August 29, 2011
That’s Easy For You to Say…
Words… as a writer and a linguist, I love words. They are the writer’s main tool and there is a particularly lavish spread on offer for the English-speaking writer.
English is a word-rich language and there are more word-families in English than any other language. Crudely, one could say that the English language sprung from a marriage of French and German. For this reason, English has many words from its parent languages that describe quite similarly (ie “loving” is from German and “amorous” is from French). English has also magpied extensively from other languages. Most of my favourite words are ‘borrowed’ words and include: “pyjama” and “shampoo” which come from India (though I’m not sure which specific languages), “Hacienda” and “siesta” which are Spanish. “Itsy-bitsy”, “paprika”, “coach”, “goulash”, “hussar” and “biro” which are Hungarian. “Smithereen”, “galore”, “banshee”, “slew”, “brogue”, “kibosh”, ‘hobo’ and “shanty” which come from Irish. It seems the more obscure or exotic the etymology, the more intriguing and beautiful the word. And I enjoy writing them, love saying them – to paraphrase Frank McCourt, it feels like having jewels in your mouth.
You don’t only construct literary art from words but they also set the tone of the piece and there are certain words and phrases that are closely associated with particular genres of writing.
Romance type novels I associate with “tawny” and “chiselled”.
SciFi writers invent words to name their machines, planets and creatures such as “Klingons” and “Zogathons”.
Do you associate words with a particular genre? Do you have favourites? I’d love to hear them…
From Ireland, Sue Healy is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre, London, a full-time Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Lincoln. Her book on theatre literary management is published by Routledge, December 2022.
Sue is an award-winning writer for stage, TV, and prose writer.
Her current project, a 6x60minute TV series, is under option. She is under commission with Lone Wolf Media, producers behind PBS’ “Mercy Street”, to co-write the pilot and treatment for a six-part TV series.
Her most recent stage-play, Imaginationship (2018), enjoyed a sold out, extended run at the Finborough and later showed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Her previous stage productions include Cow (Etcetera Theatre, 2017) and Brazen (King’s Head Theatre, 2016), funded by Arts Council England. Sue’s short plays have been performed at the Criterion (Criterion New Writing Showcase), Arcola (The Miniaturists) and Hackney Attic (Fizzy Sherbet Shorts).
Her radio work includes nine plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (Opening Lines winner), WLRfm and KCLR96fm.
Sue has won The Molly Keane Award, HISSAC Prize, Escalator Award, Meridian Prize and has been published in nine literary journals and anthologies including: The Moth, Flight, Tainted Innocence, New Writer, Duality, HISSAC, New European Writers. She has been writer-in-residence on Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, and at the Heinrich Boll Cottage on Achill Island. She has also benefitted from annual artist residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and at Ginestrelle, Assisi in Italy.
An academic with a PhD in modern theatre history, specifically the Royal Court Theatre, Sue has presented her research internationally. She spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. She has a PhD in modern theatre history (Royal Court Theatre) and is a UEA Creative Writing MA alumnus.
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November 6th, 2011 at 07:25
hence when trying to describe something – you need the EXACT word you are thinking of – a synonym just won’t do!