Category Archives: Language

The Return of the Wandering Wordsmith

An editor's work is never done...

An editor’s work is never done…

If it were not for the seedy and sinister connotations that now come to mind when reminded of Gary Glitter, I would open this blog with a hearty rendition of “Hello! Hello! It’s good to be back, it’s good to be back!”. It has been far too long since I last wrote anything more exciting than a ‘Configuration Management Plan’. Don’t bother asking what one of those is because you will have yawned and lost the will to live before you get to the end of the first explanatory sentence. The point is… I AM back, writing stuff that interests me (if no-one else).  The enthusiasm and excitement I felt when I first plucked up the courage and confidence to articulate my random musings publicly (see “Baby Steps”) has returned with full gusto – huzzah!

In all honesty it never really went away but I have been somewhat distracted by a miscellany of real world stuff. Like starting a new job last February which, although was no more demanding of my time than my previous job, was a lot more demanding of my brain. For the first time in ages I was (and indeed I still am) enjoying the chance to think, use my initiative and interact with intelligent and committed people. Great news, but this leaves me pretty much exhausted and less than keen to spend any more time in front of a computer screen after the 8 or 9 hours in the office each day. However, I have not been entirely idle on the literary front, having spent the summer proof-reading and editing my friend Mike’s[i] second novel (coming soon to a large online bookshop near you). My editing speed is almost but not quite, as slow as my writing, so I am now going to take this opportunity to publicly apologise to the lovely Mr Holley…sorry mate. Hopefully I have made up for my tardiness by handing your baby back in a sleeker, sharper and  shinier condition.

Editing is fun if you are a slightly sad, anally retentive wordsmith like me. I do like WORDS and working out ways of stringing them together in a way that best suits the message being conveyed. That’s why I enjoy writing, even (heaven help me) rather boring technical documents for the day job. I find it deeply satisfying to re-shape a sentence to make it snappier, wittier or more accurate. Bizarrely,  I actually enjoying dotting the “i”s and crossing the “t”s and I like to tie up loose ends. So if you need someone to spot the plot holes, character discrepancies and timeline errors then I’m your gal. Just don’t ask me to do it quickly…

But now I am back to writing and I repeat, I am a slow writer. I mean really slow. Glaciers have carved fjords in the time it takes me to produce 500 words and I am in awe of those who knock out 3000 words a day as if it were the easiest thing in the world. The problem is not that I am uninspired or that I have writer’s block, on the contrary, I have a plethora of ideas and my inner voice never shuts up. I just spend too long trying out different ways of saying the same thing, agonizing over every word in an effort to articulate accurately what I am thinking and feeling. Sadly the inner voice which sounds so erudite, charming and witty in my head rarely survives the transfer to the written page, but hey-ho, I still enjoy trying 🙂 .

And whadyaknow? I’ve managed to churn out this brain dump (604 words and counting) in less than 3 hours, which is a Usain Bolt like performance for me. Something must be wrong and I’ll almost certainly re-read it again later and dismiss it as utter rubbish which needs completely re-writing… quick Trowers – publish and be damned!

P.S. Oops one week later and I’ve finally finished. Not a solid week working on it you understand, but a snatched 30 minutes here and there. Tinkering, polishing and looking for suitable images to use. Still, productivity is up on the last six months so I will publish my next post before I acquire too many more grey hairs I promise.


 

[i] Michael J Holley. His first novel “The Great Corporate Escape” is both funny and charming. And it was also edited by me.

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Mind your language

I am an infrequent but unashamed swearer, as anyone who has shared an office with me will testify (and you know who you are). I have very, very rarely sworn directly at someone. Most of my cursing is targeted at myself or an inanimate object.  However, I do confess to swearing about events or people that have pissed me off, on a fairly regular basis too.

I make no excuses for swearing because there are times when a good Anglo-Saxon expletive perfectly  articulates the strength of feeling I have about something.  In the heat of the moment describing someone as a wanker, fuckwit  or arsehole is a much more emotive and succinct way of putting it than “a self-obsessed, arrogant, unpleasant, rude and ignorant  person of limited sensitivity and intelligence and of no genetic value to the future improvement of the  human race”.  One word sums up the twenty six which would otherwise be required to get a half way decent picture of the object of my scorn and disapproval, and somehow it includes the passion which is missing from the more detailed description. I am generally slow to anger, so if I do resort to such a rude title then you know that I am genuinely upset by someone’s behaviour.

Swearing is much more powerful if done selectively  and the impact is lessened if over-used. People who intersperse every other word with  “fucking” or call everyone a wanker, tend to deserve the title themselves more often than not. And I cannot abide people who swear with abandon in front of, or worse still, at young children. Sadly on more than one occasion I have heard parents screaming at children, no more than four or five years old, to “fucking get over here” or “put that fucking thing down”. Appalling and inexcusable.

However I am equally annoyed by self-righteous, non-swearing people who pontificate and moralise about the slightest damn and blast. I have never, ever been offended by swearing on the television and have difficulty understanding why some people get into such a tizz about it. Swearing is a part of real life and as such I expect to hear it used appropriately in dramas and comedies. The bad guy with the gun wouldn’t be very scary or realistic if he used “gosh darn” instead of “motherfucking” just as Tamsin Greig’s 30 second outburst of profanity at the jobsworth security guard, in Episodes would not be so laugh out loud funny if she’d just said “flipping”.  We laugh because we feel her release weeks of pent up frustration and irritation – swearing is a fantastic pressure valve. And a lot less offensive than a smack in the face.

I do try to mind my language in front of my own son but I’m no angel and confess that I am guilty of muttering  the odd  “bollocks”, “shit” or “bloody” under my breath every now and again.  If my husband overhears, he will gently admonish me with a “…less of the casual swearing please Lian” and I will remember to be good for a while.

My language definitely did improve a little when I overheard my boy, just  six or seven years old at the time, becoming increasingly frustrated with a toy and saying to himself “…ggrrrr – the damn thing won’t work!”.  I loudly “ah-hem’d” and said “excuse me?” only for him to turn his big baby blues on me and reply very sweetly  “…it’s alright Mummy, it’s only casualty (sic) swearing and casualty swearing is for children”.  Oh dear.  As ever, it is out of the mouths of babes that we are enlightened. Mortified that he’d picked up my bad habit of cursing to myself and also his father’s usual chastisement, but highly amused that he’d misheard the expression and misinterpreted it. I was obviously not supposed to use “casualty” swearing because it was for children, not grown-ups.  Needless to say I enlightened him and the incident has become part of the family folklore now.

So there we have it. Confessions of an unrepentant potty mouth. You may argue that it’s unnecessary and indicative of a poor vocabulary. In which case I urge you to watch Stephen Fry on the Joys of Swearing …and to shut the *@!#  up.