Color Me Purple

There are hues that happily stand in for feelings and occasions. The rainbow has more emotional range than the average scientific discovery.

An altercation can make you see red or run yellow with fright.

Envy brings on a shade of green most unbecoming. That green is no one’s color.

Blue is an equally unwanted shade of feeling, although sorrow appeals to our desire to help more so than the former emotion.

What then of the noble purple?

I’ve accepted orange lacking a corresponding emotion because of its exalted position as color, tree, and fruit. But what does purple get, maligned at the end of the spectrum? Mothball Mondays and Wicked Wednesdays gave me the answer.

Have you ever read a story, dear reader, and felt an excess, verbose verbiage, a plethora of pomposity, a weight of wordiness? Then you have been exposed to purple prose. I’ll admit it’s not an actual emotion, but it does excite certain feelings in me—which leads me to the other meaning.

Purple language is profane or obscene and exactly what I think when reading purple prose.

Purple typewriter

Official Color of Writers – both warning and whimsy.

As a writer I think purple should be the color of choice, both as warning and release. Now I feel as though I have given purple back its place in our vocabulary.

Any ideas for unfortunate indigo?

Seriously?

There have been times in my life when something so incredible happens to stagger belief or humble the imagination in which I have been at a loss for words. On those rare occasions I utter at least one word.

2 for 1 McCondom

Despite liking scotch as much as I do, this gave me pause.

Seriously?

By no means does it convey the awestruck wonder or complete contempt I feel about a particular situation, but it fills the space and impregnates the silence with sentiment.

The Newsroom Bar & Eatery

Should I feel guilty that this sign brought a smile to my face?

Seriously?

Perhaps, dear reader, you’ve come across the same condition. It needn’t be the same word, but the idea is the similar. A thought that must be expressed, but can hardly be described.

What’s your word?

Mouth at your own risk

I can hardly write this word without feeling the urge to cover it in plain brown paper, lest someone be shocked by its appearance. But, dear reader, I won’t hold you in suspense like the contrived drama on some reality show. The word is:

salacious (adjective) : relating to sex in a way that is excessive or offensive

Even mouthing it can capture the attention of someone clear across the room.

I dare you—test it.

Saying aloud makes the lips move seductively and the tongue undulate quite wickedly. And so much more satisfying than merely dirty. It sounds and feels like the mood it hopes to capture.

One of my many pastimes is watching old movies—especially with Betty Grable. When I think of the word salacious one movie in particular comes to mind—The Shocking Miss Pilgrim. The story is set in late 1800s Boston and revolves around Betty Grable being the first female employee in a shipping office. Because of the scandal, she is forced to take rooms with a group of misfits. One of the lodgers was a woman who is rewriting the dictionary to make the words better reflect modern life (a kindred spirit). In illustration she refers to Miss Pilgrim’s generously filled oblong purse as ballooned instead of full because the double O makes the mouth mimic the shape.

I wonder what she would have said about salacious?

It has so many of the same letters as scandalous that it’s a wonder it isn’t seen more often in tabloids. As much as the public seems to hunger for any hint of sex, the word should be positively old hat. But it’s not. I can’t even find a good quote using the term. Perhaps they are too salacious to publish.

Are you full or balloon?

Are you full or balloon?

Are words naughty or are we? Wicked Wednesdays are the time to consider it.

Weekend Edition – Dear Writer, You are weird. Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

Jamie Lee Wallace hit the nail on the head when it comes to defining the weird and wonderful life of a writer. Some of it was eerily familiar.

Live to Write - Write to Live

Writers are not normal people.

Image from Screencraft Image from Screencraft

It started when I was a kid. I would often carry a notebook with me, scribbling everything and nothing on its welcoming pages as I sat alone in a quiet corner of the playground, or – later, when I was older – at the end of a long table in study hall. When I entered the working world, my notebook accompanied me on the commuter train and was my lunch date on the Boston Common. Now, in my life as mom and freelance writer, my notebook is an even more constant companion. Tossed in the back seat or tucked into my bag, it is always at the ready. Whether I’m idling in the pick-up line at school, sitting at the edge of the arena watching my daughter ride, or waiting in the doctor’s office, my notebook is never far away.

Just yesterday…

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While away a moment, whilst I dream

whilst (conjunction): chiefly British, while.

 

You’ll have to forgive me, dear reader, because I have recently returned from a British holiday and still have the word whilst ringing in my ears.

