Writing that moves readers to action

As those of you who follow me and/or regularly read my blog know, I’m a huge fan of words – their origin, meaning, usage, dynamic nature, etc.  In the past, I’ve passed along some of their specific exploits – either in solitary form, flanked side-by-side forming or generating sentences, quotes, stories…or in so many other ways.  Many of those intriguing words journey with us and somehow manage to imbed themselves in our conscious and/or subconscious – even make us giggle or squirm.

when english majors marryRecently, between projects, I re-read the book Gulp by Mary Roach.  This book is definitely not for the faint-hearted.  It is not the type of book one chooses to read if desirous of calm, peace-filled bedtime slumber, nor would one grab for it when home in bed feigning illness and seeking solitude.  This book, however, overflows with fascinating (and entertaining) words, thoughts, and concepts that arrest one’s attention…and appear worthy of passing along…


Midway through her book (p. 143), Ms. Roach introduces and briefly articulates this technique.  While I often deploy the service of onomatopoeia, details on the definition/description alluded me…so, I searched and found a bit more of an explanation…

 A word that imitates the natural sound or creates a sound effect that mimics or is similar to the thing it describes.  Some onomatopoeic words have also developed their own meaning.

These words provide a more expressive and interesting description.  The use of these words equips the write with a way/technique to engage or encourage the reader to participate or enter into the world the writer has created – these words invite the  reader to hear (and feel) sounds connected to or aligned with the word being used.

Ms. Roach selects the word “crack” as an example.  In this case, the word sounds like the noise … and the noise is actually the fracture or break.  My search unfolded many more intriguing examples…

  • Animal sounds = Meow (cat), Moo (cow), Tweet (bird), Oink (pig), Baa (sheep), buzz (bee)
  • Water sounds = plop, splash, gush, sprinkle, drizzle, drip etc.
  • Human voice noises = growl, giggle, grunt, murmur, blurt, chatter etc.
  • Wind sounds = swish, swoosh, whiff, whoosh, whizz, etc.
  • Whisper = people talking quietly, and the action of people talking quietly
  • Rustling leaves

A few pages later, Ms. Roach offers several footnotes to elaborate on specific words contained in her story. She contends that certain words are often misspelled and lead to confusion plus she suggests that certain words used in a specific environments might be useful if applied within other settings.  Here are several.  See what you think – intriguing and entertaining, right?!

  1. Per annum (yearly) vs. per anum (by way of the anus).
  2. Flammable is a safety conscious version of inflammable. In the 1920’s, the National Fire Protection Association urged the change out of concern that people were interpreting the prefix “in” to mean “not” – as it does in insane.  Though surely those same people must have wondered why it was necessary to warn of the presence of gas that will not burst into flame.
  3. According to Ms. Roach, many evocative words deserve to break free from medical dictionaries…and join the ranks of day-to-day vocabulary. Examples shared include:
    1. Glabrous = smooth and hairless
    2. Periblepsis = the wild look of delirium
    3. Maculate = spotted

Hope you enjoyed these as much as I did.

Til next time…

Crafted, researched and written by:  LIZ CARLOCK
The Write Resources, LLC™
© 2014 EM Carlock

Graphic credits:  www.cartoonistgroup.com

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