Tag Archives: definitions

Questioning Your Language Ability

Over the weekend I had the splendid opportunity to read for hours on end.  I love traveling in the car because DH is a driver not a rider, the duct tape works well on the kids the kids are fairly self-sufficent and I don’t get motion sickness. 

In addition, our closest rellies live two and a half hours away, so car time is akin to heaven for me.  Until Saturday when I ran across a sentence in a book that made my reading pleasure come to a screeching halt.

It bothered my so much I couldn’t let it go.  Three days later I’m still obsessing over it, so I thought I would bring it to you, my dear readers and fellow writers. 

The offending passage was this: They banned together against me in deciding to sell the farm.

Now I didn’t major in English, creative writing or any sort of language arts that would make me an expert on the subject, but this sentence threw me.  I read it.  Reread it.  Contemplated my definitions of banned and band.  Checked with the dictionary (thank you Kindle for the instantaneous and in depth definitions) and reread the entire page surrounding the questionable sentence.

Then I read it out  loud to DH, with the spelling lost in the verbal translation.  Even so, he made that face that told me the sentence sounded off.  Maybe.

Sheesh.  This sentence drove me to drink my dessert coffee this morning sans the hazlenut creamer.  I needed the strong stuff to get me through.

Now your job is to tell me if I am a writing failure taking my angst out on a pubbed author an English failure, or if this sentence really should have been rewritten.

My definition of banned (of which Webster kindly concurred) is that banned is the past tense of ban, which really means to exclude and is typically used in the sense of exclude from something.  Hence, the sentence would read something like this:

They excluded together against me in the decision to sell the farm.

My question is thus: doesn’t ban need an object?  IE–they banned me from the ball game after I flipped the ref the birdie.  Or, I have been banned from the library because I don’t know the meaning of shhhhshhhhshush.   

Likewise, am I wrong in my assumption that the banned the author wanted (and the editor let slip), is in fact band?

As in a combination of a thin strip of flexible material used to encircle and bind one object or to hold a number of objects together: a metal band around the bale of cotton and something that constrains or binds morally or legally: the bands of marriage and family?  And maybe even tissue that connects or holds structures together?  As defined here.

Should the sentence be: They banded against me in deciding to sell the farm?  (came together)

Or, They banned me from the decision to sell the farm?  (excluded)
 
I simultaneously love and hate reading somthing that makes me question my language ability.  I love that it stretches my understanding of the written word.  I hate when it bothers me so much I can’t function until I figure it out.  Even more so, I hate when I’m wrong.  But that’s beside the point.
Right now, I need some sort of validation that tells me my inner ear was right in hearing this sentence wrong, or I need someone to set me straight so I don’t mistakenly submit a manuscript with my incorrect version of the truth.
Banned or band?  Which is it and why?
Also, what kinds of things make you question your language ability?  Share examples of other tricky words/phrases that can help other writers on their journey.

Word War Winners

First I have to thank everyone for their highly amusing and creative definitions.  I had tons of fun with this contest and sorting through the comments to pick the winners was nothing short of a riot.

LESBERRI

  1. The technique of burying the body before someone finds the culprit and connects the evidence with his crime
  2. A delectable treat that feels it’s not quite sweet enough to be a blueberry or a raspberry but a lesberri….awhhh!
  3. Artificial berry flavoring for those who are allergic to strawberries or other berries, but still want the flavor. (completelyorganic, hypoallergenic, gluten and sugar free.)
  4. A lingonberry cocktail popular at particular bars.
  5. A berry that does not require pollen distribution for reproduction. 
  6. The smoothie flavor preferred by 8 out of 10 women in East Portland.
  7. Cap’n Crunch’s newest flavor, due to economic conditions.  Creatively defined  by Layinda.

