Thursday, July 3, 2008

Free as a Caged Word

I understand the anxiety of trying to impress a person in conversation by means of an extensive vernacular. Oh how I understand. Sweaty palms, slacked jaw, numb mind. Saying a multi-syllable word with which you aren't familiar, then the gamble of questioning it out loud. Because of this stress in our lives, we have began (and by began I mean people have been doing this for centuries) to take the safe route to solve this problem by securing our words with the safety net of cliches.

Theory: If the word has been used before in a sentence, by a credible source, then at least I know that context is correct. Thus, a cliche is born.

Examples: "Sweating profusely*", "consummate a marriage", "defy gravity."

Sweating is not the only thing we do profusely. In fact, not even bleeding is enough of a breakaway. Profusely is something that is poured out, almost in excess. So, yes, I sweat profusely when I run more than half a mile, but I also apologize profusely to my roommate for running in her shirt.

Consummate: The poor word has been trapped by drunk twentysomethings in divorce court after a weekend in Vegas. "Have you consummated your marriage?" Such a beautiful word, pigeonholed by sex. I can't say I consummated my homework (meaning completed or made perfect) without some sort of unfortunate misunderstanding.

I defy anyone who may read this to find those words whose wings have been clipped by their own cliche, and imprisoned by their own idiom to free the words whose potential reaches far beyond divorce court and gym clothes.

*Thank you Blake Surratt


jonny said...

i would like to submit "ejaculate"
(see- ralph waldo emerson's harvard divinity school address)

Christian said...

I think vomit is in this category as well, although vomit mainly refers to ejecting contents of the stomach, it also refers to anything that is discharged in a similar manner, i.e. volcanoes, or the manner in which people exit a building.

Willard said...

awful...not only meaning bad but meaning solemnly impressive; inspiring awe: "the awful majesty of alpine peaks" full of awe; reverential.
flatulent: having unsupported pretensions; inflated and empty; pompous; turgid: "a flatulent style." still relates to gas BUT could be used to describe a person?

Jade said...

Maggie! I'll admit, I was "blog-surfing" and I found my way to your blog. I read a few of your entries and enjoyed them all, including the ones on flossing and dating - so true! haha