Why did we—and by we I mean North Americans–lose this word? It has so much more zing and pop than while. The clever flick of the L that lands playfully on the –st is almost melodic.

 

Take this quote:

Whilst we deliberate how to begin a thing, it grows too late to begin it.

-Quintilian

 

Wouldn’t that sound less impressive if we replaced the whilst with a while? It adds polish and pizzazz. Dare I say, it even sounds posh?

It conjures up pictures of grand assembly rooms, long couches or Victorian sketches of the Grand Tour.

In short, whilst can transport me to gentility and grace. A one-word vacation. As an historian I know the time period I’m dreaming of was anything but, nevertheless I can romanticize whilst still maintaining a realistic vision of the world.

I know it’s a silly word to get giddy over, but I always take a moments pleasure and pause when I hear it spoken.

Is there a word that makes you smile?

Grace and Favor or Like

The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique.

-Walt Disney

favorite (noun): a person or thing that is liked more than others.

like (verb): to enjoy (something); to get pleasure from (something); to regard (something) in a favorable way; to feel affection for (someone); to enjoy being with (someone)

Favorite. I often wonder what word can fill a reader or listener with delight. What word could be more pleasant and full of wonder? It’s a word to be shared with others or scribbled gleefully in the pages of a diary.

But, dear reader, I must confess a secret. I am not a fan of favorite.

Perhaps it’s the length. It could be all the hard consonants. No, I won’t dissemble with you. It’s all about the root.

Favor strikes me as condescending—a little like Queen Elizabeth bestowing her patronage on pizza or chocolate cake.

Like is my word of choice in these matters. The L evokes warm feelings and reminds me of love. Then, as though declaring its individuality, the vowel that follows announces its own name. More importantly, I like that like is a verb—it makes my enjoyment, pleasure, and regard more active. However, I can’t claim to aspire to the status of wordsmith if I rest on the laurels of just one word.

It brings to mind one of my favorite (it couldn’t be helped) exchanges in the movie, Sense and Sensibility.

Elinor Dashwood: I do not attempt to deny that I think very highly of him, that I… greatly esteem him… I like him.

Marianne: “Esteem him?” “Like him?” Use those insipid words again and I shall leave the room this instant.[1]

A word should be appropriate to the situation and I agree with Marianne when she calls her sister’s choice of words insipid. So, instead of favorite or like better to use a word that paints a picture.

I relish the taste of dark chocolate.

I have a fondness for cool, drizzly days.

I have a weakness for a well-turned phrase uttered by an intelligent man.

To paraphrase Disney, liking ourselves makes us unique. To turn it another way, choosing our words with care also makes expressiveness unique. I’d like to think my favorite words are another way I’m unique.

What words do you favor, like and esteem?

[1] Quote from Sense and Sensibility, 1995, courtesy of IMDB.com

Open book and glasses

True Love…and Words

For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories about the death of kings.–Richard II, Shakespeare

Richard was lamenting the loss of his title and crown, but my lament is about the king of all—words.

As a nation of many tongues, it can be hard to officially pinpoint our language. But if we base it on the amount of channels provided by cable, including the international and Latino packs, we mostly speak English. As a person who speaks more than one language, I can tell you that my favorite language, hands-down, is English. It’s rich without being too flowery. It’s succinct, but has the capacity to be diplomatic, romantic and aggressive all at the same time. Other languages have the same ability I’m sure, but I tend to geek out over words in English (although I’m not above geeking out over words in other languages, too).

That’s why, I’m increasingly confounded by our use of it. We’re lazy in our speech and resort to hyperbole inordinately. Everything is awesome or extreme. No longer do we make mistakes—we have epic fails. Considering that the latter expression can be used for something as innocuous as buying the wrong toothpaste, is it any wonder we have lost

Open book and glasses

Courtesy of Darren Lewis from publicdomainpictures.net

weather. I’ve loved a chair just because I was tired and needed to sit. I have even, on occasion, used the word awesome to describe something as trivial as a spoon. Our language banks are full of unused words that we learned once for the SATs and then discarded for something more banal. Words are king and should be afforded just as much pomp and circumstance. In a world that gets its fill of news in less than 140 characters, shouldn’t those characters pack as much punch as possible?

This blog seeks, in its own small way, to revive the wonder of words, the virtue of vocabulary and the lyricism of linguistics. I hope, dear reader, you’ll find curiosities to enjoy and share some of your own.