posts: 2003 | Registered: Jul 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Took me two minutes to locate Frankenstein on Gutenberg, (of course it's there, copyrights on it have long since expired) copy it, drop it into WordPerfect, perform a find and replace all for countenance, bearing, demeanor, aspect, etc., single-stroke undoing all after each word's replace action, and another couple minutes to check for contexts. About five minutes time all tolled. The digital age is fabulous.

[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited January 18, 2009).]


Posts: 3410 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
ChrisOwens
Member
Member # 1955

 - posted      Profile for ChrisOwens   Email ChrisOwens         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
By modern practices and schools of thought regarding writing, Frankenstein, as well as many books of its age do not bear up well. Even the structure of the story is frustrating: it's all told in a letter by a ship captain who recounts Frankenstein's story, who at one point recounts the Creature's story, who recounts the story of De Lacey's family. That is convoluted to say the least. By modern standards, there's much fluff, not only in the writing, but in the story as well. And there are many credibility problems, foremost being that the Creature learned to read and speak fluently via watching De Lacey's family through a crack in the wall.

However, once extracted, the core story, ideas, and themes are quite haunting. I would love to see a movie that was 100% faithful to the original story--only told with modern sensibilities.


Posts: 1275 | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Cheyne
Member
Member # 7710

 - posted      Profile for Cheyne   Email Cheyne         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Why use a big word when a diminutive one will suffice? Shelley was 19 when she finished writing the book. I'll bet many of us overused 'three-syllable brick' words at that age. Besides you can't read old science fiction and judge it by today's scientific and literary standards.

My new least favourite word (actually I've always hated it,but have read it a bunch lately)is: preternatural(ly).

Anybody else have words that they can't countenance?

[This message has been edited by Cheyne (edited January 19, 2009).]


Posts: 340 | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Irregardless, for all intensive purposes, and mundane used to mean dull just to name a few.

[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited January 19, 2009).]


Posts: 3410 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
dee_boncci
Member
Member # 2733

 - posted      Profile for dee_boncci   Email dee_boncci         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Mine is "chill" used as an adjective. Don't know why but every time I read about a chill wind, I shudder.
Posts: 612 | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Patrick James
Member
Member # 7847

 - posted      Profile for Patrick James   Email Patrick James         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Sounds like the author successfully deployed the word. You are supposed to shiver in a chill wind.
Posts: 599 | Registered: Mar 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Cheyne
Member
Member # 7710

 - posted      Profile for Cheyne   Email Cheyne         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Chill out! Regardless of taste. mundane does, for all intents and purposes, mean ordinary or dull, but I tend to use it to mean worldly or non-magical.


Posts: 340 | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I own dictionaries documenting a century's worth of changes in language. Before the digital age, mundane meant one thing; of, relating to, or characteristic of the world. Since the dawn of the digital age, it's also come to mean; characterized by the practical, transitory, and ordinary: COMMONPLACE <the mundane concerns of day-to-day life> [Webster's 11th Collegiate, 2004] Encarta reverses the entries. Dictionary.com (based on Random House Dictionary) has as its second entry, common; ordinary; banal; unimaginative.

Language is alive and ever changing. In the not too distant future, mundane is likely to mean dull in dictionaries due to context in present-day descriptive usages. It's not quite there in prescriptive usages. I'm in the minority consensus of what mundane means. I know a lost cause when I see one. C'est la vie.


Posts: 3410 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
Administrator
Member # 59

 - posted      Profile for Kathleen Dalton Woodbury   Email Kathleen Dalton Woodbury         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
What about "for all extensive purposes?"

Among my least favorite words are those that are miswritings of certain phrases such as "for all intents and purposes" and "I would of" (for "I would have").

I see people writing "peaked my interest" when the phrase used to be "piqued my interest" and meant something a little different.

I see people writing "in tack" instead of "intact" and "tenant" instead of "tenet" and so on.

I also don't like to see "I was nauseous" instead of "I was nauseated," though I understand that usage has shifted to the point where that particular misuse is now standard.

Chills the cockles of my heart, it does.


Posts: 7998 | Registered: A Long Time Ago!  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Cheyne
Member
Member # 7710

 - posted      Profile for Cheyne   Email Cheyne         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Kathleen: I'm not clear on which side of the intensive purposes you fall. According to Wikianswers "intents and purposes" is the original and the others are bastardizations.

WSU's website had the following blurb on the subject "for all intensive purposes Another example of the oral transformation of language by people who don’t read much. "“For all intents and purposes” is an old cliché which won’t thrill anyone, but using the mistaken alternative is likely to elicit guffaws."


