April 02, 2019

TMST: How Do You Feel about Authors Throwing Big, Obscure Words into Their Books?

Tell Me Something Tuesday is a weekly discussion post on Rainy Day Ramblings, where the blog's owner Heidi discusses a wide range of topics from books to blogging. Weigh in and join the conversation by adding your thoughts in the comments. If you want to do your own post, grab the question and answer it on your blog.
Here is what is on deck this week:

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT AUTHORS THROWING BIG, OBSCURE WORDS INTO THEIR BOOKS?

I suppose I'm in the minority here, but I actually like them! I don't mean fancy talk, the kind you would find in an old book, or flowery language. But I get excited when a book I'm reading provides the random unusual word I have to look into a dictionary to unlock. Maybe it's because English is an acquired language for me, so I love to learn new words - even if I rarely remember them when I set to write a post or a tweet 😅. Or maybe it's more because I revel in the endless possibilities that English language [and my own as well, of course] offers, and I love it when writing gets spiced up and leans a bit towards the unconventional side. There are so many wonderful, neglected words out there - why don't use them for a change?


Well, that's it for now. And if you're interested in participating, here is the TMST prompt list for the rest of April:
  • April 9th: What are some of your favorite series you would like to see revisited or a spin off of?
  • April 16th: Where do you get your review books? 
  • April 23rd: Do you like getting unsolicited books in the mail?
  • April 30th: Waiting on Wednesday: do you participate? Do you read the books you highlight?
I'll be back for the meme on May 7th, answering the question: Why do you like to read book reviews? But I will lurk around for your answers to the other questions above, and maybe even comment haha - so do your homework! 😉

Now tell me something...how do you feel about big, obscure words in a book? when is "big" too big?

19 comments:

  1. I probably won't get the chance to post for this one, but I don't mind large words that feel like they fit, but I hate them when they don't. For example, when a random teenager in a book who isn't the most intelligent starts thinking in SAT words? Rage. When the entire book is written in relatively basic language and then a few big words are sprinkled in? Nope. Now, if an author tends to write long, thought-provoking sentences, and then uses some big words here and there I feel like it is part of their vocabulary and not something they decided to pick out randomly from a thesaurus, haha.
    Jeez, maybe I should just copy and paste this comment as a post ;)

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    1. LOL, I give you permission! 😉

      Quote: "when a random teenager in a book who isn't the most intelligent starts thinking in SAT words? Rage."
      You made a great point. Maybe as adults we sometimes don't notice that (at least when the random teenager IS intelligent/cultured), but sometimes it's just too jarring not to. I mean, I can appreciate some "thesaurus talking" in the character's stream of consciousness, but in dialogue it's out of place.

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    2. Exactly - I am fine if they think in a slightly more advanced way than they speak, but it can be jarring otherwise. It seems to be a bit of a trend in YA over the past several years (a la John Green), having these super savvy teens using big words and knowing all of this "vintage" culture - I'm rather tired of it in general. I sort of lump it all into one thing, I guess.

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    3. Quote: "super savvy teens using big words and knowing all of this "vintage" culture".
      LOL. I remember watching a few Everwood episodes back in the day and thinking the same thing about the main characters - they could get so philosophical...and of course, they didn't sound like teens AT ALL. It happens in books sometimes (well, maybe often). And good point about the "vintage culture" too. I mean, I do hope that teens' knowledge of the world isn't limited to the few things that happened yesterday...but sometimes it's all too clear that authors are using their characters as a vehicle for their own thoughts/interests/memories. Of course we wouldn't want dumb/flat protagonists, but I say, keep it real!

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  2. It is nice to read a differing opinion. I am all for learning new vocabulary words when they fit the story. Thanks for your input!

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    1. Of course they have to fit, and they should be used sparingly in dialogue, because not only teens, but even adults rarely (if ever) use big words when a simpler one with the same meaning would suffice. But I like a few non-average words in the overall prose structure (or in the character's stream of consciousness) 🙂.

