Monday, October 08, 2007

Words of Power: A Summing Up?

I’ve been having a terrible time getting connected to the internet today, both at work and at home. It has taken me forever to get some comments written, so if I haven’t gotten around to your blog that’s the reason. I did want to try and post some more on the “words of power” idea. Maybe if I copy and paste this I’ll be able to get it posted.

First, thanks to everyone for their wonderful comments. I saw a lot of great words listed. While most words mentioned were nouns--“Iron,” “Bone,” “Sword”--there were some cool adjectives such as “Feral” and “Burning.” I was happy to see, for internal reasons, that not all the power words mentioned were concrete.

The words actually seemed to come in three categories. “Fire,” “Gun” and “Mist” are pretty concrete, pretty visual. "Pain," “Midnight,” “Sunlight,” and “Adrenaline” are more amorphous. They’re sort of between the concrete and the abstract. “Fear,” “Evil,” and “Violence” are typically defined as abstract.

The reason I was glad to see abstract words in folks’ lists is because I’ve had a running debate with some writer friends about words like “Violence” and “Soul” for some time. I’ve been told repeatedly that “Violence” is an ineffective word because people can’t visualize it. The problem with that argument is that I can visualize it. I’ve even gone so far as to respond with: “Violence is concrete.” I realize now what I actually mean. Words like “Pain” and “Fear” and “Violence” have a great deal of resonance, so much so that they call up plenty of concrete visuals when I see them used.

I think this means that my friends are wrong and I’m right. So there. :)~

Or am I?

More on this topic to come.


AvDB said...

Great post, Charles. Seems I always miss out on the good discussions. So, I'll just bust up in here all late and whatnot and add my two cents.

I like the word 'seep.' So many things can be transported via that word--into your clothes, into the ground, into your soul. It's such a slow, surreptitious word.

I also like 'skitter.' It can be ominous, like an undefined shape skittering across your bedroom floor, or comedic (as in the southern gentleman on the news who saw a gator 'skitter along on its tippytoes.')

The word 'intense' is also a favorite of mine. I can feel the sensation of intensity in my chest when I say the word.

Charles Gramlich said...

Avery, "skitter" is a near perfect word. I've used it before, but not in a while. Thanks for reminding me. "Seep" is a good word for horror especially.

SQT said...

Avery, you never cease to amaze me with your skill with words. I've been trained to be so straightforward that I have forgotten how to use language to come at something sideways.

'Seep' does evoke images of horror doesn't it? 'Shudder' does that for me too. Most of the time we do not shudder out of happiness but due to fear or loathing.

SzélsőFa said...

Thanks for listing me, Charles. I listed you too, along the name of 'Razored Zen', if that's ok with you.

Bernita said...

May I amend "sword" to "blade?"
To me, "violence" is a bit too general a collective, unlike a more or less equivalent word like "butchery."
This is a lovely topic.

Nosjunkie said...

Okay I dont know what the word of power thing is and I am running out of reading time.
I will say that in South-Africa Violance is definatly concrete and easily visualised

Charles Gramlich said...

SQT, one of my favorite horror titles is "I shudder at your touch."

Szelsofa, no problem. And thanks for linking me as well. I appreciate your comments.

Bernita, sometimes I like sword, sometimes blade. Both are good words.

nosjunkie, A word of power is just one that evokes a lot of images, thoughts, or emotions in folks. Words that we love for their power and intensity. Thanks for visiting.

Chris Eldin said...

Maybe 'violence' has cultural connotations too. When I read the word 'violence,' I think of guns and other weapons. I wonder if other nationalities think differently, since guns aren't on the streets.
But to describe a person as violent, that to me is concrete.

Great topic to think about!

Charles Gramlich said...

Church lady, good question concerning how other cultures might visualize violence. The topic seems to have generated quite a bit of discussion, at least.

AvDB said...

Sqt -- Such praise is undeserved. It just comes from years of wandering around in my own little world, never knowing any better.

'Seep' is such an unwilling word for me. No one wants anything to seep in, but it does. The end result can sometimes be good (when an unwelcome idea seeps in and changes one's thought process), but the seepage part is always unpleasant.

Bernita -- I like 'blade' better, too. 'Sword' is thick, clunky, hacking. 'Blade' (despite Wesley Snipes' best attempts to diminish it) is powerful; it's a hiss of sleek, destructive energy.

Shauna Roberts said...

This issue reflects the recent discussion on my blog about Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana. Whether something resonates with a person seems to depend on their background and experiences. Starvation is an abstraction to me, but a thing with a taste, a smell, physical sensations in the stomach and head, etc., to someone who routinely goes hungry.

When I read a lay article about chronic pain or neuropathic pain, I can tell within a paragraph whether the writer has ever experienced either. The difference between knowing of something and knowing something shows through and may determine whether that thing is perceived as a concept or a concrete object.

Charles Gramlich said...

Avery, now come on dude, how much did you pay SQT to say such nice things? ;)

Shauna, very good point. direct experience creates the most powerful resonance. I enjoyed your post about Tigana. Makes me want to seek it out.

Steve Malley said...

I work with 'pain' and 'fear' every weekend at the tattoo shop, so my reaction to those words may be atypical.

'Violence' too, for that matter. The word is powerful, and evocative. My blood sizzles just that little bit at its passing mention. Adrenalin ghosts brush along nerve and muscle, and for just that one moment, I'm a lot younger and ready to 'do unto others'...

So yeah, powerful.

Steve Malley said...

Oh, and Church Lady's point:

I don't know if this helps, but I'm an expat Yank now in New Zealand, where (like Canada) we own a lot of guns but manage not to shoot each other with them.

Kiwis tend to associate 'violence' with the life-changing atrocities on the news. It's a word of distance: guns, crimes, that sort of thing.

Given that this is a culture where a great many young men *enjoy* working off their youthful high sprits by beating the crap out of each other on the weekends, it seems an odd disconnect to me.

Then again, bruises heal, bones mend and chicks dig scars.

Back in the States, too many fistfights ended in the loser coming back with a gun...

Sidney said...

I need to add some of the power words to my word list.

Michelle's Spell said...

Very cool post, Charles. I'm with you on this debate. I think that it all depends on the person speaking or writing whether a word works or not. I've been thinking about power words all week -- especially trying to think of some happy ones, but all I can come up with is mojo. That's a happy word that I love!

Erik Donald France said...

Of course you're right -- it's your blog ;)

"Father he gunned for me
Hunted me with his six gun

Calling Sister Midnight
What can I do about my dreams?"

Iggy Pop-->

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

Good post - but I tend to agree with you that violence is concrete and not amorphous. I have very strong visual thoughts when I hear the word violence, in fact they come with sound effects of police car sirens and screams of anguish. So perhaps it is particular to the person. Steve Malley made an interesting point about different perspectives from leaving out of the states. Different things affect people in different ways, right? So I think you are right.

Charles Gramlich said...

Steve, I've never quite understood that beating on each other thing either, although I suppose football is pretty much the same thing and I used to enjoy that. "Pain" is certainly another word that has all kinds of concrete imagery associated with it.

Sid, "Blood Hunter" and "Night Brothers" are some power word titles.

Ello, definetely. Some supposedly abstract words can have overwhelming visuals.

Michelle, "Mojo" is a good one. Joe Lansdale has a book entitled "Mucho Mojo."

Erik, Iggy has some great lyrics.