Posts: 340 | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
Administrator
Member # 59

 - posted      Profile for Kathleen Dalton Woodbury   Email Kathleen Dalton Woodbury         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Sorry, Cheyne. I was being a bit sarcastic.

I have to ask myself, when someone as erudite as extrinsic uses
"for all intensive purposes" (which is a "bastardization," as you say, of "for all intents and purposes") what extrinsic thinks "for all intensive purposes" means.

Hence the "what about extensive purposes?"

And for further clarification, Cheyne, I'm with you.


Posts: 7998 | Registered: A Long Time Ago!  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I run across "for all intensive purposes" dozens of times a year, spoken in social settings and in written word. In each case I doubted the user of it knew what they meant. I certainly didn't. At least irregardless is somewhat understandable, although when I encounter one I usually encounter the other from the same person. From all walks of life, too. It's like fingernails scritching on a chalkboard. Worse, addressing grammar in casual settings is passé if not a faux pas, except in my work. I've developed a tolerance for poor grammar by correcting it for a living. 300 pages just came in, pages to go before I sleep.

Here's a favorite word of mine, bowdlerization, a five-syllable brick, coined in 1836 after an English editor named Thomas Bowlder.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to conceive. Bowdlerization of Sir Walter Scott's famous saying.

A waist is a terrible thing to mind.

Always look a Greek gift horse in the mouth.


Posts: 3410 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Cheyne
Member
Member # 7710

 - posted      Profile for Cheyne   Email Cheyne         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I can like malapropisms(Ludicrous misuse of a word, especially by confusion with one of similar sound. ), especially when they are legitimately accidental.
My wife is a rehab practitioner and has a mentally challenged client whose favourite sayings are "That's life in the last lane" and "Hindsight is fifty-fifty". She sees nothing wrong with either and I've never considered correcting her as they are both "true".


Posts: 340 | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Sherpa7
Member
Member # 8321

 - posted      Profile for Sherpa7   Email Sherpa7         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I read a slim book about writing and found the word "sprawling" overused. Everything was a "sprawling manuscript" or a "sprawling idea." I hated that book and that word so much that I put it in the recycling bin.
Posts: 24 | Registered: Nov 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
KayTi
Member
Member # 5137

 - posted      Profile for KayTi           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Ooh, can I add supposebly (or however it is that those who mis-pronounce it would spell it.) It's supposedly. Supposed mispronunciations make me just a little nuts!

I also tend to get my hackles up at the "If I was" stuff. If it's not actually true, the proper form is "If I were..." If I were going to complain about something, it'd be about that.

I'm glad to see others who find intensive purposes a little off-kilter. Reminds me of the way my kids (ages 5 & 7) mispronounce words that they've heard from us but haven't seen spelled before. My daughter (5) says cavinet for cabinet. But, you know, she's 5.


Posts: 1911 | Registered: Mar 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Cheyne
Member
Member # 7710

 - posted      Profile for Cheyne   Email Cheyne         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Extrinsic: you have educated many of us here in the intricacies of English grammar and I personally have learned a lot from you, but feel I must clear up a bit of misinformation.

I found myself wondering about the difference between bowdlerization and spoonerisms, so I looked them both up. I was shocked to find that you were mistaken. Bowdlerization is not related a bit. I am not trying to rub your nose in it here but thought you may wish to correct your memory.


bowdlerization

Expurgation is a form of censorship by way of purging anything noxious, offensive, or erroneous, usually from an artistic work. It has also been called bowdlerization, after Thomas Bowdler, who in 1818 published an expurgated edition of William Shakespeare's work that he considered to be more appropriate for women and children. He similarly edited Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

spoonerism

1900, but perhaps as early as 1885, involuntary transposition of sounds in two or more words (cf. "a well-boiled icicle" for "a well-oiled bicycle;" "scoop of boy trouts" for "troop of Boy Scouts"), in allusion to the Rev. William A. Spooner (1844-1930), warden of New College, Oxford, who was famous for such mistakes.


Posts: 340 | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Again, language is alive. The prescriptive definition is as you say, expurgative. A second entry in Webster's (among other references) permits a descriptive usage, as I have used it, bowdlerize, 2: to modify by abridging, simplifying, or distorting in style or content. Whether or not spoonerisms are a subset or a master set of bowdlerization is a matter of opinion. They, among a host of other schemes and tropes, are within the master set of rhetoric.
Posts: 3410 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Cheyne
Member
Member # 7710

 - posted      Profile for Cheyne   Email Cheyne         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I stand corrected. The dictionary I used did not mention any but the censorship usage.
Posts: 340 | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Nick T
Member
Member # 8052

 - posted      Profile for Nick T   Email Nick T         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Hi Cheyne,

I believe that you may need to make that dictionary an escape goat.

