Posted in An Authors Thoughts

Banned Words? EEK!

wordsLately, it has become a trend to ban words. It doesn’t necessarily mean they offend anyone, just that someone out there has determined they don’t like a particular configuration of letters anymore. They believe that these words are over-used, overblown, or for no particular reason, the words fell out of favor with certain word mongers. I believe this is a deadly practice. I hate to see the death of a word. Any word.

The most popular banned word, of course–we all know which one that is–has led to banning the word that uses the same letters but doesn’t mean the same thing, and it’s a perfectly good word. Several weeks ago, I read that the word very is verboten. Before that, I read a thread on LinkedIn where the use of the word but should be avoided at all costs. This morning I read an editor is trying to stop her writers from using the word chuckle. As an author, always in search of the perfect word, I have to admit that I like the word but, a lot. I also like the word very, even though I don’t use it very often (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself), and I simply adore the word chuckle. I like the way it cracks out of my mouth.
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He chuckled. He snickered. He tittered. He giggled. He chortled. He sniggered. I know there are quite a few words that mean the same thing as chuckle, but if you have used all those words, perhaps that is the only word left to express the kind of laugh used by a character. I know I chuckle. I like chuckling very much. I have friends who chuckle. Members of my family chuckle. I chuckle into my hand. I turn my head and chuckle, and, sometimes, I’ve been known to chuckle when it wasn’t appropriate. Just nervous, I guess. But, I’ve been known to snigger, twitter, chortle, and giggle.

I hate trends. I especially hate trends where words are banned because someone has determined that a certain one has been used too often. Who are these people? Do they monitor the use with a counter? I’d really like to see that abacus. Who are the Theys who have so much power to ban simple, unoffensive words? If the author has used the word too often, then it’s appropriate to say, “Use another word, please.”

These word mongers are never upset about the over-use of curse words. The word f#!* doesn’t seem to bother anyone, either in print or on film. I don’t find a movement or a trend to ban that word, and, I often find it overblown and boring, even offensive. I’ve skipped over dialog and narratives that use it too much. I’ve been known to walk out on movies where the word is peppered throughout the dialog with a heavy hand. I avoid people who use it in casual conversations. And, I know I’m probably in the minority on this, but I hated Catcher in the Rye. So, shoot me. I didn’t find it entertaining. And it was stupid!
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I’ve seen characters in films using that word–you know which one I mean–as a noun, a verb, an adjective, and an adverb, all in the same sentence. There’s a scene in the Boondock Saints where a character uses that word in a stream that is truly hilarious. You can find it on YouTube, but I won’t put it on my site. You have to find it on your own, thank you very much. However, it’s the only use of that word that I ever found amusing, even though I didn’t find the film that entertaining, and the word was truly over-used by every character. Oh, yes. And in the film Die Hard, its use was funny. I did chuckle quite a bit, besides laughing heartily.

And what about that word beginning with an S? That one, too. It can become very annoying when it’s over-used. But, I suppose, if someone feels compelled to use the darned word they can. It used to be a free country, and we supposedly have freedom of speech. Maybe. With all the word banners out there, how free does that make us? It’s all very annoying, but we can stand up to those who wish to ban words and tell them, “No! We love words, all words, and we won’t stand for eliminating any. Stop the madness!”
Then chuckle, it’s just a very unassuming word ….

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Thrilling Mystery
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Author:

NOIRE MYSTERIES of Chéri Vausé - Chéri Vausé is the author of the noire mystery thriller, a genre that hearkens back to the great noire films of the forties and fifties, bursting with shadowy characters and murky motivations. Based on the Shadow Archetype defined by Carl Jung, Chéri Vausé swings on the Saurian Tale of her Villains, and routs the viper for a satisfying end. If you like psychological thrillers with a literary bent, there's no formulaic style here. The first in her Shadow series, The Night Shadow is the pick of Noveltunity.com. The series features the private investigators Esther Charlemagne and Aiden "Mac" McManus, former NYPD detectives. The stories are set in the moral upheaval of the sixties, the former generation of the PI's world rubbing against the loud and tumultuous times causing friction between those they chase and the heroes. The two PIs wade their way through the seemingly unsolvable cases set before them, and trying to make a new life for themselves after many personal tragedies. Chéri Vausé is a member of (SinC) Sisters in Crime, a professional writing organization for the crime writer. Her Shadow series will be seeing a new addition, picking up shortly after The Touch of a Shadow left off. Tentatively titled, Lady in the Shadows. It will explore the rise of the anarchist, and the KGB involvement in trying to overthrow the United States by influencing college students to take up arms against their country.

32 thoughts on “Banned Words? EEK!

    1. Thank you! When I first heard from an editor that she was hell bent on excising chuckle from our vocabularly, I chuckled at first, then, I scratched my head and decided I needed to tell everyone. Thanks, again for the nice words.

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  1. I remember a critique group meeting where I was informed that the word “was” is inherently passive and therefore bad. I actually changed a couple of paragraphs in the piece under attack, but trying to leave out “was” made for very circuitous, clumsy writing.
    Then there’s “that.” It can actually be left out or removed from many situations. For example: I knew that he was going to do that. It reads better as: I knew he was going to do that. The first instance of “that” is redundant, the second one not. When I’m editing, I keep an eye out for unnecessary “thats.”
    This is what makes writing and talking about writing so fascinating. No word should be banned, but all should be used with skill and judgment.

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    1. Excellent point. I believe there should not be hard rules placed on words or subjects. Why can’t we begin a book with the weather? It’s a banned subject by those infamous Theys. We can be creative with sweating or shivering to save our characters from the elements. What if the weather is a character? I think it’s just another form of snobbery. Yes, I believe in standards, but do we have to be so rigid we can’t stretch and move and run and skip? All those little gray cells in the brain would tighten up and we would become statues.

