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…

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About suehealy

Multi award winning Irish writer/playwright Sue Healy’s work has been supported and developed by the Abbey Theatre, the Peggy Ramsay Foundation, the Heinrich Boll Association and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre. Her 2016 play ‘Brazen Strap’ ran at the King’s Head Theatre, funded by Arts Council England. Her work has also shown at the Hackney Attic and Etcetera Theatres in London. Sue’s nine radio dramas have broadcast on BBC Radio 4, WLRfm, KCLR96fm. A UEA Creative Writing MA alumna, she spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. Presently, she is London-based, researching a PhD on the Royal Court Theatre. Sue is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre. View all posts by suehealy

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