A wise Canadian friend and fellow blogger, called Pamela Quiall (Butterfly Sand), who happens to have Multiple Sclerosis (as she would put it…) has just written an excellent post about that very handy little word ‘and’. It’s value just cannot be overestimated, for what would we do without our fish and chips, Derby and Joan, night and day, light and dark, et al? It is such a connecting, linking word and crops up all over the place in countless situations. Also, suggesting connecting as it does, it gives one a feeling of continuity and friendship…ie “You and me.” What a wonderful world it could be if we all made friends with each other. Just call me a cock-eyed optimist…
Coincidentally, as I read her piece, I was reminded about one I intended to write about ‘if’ and ‘but,’ for, what powerful words they also are… It is now quite common to use both and, and but to start a sentence, whereas in the not too distant past, the pedants would be jumping up and down in annoyance.
Often, of a winter evening, ‘im indoors and I like watching TV or reading, and now and then, catch a cold-case murder or two (of which there are far too many…) as detective work fascinates me. How many times do you hear the words: “If only the deceased hadn’t taken that lonely road (or hitch-hiked)…” but of course hindsight and caution don’t always play their roles in real life well, do they?! If only we were more logical, especially when young… There was one particularly tragic case in the United States where a woman living on her own forgot to lock the front door and a passing nut-case calmly walked in and strangled her. A real-life tragedy. “If only…” immediately comes to mind.
Naturally, in everyday life, whatever language we use to describe situations or actions however delightful, desirable or dire, it can mean diddly-squat as far as the truth of the situation itself is concerned, but us writers should give thanks to all the academics who worked on languages to give us such a huge variety of valuable words to use in our often wonderful and entertaining ‘fictitious and true’ stories. Where would we be without them!
Just small, innocuous words, but what an expression is “If only..” It suggests so much more: a vague or deep-felt desire or passionate yearning maybe, that we had answered an important letter, or kept a certain date that might have changed our life. “But I changed my mind…” too could suggest a life-altering decision and be veiled with regret…
Whatever words we use when writing, we should – when thinking straight – use them wisely.
And what a wealth of other, pleasing, words there are at our disposal. Most writers have their favourites. The following are just some of mine: scrumptious – so descriptive – I can almost taste a toasted bun dripping with butter, or a yummy chocolate cake; glutton: a jolly Billy Bunter type digging in to a huge fry-up…(all of which says a lot about me, except for the fry-up) and Salacious: fondly-remembered… sexual desires (“Ooh, George…”). I could, of course, could go on and on.
“If ifs and buts were buttercups, what a golden world it would be” Anon.
Suffice it to say, there are so many immediately identifiable words that fit their purpose and it is natural, according to our particular taste, which ones we choose. Then there are words which we cannot take to. To use a word like pulchritude to describe beautiful is beyond me… and antediluvian (old-fashioned), is another weird one. I am no academic, but I’m sure there are many tomes on the English language to dig in to. It’s a fascinating subject.
Whatever words YOU use, may they be lucky ones.
© Copyright Joy Lennick 2022
Images via Pixabay.com
What a delightful ode to language! “Defenistration” and “lugbrious” are two of my favorite words, although I seldom have opportunity to use either one. “Flummoxed,” on the other hand, I get to use a lot!
Hi Liz, Thank you for reading. As I produce a weekly column for one of the main local papers, lately I have been more aware of my over-use of certain words, tut tut. Let’s face it, there are so many to choose from…Of course, on the other hand…Can I surprise myself?!
You’re welcome, Joy. I think most writers have words they overuse without realizing it.
Well, Joy, I can safely say I’ve never considered using ‘pulchritude’ or ‘antediluvian’ in any of my writing to date, but they are such strange words, I actually quite like them! Antediluvian even has a nice flow to it! 🙂
Thanks for commenting, Tom. Labyrinth was a favourite for a while. (Perhaps because it is linked with a delightful visit to Laugharne in Wales, near to where Dylan Thomas wrote his poetry in an old shed near the estuary.)That early daffodils bloomed at the water’s edge and sunshine filtered through the canopy, could have had something to do with it…
Yes, Labyrinth is very pleasing… your connection to it makes it more so! 🙂
Hi Joy, it is true there are a great number of English words to chose from. I try not to use uncommon words that most people would not know. Thanks for a lovely post.