Nick


Posts: 706 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
philocinemas
Member
Member # 8108

 - posted      Profile for philocinemas   Email philocinemas         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Maybe you should just paint it red and send it off into the desert.
Posts: 2003 | Registered: Jul 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Kakichi
Member
Member # 5814

 - posted      Profile for Kakichi   Email Kakichi         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
In terms of, well, terms...One that has really got me buggered out is actually being said a lot on "24" in this new season. The situation is thus: two planes nearly collide at an intersection of two runways. The news and several of the characters have referred to this incident as a "NEAR MISS" when it should actually be a "NEAR HIT". It's impossible to have a near miss, because then you actually would've hit.

Argh, this has taken my respect for such a cool show down a couple of pegs. I'll just continue to learn from some of the fresh ideas the writers of "Dexter" have developed.


Posts: 52 | Registered: Jul 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Cheyne
Member
Member # 7710

 - posted      Profile for Cheyne   Email Cheyne         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
You may want to reconsider your loss of respect for the writers of '24'. Near is an adjective not an adverb. If you 'nearly miss' something then you actually hit it.
'Near' as an adjective describes the noun 'miss' so it can be considered correct if the miss was in fact near. But yeah, I avoid the construction because of the sometimes confusion.

Posts: 340 | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
philocinemas
Member
Member # 8108

 - posted      Profile for philocinemas   Email philocinemas         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
It seems we have moved into misused terms. Therefore I will interject one into the discussion.

Let's say I pull up to the drive-thru at my favorite fast-food restaurant. I ask for a "small" beverage of my choosing. The mouth at the other end of the crackling excuse for an intercom system states, "We don't have 'small' drinks, only medium and large."

Now, I ask you, as well her, "How can that be?"

Edited to add: The origen of the word "scapegoat" was from a Hebrew ritual where the High Priest would put a mark (usually red) on a goat, representing the sins of the people, and send it out into the desert to die. Thus, the goat carried away the people's sins. This word now has a more negative connotation.

[This message has been edited by philocinemas (edited January 22, 2009).]


Posts: 2003 | Registered: Jul 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Kakichi
Member
Member # 5814

 - posted      Profile for Kakichi   Email Kakichi         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Good point, Cheyne. I applaud the writers of 24 for keeping things fresh for as long as they have, the show is still one of the most unique on TV, as bad as most of it is in general, and they've had some lapsing moments, but gotta give 'em some credit for what they've done and continue to do.
Posts: 52 | Registered: Jul 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
aspirit
Member
Member # 7974

 - posted      Profile for aspirit   Email aspirit         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Philo, I'm guessing goats always saw the scapegoat role as negative.

On another note, what about the overuse of "a", "an", and "the"? Is it possible? Does an abnormal number of these articles show weak writing? Does substituting frequent articles with possessive pronouns weaken writing further?


Posts: 1136 | Registered: May 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
branteaton
Member
Member # 7782

 - posted      Profile for branteaton   Email branteaton         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I once witnessed, in a professional setting, a graduate from a well-regarded university's English literature program end a dispute with his assistant by declaring the issue a "mute point." Loudly.
Posts: 36 | Registered: Feb 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
rich
Member
Member # 8140

 - posted      Profile for rich   Email rich         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I gotta say that "mute" kills me, too. I've heard it waaaay too many times on conference calls from MBAs who think they're being clever.


Posts: 840 | Registered: Aug 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
aspirit
Member
Member # 7974

 - posted      Profile for aspirit   Email aspirit         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
On another note, what about the overuse of "a", "an", and "the"? Is it possible? Does an abnormal number of these articles show weak writing? Does substituting frequent articles with possessive pronouns weaken writing further?

All-righty. I'll tell myself I posted in the wrong place and get answers offline.


Posts: 1136 | Registered: May 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
On another note, what about the overuse of "a", "an", and "the"? Is it possible? Does an abnormal number of these articles show weak writing? Does substituting frequent articles with possessive pronouns weaken writing further?

The question is an unanswerable one. The word the is the number one word (6.9%) used in English, a 5th (2.9%), an 29th (0.37%). Articles are invisible when they're not redundant. I'm sure, though, that redundant articles can be an issue. Replacing articles with possessive pronouns, I prefer to replace possessive pronouns with articles whenever appropriate.

Stats from http://www.edict.com.hk/TextAnalyser/wordlists.htm

[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited January 29, 2009).]


Posts: 3410 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is not enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.
UBB Code™ Images not permitted.
Instant Graemlins
   


Post New Topic  Post A Reply Close Topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Contact Us | Hatrack River Home Page

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.


Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2