 

KANNINI

  1. A close cousin of the pannini, only thicker.
  2. The sound you make when someone in the kitchen turns on the dishwasher and you are in the shower.
  3. Emotional fit of apocalyptic proportions; the odds of death at the hands of the person having the kannini is 99.9%.
  4. The sound a car makes when it’s trying to start but can’t quite turn over. Kanninikanninikanninikannini.
  5. A toasted flatbread sandwich made with kangaroo meat. Kanninis are outlawed in 63 countries, but Williams & Sonoma secretly crafts a wildly popular Kannini iron made especially for the black market. 
  6. The question whether you are allowed to eat at this time.
  7. A fluid-filled cyst found in the folds of an obese mobster. Don’t bust my kannini!  Creatively defined by Charlie.

 

TREGIC

  1.  The quality of a tree no longer inanimate felled in a storm causing major damage
  2. When one of Scarlet Whisper’s strategic plans goes awry, the result is “tregic”.
  3. The sticky stuff that gets all over your hands when you climb a tree.
  4. The latest in tween slang. (Pronounced like tres chic.) “Did you see that? It was soooo tre-gic!”
  5. Three catastrophes at the same time.
  6. Poor tread on one’s snow tires. As in, You need new tires, those are tregic.
  7. The state of being sucked into a couch and spit out the other side in to a magical world. I went tregicing and found The Land of Zoozula.  Creatively defined by Charlie.

 

SAMELS

  1. Itchy, red pustules found on one’s inner thigh from too much friction. She has a bad case of the samels.
  2. A type of open toed footwear marketed by the makers of the snuggee. These wedged slip on sandles are lined with hand combed camel fur.
  3. The word that caused Eddie’s Used Camel Lot to go out of business. He wanted a sign that said “Sale! Used Camels Cheap!” The sign maker screwed up and sent him one that read “Samels! On Sail Cheep!”
  4. The opposite of differentials.
  5. Sandals for camels so they don’t burn their feet in the desert.
  6. Someone who smells the same all the time and is able to be identified by their particular odor.  And the tie goes to Siggy.
  7. Best friends who always dress the same and act the same and sound the same. As in, “She’s my samel”, a “They’re a pair of samels”.  As well as Michelle for their creative definitions.

 

COWPARI

  1. Someone who is obese whose work as a writer is panned when a picture was enclosed with his/her manuscript: a tragic story
  2. A spicy, bitter alcoholic Italian drink infused with the blood of angus bovine. Cowpari’s marketing campaign has been very successful in the vampire niche market.
  3. The latest style on the French Riviera for cows. Cowpari pants are all the rage for bovines.
  4. When a dairy farmer milks two cows at once.
  5. A kung fu move crossed with a fencing move for bovines.
  6. A cut of women’s pants that is very unflattering. 
  7. The language of cows- Moo means “hello” in cowpari.  Creatively defined by Charlie.

And the Bonus Win goes to Michelle for providing a word verification word of her own.  Mudgin–aka a small, fictional amphibious creature from The Chronicles of Narnia.

She gets the delightfully charming and ever informative book The Writer’s Essential Tackle Box by Lynn Price.  To collect your book, please shoot me an email with your address. 

Congratulations to the winners and warm fuzzies to all who participated in creating our Word War Cyber Dictionary.  You rock my socks off!

What’s your favoirte definition listed?

Buying the Right Word

*Before I get started, don’t forget to check out and enter the Word Wars Contest.*

On Saturday, DH took me shopping.  For the record, I hate shopping.  I would rather tweeze my arm pit hair than shop for clothes.  God was kind enough to give me the bottom half of an hour-glass figure.  He must have forgotten that squeezing such shapes into jeans is not Heaven on Earth.  Or maybe He did…

Finding the right pair of  jeans is like finding the right word in writing.  When it happens, it’s golden.  However, it should never be forced or we will end up with buyer’s remorse.

Now I’m a firm believer that buying a word out of the dictionary or thesaurus is dangerous, and I don’t advocate for it.  If I have to hunt a word down through the seven degrees of synonyms, it will be as apparant as the wrong cut of jeans–regardless of the price.

