I love words.
I fucking love words.
Isn’t it wonderful how the two sentences above mean exactly the same thing but feel so different? It’s all thanks to one word. Just the addition of one little word can make a sentence feel different, it can tell us something about the writer and change our entire perspective. It’s a bit like magic, isn’t it? By adding the word ‘fucking’ to my love of words, I’ve increased the boldness, maybe added a little shock and told you I’m not afraid of using words some people might find offensive or distasteful. That’s a lot of information crammed into seven letters.
Here’s some examples of more words that change meaning:
Murder vs. Slaughter
I love the word slaughter. I think it’s so evocative and tells us something more specific about the death in question. Murder is almost mundane, it’s the tame sibling of slaughter. Murder is broad and sweeping, less perverse and savage. To me, slaughter evokes images of a killing floor, a sociopathic, willful and gruesome act. It adds to the gravity of the death and makes it something more than it would be if it was simply murder.
Making Love vs. Having Sex vs. Fucking
This is an exciting trio because each choice can say so much about the individual. If you have two people and one refers to sex as making love, while the other calls it fucking, you immediately learn about both personalities and even the status of the relationship. The dynamic possibilities are so rich despite the brevity of the terms.
Dirt vs. Earth
Earth is epic. It’s vast, elemental and evocative. Dirt is small, local and simple.
“I can’t” vs. “I can not”
Words can also make a massive difference when it comes to dialogue. The difference between an abbreviation and two separate words can tell us so many things about the speaker. Perhaps it’s education or social status, maybe it’s time period or situation. The choices we make for our character’s speech patterns can vastly restructure their personalities based on the smallest tweaks.
I fucking love words. They are so important that just one (or the lack of one) can change the entire meaning of a story.
Tell me how you feel about words.
What are your favorites?
How do you use words to change meaning and character?