Posts Tagged Word choices
There is, I think, common to all the various species of writers (and I’m talking here about those who want to write, not necessarily those who want to be writers—there’s a difference) a love for the basic building blocks of the art form. To wit, words. The way painters enjoy a fresh tube of titanium white, or maybe how sculptors dig the smell of clay on their hands, this is how most writers seem to appreciate the way words look on a page, the sibilant slide of syllables, the assonance and alliteration of consonants and vowels. When you stumble across an unfamiliar grapheme, an unexpected way to describe an experience, and if you feel a thrill such that you immediately rewrite your last paragraph in order to include it, that’s when you know (to misquote Kipling) that, indeed, you’re a writer, my son.
The late and much lamented David Foster Wallace left, as part of his legacy, an American Heritage Dictionary, complete with circled entries. For our enjoyment and time wastage, he’s given us his favorite words, or words that he had aspired to learn, or words that had, at least, tickled his fancy. And while I might quibble with his choice of dictionary (I personally much prefer Webster’s), I’m delighted to find, in this inspiring, brilliant, often challenging author, a kindred, word-loving spirit. For someone inclined to parse through DFW’s personality, to analyze the nuts and bolts of the intellect that produced Infinite Jest, etc., one could do worse than spend twenty minutes with the words he deemed important enough to remark upon. (You can imagine, for instance, the day he came across “androsterone: a steroid hormone excreted in urine that reinforces masculine characteristics,” and how he felt a pillager’s delight, a thrill that he might then be able to use it to describe a distasteful character, a man who literally pisses machismo.
Writers are mostly shameless about how readily they co-opt someone else’s research and work. (For my money, this shamelessness is also a good indicator of the seriousness of intent. Stopping short, of course, of plagiarism, your first concern should always be for the quality of the writing—is it any good?—rather than how it came to be good.) With that in mind, I plan to appropriate, at first opportunity, DFW’s fine word névé, which is defined as the upper part of a glacier where snow turns to ice. It seems to me a perfect analogy for some-damn-thing.
After I include it in an appropriate sentence, however, I will take a few seconds to light a figurative candle to DFW, one of the great stylists of our age.