For the Love of Words

Love Them, They Will in Turn be Good to You

By Annette Rey

I have been called a “word nazi” many times in my life. This stems from my obvious love of words and the respect I have for the English language. It shows every time I open my mouth.

It is not my manner to be offensive. It’s just that some people will take offense no matter what you say or do. I love the art of using the English language in the correct way. If you ever watched the television series Frasier, you know the brothers were meticulous in their usage of the English language. I enjoyed that program because I could relate with the respect the language was given. I remember one scene where Frasier was befriending a group of English people in an English pub. Eventually, they tired of his stuffy ways. He was surprised they began rejecting him, and didn’t know why. When trying to win them back, he claimed he even spelled color with a “u”. I had to laugh because I knew exactly what he was trying to convey – that he is intimately familiar with words. (I also prefer to spell color c-o-l-o-u-r as the British do.)

A good exercise to study words is to go to a UK website and read just a few paragraphs. You will find a difference between US and UK word usage and spelling of a lot of words. In the UK the hood of a car is called a bonnet, an umbrella is a brolly, the human backside is a bum.

The progeny of our forefathers were rebels and created their own language. Then again, the square miles of the US is so large, dialects were a natural consequence of the space between people groups. Specific cultures developed based upon geography and settlement of the diverse areas. So language grew in diverse ways, as well. In New York, the ba’les are bru’al – it’s a verbal shorthand, they drop the t’s in words (battles are brutal).

Do you remember what General Patton said when addressing the English people? “We are a common people separated by a common language.” That is not an exaggeration. And residents of this country from one area can have trouble understanding another person from a different area, though they are both speaking what passes for English.

So communication could enable all to understand one another, rules of writing words had to be established. We need to respect those rules and learn them.

Between us writers, correction should be something for which we strive (I’m still trying to end a sentence with the looser style – to strive for.) I guess resistance to that is the word nazi in me talking.

I ask myself, “Is being a stickler on a subject all bad?” I don’t think so. Do you want to perfect your craft, whatever it is? Do you want to produce a lesser product by not trying as hard as you could? My motto is “Strive for Perfection”. Why wouldn’t you want to do that?

In that pursuit, books are important. They are tangible. The books I pull from my shelves to stack around me are dependent on the subject matter I am writing at the time: fiction guides for fiction writing, social media manuals for translating that mystery, word origins and usage books when I am focusing on particular words, thesauri for word reminders, forensics books for crime writing…you get the idea.

What would we do without words? We would be communicating in sounds. But, we have translated sounds into words, haven’t we? A, e, I, o, u are sounds, right? As we built words around these sounds, the language became more and more complex. Don’t we owe it to ourselves and our readers to be as precise as possible when using those words?

Words fill books. Get to know them, intimately. Make them your friends.

Love words and one day you may be called a “word nazi”, a term I consider to be a compliment.

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