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  3. *high five* I like it too. I don't want the book to be overly full of weighty words, but I love learning some new lingo every now and then. AND, because I read on my kindle, I can look the word up right then and there. And I agree, it's nice to avoid over using a word by using a less popular word in its place.

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    1. I don't think I'd enjoy a whole book full of big words, but when a language gives you so many options, why not make good use of them? Why not use, for instance "quip" instead of your average "say" when a character replies to another? In YA, it would be a good way to expand teens' vocabulary too.

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  4. Wait, English is not your first language? I don't think I knew that. I don't mind big words as long as they fit the book and the characters! However, if I was having to look up a new word on every page, I'd get frustrated cuz I wouldn't be able to sink into the book.

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    1. Have you never come across the word "Italian" in my bio? LOL, I'm flattered though. It means that I can pretend nicely 😂.

      A new word on every page is a no-no of course. As is inflated dialogue. Just the right amount of unusual 😉.

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  5. GOOD MORNING ROBERTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA I HAVE COME BACK TO HAUNT YOU ON YOUR BLOG.

    Okay, now that the greeting is over with (muahahaha), we can now talk about big and obsure words in books! Personally it depends for me. If they're just doing it for the hell of it and it doesn't make sense whatsoever, I'm not too big of a fan. Now if the character enjoys using big and obscure words... well, that's another story entirely. This is mainly because while I ENJOY learning the meanings of words, I don't feel I'll actually use them, since the vast majority of people that I observe DON'T use big words. Plus from a marketing perspective and writing perspective, well, the average reading level is quite low (I think it's 5th grade in the US) and if we're throwing big words, it's not the right audience.

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    1. Quote: "the average reading level is quite low (I think it's 5th grade in the US) and if we're throwing big words, it's not the right audience."
      For real?!? However...I see your point...but I also think that, if we never try to spice up things, they will never change. Plus readers will end up getting talked down to, and books will become more shallow. I'm not advocating the use of big words with the purpose of sounding clever or unique at all cost - but there should probably be a happy medium.

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    2. I shit you not, Roberta. This was a few years ago so it might have changed and gone up over the years? But also at the same time, I can see why they don't use big words to make it easier and more accessible for those who speak English as a second language. I can definitely see your point though - spicing things up is good and it's a nice change from the norm, but I also agree there should be a happy medium as you put it. That's hard to strike the balance, though, but hey, trying never hurts and with more internet access available, most people can learn a new word or two.

      GOOD MORNING ROBERTA AND HAPPIEST OF FRIDAYS TO YOU. Hopefully you're not working too hard, but not being a slacker either. ;)

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    3. Awww 😘.

      Hehe, I am already on a hiatus! Except no one can see it 😉.

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  6. As almost everyone has said, I like/don't mind it, as long as it's not so frequent that I have to keep stopping to look up words.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. LOL, that would get in the way just a little...😉

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  7. I think I'm so used to thinking big words meaning long words, that four-letter or less aren't big words to me because that is now I learn, you know, you small with short words and move on to the long ones & also, big words are words I can't pronounce

    obscure, now that depends because any words that are new to me are kind of obscure but I wouldn't know it because I'm don't know that word, how would I know if it's obscure?

    I've been reading a lot of classics so there are words that are just oddly spelled and they might considered obscured because people don't spell them the same way anymore.

    I honestly do not mind any words because without them, where would we be? but I must admit, I do sometimes ignore words I don't know just because I don't want to stop reading just to look them up but I do look them up if I think I need to know the meaning of.

    have a lovely day.

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    1. I assume big words are, indeed, long words - usually. And you have a point about classics. But there are words that haven't actually gone out of fashion or changed their spelling - they simply get ignored in favour of simpler, more common alternatives. Those are the words that I love to read and learn the meaning of, because they spice up my reading experience. Though I understand that one doesn't always feel like stopping reading to look them up. Sometimes I understand their meaning from the context in which they're used, but it might not be their exact meaning. (I'm talking about English words here, English being an acquired language for me).

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