Does that word really mean what I think it does?

One of the interesting things I’ve noticed as I’ve started this journey towards becoming a published writer is that I’m much more self-conscious about certain things.  Like word choice.

As I mentioned before, I read.  A lot.  And I’ve picked up a wide vocabulary as a result; but I’m also a lazy reader, so I rarely bother to actually look up a word in a dictionary – I just infer the meaning from the surrounding text and context. (Unless that’s almost impossible or the word is so bizarre that I really feel compelled to look it up.  I’m talking to you China Mieville.  I don’t remember the word anymore, but it was something to do with the study of squid or kraken or what have you.)

Now, as a writer, those same words will pop into my head as I’m writing (not the squid word, btw) and I’ll go to use them and then suddenly hesitate.  Does thicket really mean what I think it means?  Can I use it here?  Or is someone who really knows what it means going to read this passage some day and think “what a complete frickin’ idiot this author is” like I may have done once or twice in my own reading career?

And what’s bizarre is that I doubt myself on some of the weirdest words.  Thicket is a real-life example.  It’s not that fancy a word, but when I wanted to use it I really did have to look it up and spend a few minutes pondering whether the definitions I found (thank you Internet) sufficed for what I was trying to say.  Other words that I’ve looked up so far: patois, approbation, galley, and lintel.  (That last one should not be confused with lentils.  See how easy it is to have one of those “what an idiot that author is” moments occur?)

Now, some of those words (like patois, which is currently in the first chapter) will probably die long before publication.  Really, it seems a little affected to use it, doesn’t it?  Approbation probably will, too.  There are simpler ways of saying things and I think that’s often the better approach to take.  But sometimes a word fits, like galley, and you just want to make sure it really is the kitchen on a ship. (I just went and double-checked that again, because I am that anal and self-doubting at times).

Anyway, just a little new writer angst that I’ll probably forget I ever had by the time I’m actually published.  Thought I’d share since this I actually can talk to with some sort of expertise.

And just for kicks – links to the definitions: patois, approbation, thicket, lintel

More links to people who actually know what they’re talking about tomorrow.  I just have to dole them out slowly.  I only have so many you know.

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
This entry was posted in Writing - General Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Does that word really mean what I think it does?

  1. I’m laughing that you looked up “thicket,” because the other day, I found myself looking up the word “bracken” for the same reason. Did it really mean what I thought it did? And of course, it meant exactly what I thought it meant. So I slapped myself on the forehead and continued on–trying to ignore my writer angst. I’m so right there with you. 🙂 I just started a blog about some of the fun/quirky things I’ve found while doing research for my novel, which takes place in 1916. Stop by if you are interested. Thanks for writing!

  2. mhleewriter says:

    Susan – so glad to hear I’m not alone! Will definitely drop by to read your blog. I admire you for choosing to write in a real historical time period. To me that’s much more challenging than alternate world fantasy or sci-fi.

Comments are closed.