The fine art of milking a phrase

My wife has a WORD OF THE DAY calender that is driving her bonkers.

The deal is the calender is SUPPOSED to have a cool mysterious rarely-used word EVERY DAY.

Only everyday my wife flips the calender and reads something like this.

IRREVERENT.

STINT.

CASTE.

DOLEFUL.

IMPROMPTU.

(these are just the last five days that I fished out of my wife’s garbage tin – SEE what lengths I go to in order to provide you folks with new blog-reading material?)

I ought to get a medal.

🙂

Well – today I stumbled across a word that REALLY ought to be on somebody’s WORD OF THE DAY calender.

I discovered “Typochondriac”.

Typochondriac DefinitionAll right – so I do realize that this isn’t exactly a word.

It’s just a term that somebody made up for the sake of a giggle.

Well, guess what?

ALL of our words in the English language – when you get right down to it – are something that somebody made up for the sake of a giggle.

🙂

I do it all of the time.

It drives my editors absolutely crazy.

I am addicted to the invention of brand-new words and new ways of using a word.

Let’s say Ketchup. That’s a word, isn’t it? It’s a good solid noun.

Only sometimes I’ll write “Hank ketchupped his french fries.” – using ketchup as a verb – and mangling the spelling while I am at it.

Which drives my editor absolutely batshit crazy.

Or I might use it as an adjective – the potato chips had a really strong ketchupish flavour.

That isn’t the proper use of the word “ketchup” – but sometimes a fellow has to resort to gimcrack improvisation.

Gimcrack.

Now there’s a word you don’t run into every day.

Think Rube Goldberg.

Now there was a man who excelled at chronic gimcrackery.

Rube GoldbergAnother good example is Dylan Thomas.

Dylan Thomas excelled in the art of what the Welsh call “cerdd dafod” – or tongue craft. Dylan himself often referred to it as the art of “milk tongue” and you can find no better an example of it than in Dylan Thomas’s wonderful play “Under Milk Wood”.

Milk tongue is the fine art of tinkering with the human language – playing with words and meanings and yes, even tongue-twisters to create phrases and paragraphs and poems and chapters and long rambling tangles of words that beg to be sung and shouted and read aloud.

I have always been a great believer in the judicious application of milk tongue.

A writer needs to learn how to play with their words. How to twist their meanings and jam them together into fat and juicy word-sandwiches. A writer needs to never be afraid to take a word that almost fits and beat on it some until it fits a little better and then just throw it with a drunkard’s abandon against the flow of the story, hard enough to stick.

Remember when your mother used to tell you not to play with your food?

Well play with your words, instead.

That’ll give you something to chew on.

typochondriacyours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

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One response to “The fine art of milking a phrase

  1. Hence why the term ‘Wordsmith’ is so apt.

    I bet at least three of the words I just typed will be in your wife’s calendar 😀

    Like

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