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  2. What a good post, he chuckled a lot. So many great comments and I do agree there are those that would set up a system to manufacture books off an assembly line. I do think many writers who are still learning the craft overuse unneeded words. But in the right place and in dialog one can make most anything fit well into a scene.

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  3. Good job!
    I’m not a fan of any of the expletives, and I’ve found that some people tolerate them — even recommend them — but forbid the use other other, more ordinary words like “very” and anything that might conceivably end with -ly. There are, in fact, some writers who insist that a writer isn’t sufficiently dedicated to the craft if the F-Bomb isn’t dropped here and there while all adverbs are deleted.

    That perspective reminds me of a reversed version of George Carlin’s “7 Words You Can’t Say on Television.”

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  4. Very good post. We’re going to reach a point where all books are written to a formula of pre-designated words and good literature will die. I won’t be chuckling then, very far from it. But, maybe someone will put their foot down and say enough is enough, words deserve a life too.
    Words are there to be used in whatever way an author decides to craft a tale and the readers will determine what’s worth reading. I’ll leave m,y fate in their hands for now.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

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    1. Banning words is the first link to banning books, even the dirty ones. Vigilance, my friends, because as humorous as I wish to be, this trend is troubling. I just heard they removed the last words Roosevelt spoke on the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on the WWII memorial in DC: ‘Yesterday, December 7, 1941–a date which will live in infamy–the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked. With confidence in our armed forces, with the abounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph.’ But, the final words were left off: ‘so help us God.’ If we can let a benign word like “very” or “but” or “chuckle” be casually removed from our discourse, where does it end? It ends with rewriting history, with removing everything from signs to books because someone is offended, with censoring public speech, newspapers, magazines, and eventually any books that don’t meet a prescribed criteria, and that includes practicing your faith. Even though there are movies and television shows I won’t watch, and books I won’t read, it’s still my choice. Freedom may offend, may even be a little dangerous, but I prefer that to gagging open discourse. Let’s all have a “chuckle,” “but” still be “very” vigilant. J’taime mes amies!

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    1. And she “chuckled,” “but” was reminded that even the Theys out there have a right to their opinion. Otherwise, that would be a “very” good start toward banning people. So, let’s not ban words, books, or people. Let’s celebrate the freedom to use words to express our love of life.

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  5. Just imagine if all of the ‘banned’ words magically vanished into the ether Cheri, it would make much loved books unreadable. Here’s an idea, instead of banning words why don’t we ban pedants and other assorted balm pots?
    Just a thought…
    😉

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  6. The thing I find most amusing about these purportedly “banned” words is that they are often the “lowest common denominator.” Take chuckle, for instance; while there’s probably a contingent out there that hasn’t heard “tittered,” “chortled,” or “guffawed,” I’m pretty sure almost everybody knows what a chuckle is. Most of the verbs and adjectives in your chart have similar issues; there may be other – even better – words to use in a given situation… but for understandability, the old standbys are sometimes the best option.
    Me, I love words. The larger and more obscure the better, in some cases. If I find one I didn’t already know, even if it becomes obvious from context, I go out and research the bugger. I’m crazy that way. But unfortunately there’s a sizable portion of the reading community that isn’t so industrious; even if they are, they may be feeling a little too tired or down to want to go drag out the thesaurus. So those “banned due to overusage” words come in pretty handy.
    Just my two cents. 😄 Entertaining article.

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  7. A word is only a sound pattern that has been given a certain connotion in our society. Don’t ban anything, but use your knowledge of what society will tolerate when you write. I have only used the “F” word once in my published writing and I felt it was necessary in the context. As for common words like “but” and “very” – just don’t overuse them. My overused word is “now,” but I definitely wouldn’t eliminate it entirely. And chuckle? The person who wanted to ban that must have some kind of psychological hang-up. Maybe they were scared of Chuckles the Clown!

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    1. A sound pattern is exactly what poets use, Lorinda. Authors who care about their prose should, too. The words should sing to us, have a definitive cadence, like marching soldiers in an action scene, or bombs being hurled helter skelter causing confusion and chaos. Love scenes should move to the beating heart or a soft breath or a frenetic desperate gasping. We should listen when we write, and, doggone it, if the word “but” is the perfect sound and word, then use it. Yes, authors of the world Unite Against Word Banning.

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  8. Brilliant. I feel as if these kinds of restrictions do nothing but kill creativity. What ever happened to picking words because they best tell the story–that’s what should determine word choice. If see, saw, go and went create the tone that you are going after then use them as much as feels right for the story or article. This in my opinion is much harder to pull off then simply avoiding words on some no-write list from a person either seeking attention or so unimaginative that they have to tell other authors what not to write.

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  9. I totally agree with that article. As long as a word isn’t overused, who are “They” to dictate otherwise. As for the word “Said”, my tutor on my writing course “Said” there’s nothing wrong woth it. Great article. Cheri. 😀

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    1. You’re in good company. James Ellroy claims that “said” is the only word to use. I disagree, but he has right to say whatever he wants. That said, (I just can’t help myself) I do use the word “said” frequently. It helps to make clear who is speaking when there are more than three characters in a scene. But, I also like respond, barked, screamed, muttered, etc. Words are beautiful things. And, they have power to hurt, to heal, to uplift, and to love. J’taime mes amies.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Excellent post! I was thoroughly entertained, and agree whole-heartedly with the sentiments. Plus, I’m totally with you – I adore the word ‘chuckle’. Admittedly I overuse the word ‘but’ and have nightmares about fellow writers beating me over the head with a giant ‘very!’ Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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