Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Vanishing Words

Those who follow me on Facebook know I'm currently reading through my collection of Georgette Heyer's novels. After finishing eight of them, I've reached certain conclusions. First, I miss the leisurely development of the story in modern romances. By modern, I mean the last fifteen years. Prior to that, most novels had a thorough development of the story--that meant not only a longer book, but a cast of characters the reader was invested in. In the current book I'm reading (Black Sheep), the entire cast of characters wasn't even introduced until Chapter Six. Contrast that with modern novels where the hero/heroines are already in bed with each other!

Second, I'm totally enjoying reading a book that doesn't dumb down to the reader. Over the years, so many women (in particular) have recalled reading their first Georgette Heyer book when they were in their early teens. Yet, there are many instances where both vocabulary and descriptions might be totally incomprehensible to the average young adult today. The point is...if you don't understand, then there is an opportunity to stretch your knowledge by looking it up. Do readers still do that?

Finally, I've been struck over and over by how many words we no longer use in our everyday vocabulary. I'm not referring to words like balderdash or lollygagging, but words like cross, dawdling, daresay, venture, and fritter. Everyday words. It seems to me our vocabularies are steadily dwindling as we strive to write for everyman or everywoman. Instead of tossing in the occasional unfamiliar word or phrase, we go out of our way to simplify it as much as possible. No wonder the modern romances are less and less satisfying. There's nothing that requires thought. I submit that just as we wouldn't want a diet of baby food, neither should we seek reading material that doesn't challenge us with new ideas, new vocabulary, and introduces us to the unfamiliar. How are we to stretch our vocabularies and our minds if we only read what we already know?


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