The Write Way
20 February 2009
Thank you to everyone who sent expressions of concern after last week's newsletter. We all appreciate your thoughts. It's amazing how quickly news can spread via the Internet ... None of us need ever feel alone again.
I've received more photos of the koalas that have been affected by the extreme heat and fires ... you can see them here. And click on the link to last week's newsletter to see a photo of Amelia (another koala injured in the fires but being helped by the wonderful people at the Healesville Sanctuary) here.
We all do it ... and I bet you're no different. We have a "special" voice we use at various times.
I know when I'm doing this ... now. But I wasn't always aware of putting on a special voice until my kids pointed it out to me many years ago. I'd be on the phone, talking to a business person or an acquaintance and when I ended the call, they'd comment, "You've been using your posh voice again."
"Don't be silly," I'd protest, "I speak the same to everyone."
But not it seems, when on the phone, because after several months of this, I started to listen to myself and I really did talk differently. And it wasn't just the intonation that changed, but the whole kit and caboodle.
In fact, we seem to use a different vocabulary, different sentence structure and different modulation when putting on a posh voice.
Don't believe me, eh? Then allow me to illustrate ...
If old mates phone, you'll probably be relaxed and happy to hear from them, so you'll say something along the lines of, "G'day! Are you coming round? I'll put the kettle on and see you soon. Or would you rather a cold beer?"
But if it's someone out of that intimate circle, look at the difference: "Hello? Yes, we'll be at home then and would love to see you if you're able to call in and visit at that time. Please, stay and have a cup of tea with us, or if you'd prefer a cold drink, we can arrange that, too."
Some people put on a posh phone voice whenever they answer the phone, and I suppose there's some logic in that. You don't want to sound impolite, so you go to the other extreme and do your Best Secretary impersonation and find yourself using expressions such as: "May I ask who's calling? ... Please hold the line and I'll see if she/he's available ... Yes, I'm sure that would be convenient, but I'll have to check our diary ... "
Having given this considerable thought over the years, I've come to the conclusion that's there's nothing wrong with changing your voice like this, in fact, we do it all the time ... changing the way we speak and act to fit with the different groups in our social spheres. You're a totally different person when you're with your mates than when you're with your kids' teachers or with your grandparents or your boss. It's natural for humans to want to fit in and be accepted and that's why we adapt and adjust our behaviour and language to suit the many different social situations we find ourselves in.
And what's more, we're not the only ones to do this!
"A special August issue of the Journal of Comparative Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association, presents a host of studies that investigate the way that animals adapt their calls, chirps, barks and whistles to their social situation ... Male gray tree frogs (Hyla versicolor) give out longer but fewer calls in reaction to the calls of other males. In other words, when these frogs are chorusing full blast, a male seeking female attention will change the rhythm of his call to break out of the chorus." (Source)
There is actually an entire branch of sociology devoted to how and why we (and other living critters) change our language to fit in with different social situations - it's called sociolinguistics, Here's what Walt Wolfram from the Linguistic Society of America says about it: "Language is one of the most powerful emblems of social behavior. In the normal transfer of information through language, we use language to send vital social messages about who we are, where we come from, and who we associate with. It is often shocking to realize how extensively we may judge a person's background, character, and intentions based simply upon the person's language, dialect, or, in some instances, even the choice of a single word." (Source)
So don't worry about using your phone voice ... everyone does it, it's just that some are more acidulous about it than others!
Well, yes, I see what you mean.
You might wish to make some acidulous comments to those telemarketers who ring just as you're about to sit down to dinner, but if you're "constant in application or effort; working diligently at a task; persevering; industrious; attentive," then you're assiduous. This word comes from the Latin assidēre 'to sit near, beside, dwell close to.'
Acidulous, meaning 'slightly sour in taste, manner, or tone' comes from the Latin acere meaning 'to be sour,' which is related to acer 'to be sharp.'
OK ... glad we've got that sorted.
This week's quiz:
And some writing-related light bulb stories:
Q: How many cover blurb writers
does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Q: How many mystery
writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Two. One to screw it almost all the way in, and the other to give it a surprising twist at the end
And finally ...
Q: How many screenwriters does it take to change a light bulb?
1st draft. Hero changes light
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An Ape that wants to play Hamlet after being type-cast as King Kong, a talking anvil and ... Dr Morgenes is still caught in the nightmare that is the casting couch. Help him find a plot! Just click on the Comments button at the end of the entry to add your contribution. If you have friends who fancy themselves as writers, invite them to contribute (just forward this newsletter in its entirety to them).
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Last week's quiz:
magnanimous, perceptive, gregarious, impeccable, empathetic, extraordinary, courageous, articulate, compassionate, charismatic
1. without fault or error; not capable of sin - IMPECCABLE
2. noble and generous in spirit; generous and understanding and tolerant - MAGNANIMOUS
3. expressing yourself easily or characterised by clear expressive language - ARTICULATE
4. far more than usual or expected; beyond what is ordinary or usual; highly unusual or exceptional or remarkable - EXTRAORDINARY
5. showing recognition of unusually distressful circumstances - COMPASSIONATE
6. having the ability to perceive or understand; keen in discernment - PERCEPTIVE
7. possessing an extraordinary ability to attract - CHARISMATIC
8. possessing or displaying bravery; able to face and deal with danger or fear without flinching - COURAGEOUS
9. seeking and enjoying the company of others - GREGARIOUS
10. showing ready comprehension of others' states - EMPATHETIC
And this next story brings together all the things we've looked at today ... frogs, writing, voices ..."The sun oozed over the horizon, shoved aside darkness, crept along the greensward, and, with sickly fingers, pushed through the castle window, revealing the pillaged princess, hand at throat, crown asunder, gaping in frenzied horror at the sated, sodden amphibian lying beside her, disbelieving the magnitude of the frog's deception, screaming madly, "You lied!"
And of course you'd have recognised one of the winning entries in the Bulwer-Lytton contest for the worst opening lines for a novel. Here's another:
"With a curvaceous figure that Venus would have envied, a tanned unblemished oval face framed with lustrous thick brown hair, deep azure-blue eyes fringed with long black lashes, perfect teeth that vied for competition, and a small straight nose, Marilee had a beauty that defied description."
Read more here.
A Little Something Extra
You can't say that I don't do my best to expand your horizons ... Here's everything you ever wanted to know about our amphibious cousins:
Where better to start than Frog World? Here ... The name says it all.
The Amphibian Research Centre has information on Australia's frogs and other amphibians here
If you're in the US, take part in Frog Watch here
Word of the
week: nubilous (adj) This great little word means cloudy,
misty, or foggy; vague or obscure. It comes from a Latin word (and you're
surprised because?)nubilosus means 'cloudy' from nubes
meaning 'cloud' (duh).
There are a number of versions of this, and who wouldn't want to lay claim to such a pithy comment? This one is from Dr Mardy Grothe's book, Oxymoronica.
And a Latin phrase for when you feel you're never going to get anywhere ...
Ad astra per alia porci
[AD AS-trah PER AH-lee-ah POHR-kee]
(To the stars on the wings of a pig)
Did you know that you can have your very own Latin reminders? How about undies proclaiming, Bene est rex esse? (It's good to be king) Or a shopping bag that warns, Emptrix nata sum (Born to shop)?
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Copyright Jennifer Stewart 2009
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Copyright 2009 Jennifer Stewart Write101.com