Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Elegant Variation


Is that a dagger I see before me, the handle towards my hand?


Unknown said...

Viva la Elegant Variation! Screw all these rules and anti-rules re: writing style, says I. When it works, it works, even if it's full of supposed no-no's like adjectives and adverbs and flowery circumlocution and exposition and "it was"es and past perfects!

Whew. Glad I got that off my chest.

Unknown said...

Okay, I've calmed down somewhat and have to admit that sometimes the use of "elegant variation" does bug me, but it's usually in the context of journalism, not fiction-writing.

I decided to comment again because this post reminds me of something I think about a lot: The fact that there are some words that have an unfair number of reasonable facsimiles, and others that have none. Take "relief" (as in "she sighed in relief"). Can you think of any one-word stand-alone substitution for "relief"? "Anger," "happiness" and "fear" all have plenty of elegant variations, but the (one would think) equally powerful emotion of "relief" ....? I've always found this strange.

Ysabeau Wilce said...

Well--I do agree that this mania for stripped down language can be a bit much. Some writers are brilliant and can convey style even through plain and simple language. Some writers just sound boring and all alike. And sometimes too much florid language can stick in your teeth like Turkish Delight...but I think there's a happy medium ground, which takes delight in playing with language. And, English is full of delicious words--why not use them? So, guilty as charged and proud of it!

Ysabeau Wilce said...

And re: relief. My hand-dandy Roget's gives several synonyms for "relief", including solace and consolation, but you are certainly right that none of these offerings carry quite the same meaning as the original word. It's a good question you bring up, but alas I have no idea of the answer. But something to think about, for sure.