Actually, several factors are at fault. Lately, I’ve been feeling like my writing is very bland and uninteresting. I don’t think that my boring and limited word choice is the main reason my writing strikes me as uninspired, and colorful metaphors would probably spice it up better than big words. Still, learning the meaning of “crepuscular” (are you sure that’s not a disfiguring disease?) did remind me that my vocabulary, especially the list of words that I use on a regular basis, has shrunk more than it’s grown in the last decade. So I was glancing over a word-of-the-day archive in an effort to redress this.
From there my chain of thought went like this:
Wow, some of these words are so obscure that they don’t even sound like real words. I couldn’t use these in narrative without sounding stilted.
Most of those samples of “using this word in a sentence” aren’t very interesting. “Use this in a story” would be more entertaining.
Remember how haikujaguar started all the The Aphorisims of Kherishdar stories with the definition of a word from Kherishdar? Wouldn’t it be funny to do that with English?
And then Bard encouraged me. So it’s his fault, really.
“Walter, you can’t name your new cat Acedia.” Michelle rolled her eyes as she pulled the car into the driveway.
“Why not? It’s a pretty word.” Walter got out of the passenger seat and walked around to the back to wait for Michelle to pop the trunk.
“Do you even know what that word means?” Michelle opened the trunk and fished out the new litter box and bag of litter while Walter retrieved a bag full of canned cat food, gerbil bedding, and food pellets.
“As a matter of fact, I do. But I don’t see what difference that makes. It’s not like anyone else will know. It sounds like a flower or something. Azalea, Aster, Acedia.” Walter shifted the bag to one hand to unlock the house door.
“Hah. Why don’t you just name her Azalea, then?”
“Because I like Acedia better. Besides, you haven’t met her yet.”
“Whatever. You’re the one crazy enough to get a cat when you’ve already got gerbils. I’m sure that will work out great, too.”
“Acedia doesn’t have any problem with the gerbils.” Walter held the door open for Michelle, and she stepped inside.
“It’s not Acedia I’d be worried about. Where do you want this?”
“In the bathroom. Acedia’s probably on the living room sofa. I’m gonna check on the gerbils.” Walter went upstairs to the bedroom.
Michelle put the kitty litter in the bathroom and peeked into the living room. A large, fluffy tortoiseshell cat sprawled across the center cushion of the couch. “Aww, who’s a pretty kitty?” The cat regarded Michelle with great equanimity as the woman approached. When Michelle extended a hand to her, the cat regarded her fingers with similar equanimity. “You are! Yes you are!” The pretty kitty deigned to lift her head a fraction of an inch in order to sniff Michelle’s fingertips. The animal did not object when Michelle sat down next to her and started petting her.
Walter came into the room carrying a round ball of clear plastic with airholes and a securely-fastened lid. A gerbil sniffed at Walter’s fingers from the inside. “Here, watch this.”
“Walter! You can’t mean to – that’s just cruel!” Michelle protested as Walter set the ball on the floor. The gerbil ran forwards, sending the ball rolling towards the coffee table. “The cat’ll give it a heartattack!”
Walter snickered. “Robespierre’ll be fine. Watch.”
From her perch on the sofa, the cat watched the gerbil ball bump into a table leg before rolling underneath the coffee table. It bumped into the couch, rolled along the side, then tumbled away as Robespierre gamboled inside.
Acedia yawned hugely, and laid her head down on the sofa cushion with eyes half-lidded. Gerbil and gerbil ball roamed cheerily around the living room floor.
Michelle glanced between the two animals. “Okay. Maybe Acedia’s a good name for her after all.”
acedia: apathy; boredom. Originally used to indicate the mortal sin of sloth.