Monday, January 28, 2013

Our Rich American Language

When it comes to tool boxes we are blessed in the English language to have a huge vocabulary. Needless to say we have occasion to wonder if it’s enough. Of course it’s not adequate when describing esoteric incidents such as are mentioned in spiritual writings. There is no translating exactly what we saw if it was beyond understanding. I’m thinking of the most recent revelations in Dr. Eben Alexander in his book Proof of Heaven. His twenty-year-old son gave him excellent advice when, after his near death experience, he suggested his dad read nothing on the subject until he had written down everything he could remember. He did. The last 25% of the book is a bibliography of what he read after he wrote about his journey.

Putting that aside, we still have a sandbox full of possibilities, toys and tools far more flexible than other country’s languages. My feeling is it’s due to an English and American trait: quickly accepting and spreading the coined word(s), and, I’m a little ashamed to say we steal every word we want without any fear of retaliation. Our European and Asian counterparts are trying to hold onto the purity of their languages. (This didn’t work well for Latin, the “dead language,” but it made it easier to learn.)

In my recent publication from (to me) a new publisher, I use English and a sprinkle of Polynesian words that I received on a paper napkin. Annie, a very forthcoming Polynesian in the Cook Islands where they speak English gave me character names and words to enhance my story. It’s inadequate to describe the beauty and simplicity of Tahiti in my book, but with Annie's help, I can lend flavor to the story.

Our language, with its big, flexible and interchangeable wordbase is especially hard for others to learn, but makes a great reservoir for writers to dip their pens into. We are never at a loss for words.

Julie Eberhart Painter, is the Champagne Books author of Mortal Coil, Tangled Web, and the 2011 Book of the Year, Kill Fee. The sequel, Medium Rare released December 3, 2012. And, Daughters of the Sea, a paranormal is now available from http://www.MuseItUp

Visit Julie’s Web site at


Big Mike said...

Agree JP. I've often marveled at the diversity of our words. How, just to express the shades of the same concept you can use different words that convey such clear intent. Consider the word "walk". There are dozens of related synonyms (meander, stomp, lop lolly, etc) each presenting its own image. Remarkable. It enriches our ability to translate our fictional world into a form explicit to the reader.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Nikki said...

Julie, we seem to be on the same kick right now. I just discovered "spurtle" and here you are, waxing poetic about the ability of English to absorb new additions. And why not--there was no word for "banana" until the fruit made its debut in our world. But then we're writers; words are our trade.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Nikki, my husbnd, Shaw, is all excited about spurtle, but he won't eat his porridge.

Rita Bay said...

So right about the flexibility of our language. In Italian, for example, orario ferroviario is a train schedule AND fino di settimana is the weekend. Pretty long words and probably misspelled. In English, if you don't have a word for something, you can invent one. Edgar Allan Poe was famous for it. It's called a neologism. Only problem? It's also associated with certain psychiatric disorders. Anyway, great post. Rita

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Psychiatric disorders? I knew writers were all nuts!