Your post reminded me of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s words… “Words: so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”
Hi, Joy. Last night at a restaurant I saw a painting on one of the walls. The title of the painting is Pugnacious. That’s a word I hadn’t seen or thought about in ages. My wife and I weren’t sure what it means, so we looked it up. Its definition more or less is: quick to argue and/or fight.
I’m glad those in the know are relaxing their red pens on words we all use on a day-to-day basis. After all, isn’t the whole idea behind writing to connect with readers? Just saying… 🙂
What a wonderful post! And thank you for the shout out. I wonder if I can write a poem about pulchritude . . .
So interesting, Joy! Language and the rules we follow certainly have changed a lot just in our lifetimes!
She said I had a bad attitude
And couldn’t believe I’d be so rude.
My mistake was, sad to say
To call her, as we lay in the hay
The epitome of female pulcritude.
Tee hee. Oh I do like that one…Tangental. Thank you.
Thank you to everyone who read and replied. *The usual Leave a Reply sections wouldn’t behave!
What a fun post joy. And you’re right some words don’t always make the cut as replacements. But we surely are gifted with so many words to choose from. ❤
Those three words make a huge difference in life, Joy. “And” is important, your “if” and “but” are equally significant in our thinking, saying, and writing. ❤
Hi Joy! This post reminds me of a part of the film, “Letters To Juliet”, where the MC, who answered a love letter as Juliet, ponders the power of the words “what” and “if”, when placed together. Thank you for the great post!
Those little words can open many different pathways or ideas. Language is powerful. Thank goodness for writers, they bring all those words to life!
Again…no access to use individual comment areas, so thank you all for your kind comments. Cheers! xx
Words are a wonderful thing and being able to put them together in a way that makes people want to read them, is no mean feat.
Thanks for reading and commenting, Darlene. They are indeed! xx
Words we have such a bounty of them…so many different ways to use the same word sometimes which can be both confusing and delightful :)Happy Birthday, Joy I hope you have a wonderful day 🙂 x
Hi Carol, Thank you kjndly m’am. Me? an ‘octo’ – it’s a lie…Off for a family luncheon. Hugs xx
I have never contemplated, “and, if, or but,” Joy, but they are essential and powerful words, aren’t they? I think “and” is one of my most frequently used words when I write. A fun post. Happy Writing!
I am definitely an if and but person. My poor husband – too many options. I’ve been reading T.S. Eliot, and his vocabulary is way beyond me. I’m sure that pulchritude was one of his favorites. I love the way Geoff used it, don’t you? One of my husband’s compliments was that he’d never met a woman so well-maintained or who cleaned her plate when she went out on a date. AND I still married him! LOL
Good hearing from you, Marsha. That made me smile…How many years have you clocked up? Marriage-wise.? Can ‘t believe we’ve survived 69…
I just read a post by Rebecca Cunningham, if you know her. She wrote about pronouns and the changes going on in the Spanish language. It’s interesting how language morphs even over our SHORT lifetimes! Pundits have less to say than they used to because language is taught differently and there are so many second language learners all over the world. Not only that, so many people without degrees in English have taken up writing, self-publishing and blogging, we (and I include myself in that bunch) don’t necessarily know all the rules and write what we like.
Some rules are made to be broken, eh! I’m far from perfect…x
If only is not really in my vocabulary as I don’t like to think of having regrets. Some words and phrases in English are odd, and some are ever changing. Isn’t that the beauty of language?
Good for you…Sadly, sometimes ‘if only’ happens whether we like it or not!! Best wishes.
This was an insightful read! I haven’t really thought of these words in this perspective. Growing up, I often hear the phrase, “No Ifs, Ands, or Buts!” being thrown around 🤣