As an example, over Thanksgiving weekend we hung out with DH’s family.  We were talking about dogs (ie those who have them in their houses and those who despise the fact that they exist) and how bringing a beloved pet to a non dog-lover’s home is rude.

“I would never foist my dog on someone who doesn’t like them,” I said to my DH and both brothers-in-law.

In their defense, they were three sheets to the wind and it was 2:00 in the morning.  However, I got harangued for “making up” a word.  When I explained it’s meaning (to thrust or force upon) I was told in no uncertain terms to use “real words that everyone can understand.”

As writers, we sometimes fall into the trap of showing off.  We like to pontificate and end up sprinkling thesaurus words throughout our writing.  The end product is reader annoyance.  And too much reader annoyance equals a loss of interest.

I used foist because I’m comfortable with it.  I didn’t have to search the dictionary to define it, nor did I page through the thesaurus until I found a word that sounded cool.  I used it because the nuances were exactly what I wanted to convey. 

Had we taken away the sheets and the late hour, I’m sure my beloved three stooges could have used the context clues to understand my meaning. 

Context clues provide the basic structure for a word’s use.  Quite frankly, it’s how I increased my vocabulary.  As a child I read books that challenged me with unknown words.  Jules Verne being my favorite in the fourth grade.

I loved when writers bought sixty dollar words and eloquently slipped them in the middle of fifty cent phrases.  I could figure out the gist of the meaning with relative ease.  And if all else failed, there was always the dictionary.

What I hated were the million dollar words.  The ones writers culled from the seven degrees of synonyms to find.  And by million dollar words, I don’t necessarily mean big, bold and lyrical.  I mean words that are foreign to the writer and therefore lack the easy comfort of use.

Thrust Upon=Foist=Impose=Promulgate=Disseminate=Distribute=Bestow

“I would never bestow my dog on someone who doesn’t like them.”

Technically this could be correct, although it doesn’t quite capture the distaste the person would feel if I gave my dog to them.  Bestow has positive connotations.  Foist does not. 

Simple substitution with unfamiliar words doesn’t benefit the author or the reader.  When used improperly, it can cause confusion.  For readers in the know, it can cause frustration, irritation and ridicule. 

Words have too many nuances to be pulled off the rack like a pair of size five jeans.  By definition, they should fit.  However, it’s the style that counts.

What are some of your favorite sixty dollar words?  What are your least favorite million dollar words?  Do write to the “masses” or do you use words that stretch and challenge your readers?

Word Wars Contest

Nothing tickles my funny bone more when commenting on a blog than verifying that I am a real person.  Apparently nobody likes spam.  What makes me laugh are the nonsensical words I must retype to acknowledge that I am, indeed, commenting with a fully functioning brain inside my head.

Yet, they couldn’t be more wrong.

Because I easily see something that isn’t supposed to be there.  It’s a bit like cloud gazing where some kind of animal is waiting in the sky to be spotted by the more whimsical of the world.

So, inspired by my imagination and a plethora of uselessly hilarious words, I present Word Wars: the contest. 

If you feel inclined to participate, define any or all of the words listed below in a comment.  A panel of judges (check out my family if you’d like to see them) will vote on the ones that tickle their funny bones.  I’ll try not to let the dog vote, as she’s only interested in food. 

Winners will be posted for the cyber world to enjoy. 

For your efforts, I will atribute each “winning” definition with a link to the author’s blog, website or another cyber way-stop of their choice.  (That is appropriate for my eyes.)

Definitions will be accepted through 8:00pm Monday and will be posted on Tuesday.

WORD WAR WORDS

  1. lesberri
  2. kannini
  3. tregic
  4. samels
  5. cowpari

As a bonus, please share your funniest word verification words along with your personal defintitions.  The one that tickles my tweeter the most will recieve a copy of Lynn Price’s The Writer’s Essential Tackle Box. 

Spread the word and it will spread the joy!