Sunday, June 20, 2010

When tears aren't enough

Sometimes I lament the limitations of the English language, and this most often happens when I'm editing. Repetition is the scourge of the writer and part of the game is trying to use as many variations of a word that you can. It becomes a test, how many synonyms you can use with out it becoming obvious or sounding dumb. How much variety can you introduce in a seamless kind of a way.

I recall that in Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, by Peter Hoeg, they state that Eskimos have over twenty different words for snow. I would just love twenty different words for the noun I am grappling with right now, but there aren't and it's driving me nutty.

And what is the word causing me so much grief?


Yes, I'm shedding tears over tears.

Yes, you can cry, weep, sob, wail, howl, bawl, snivel, whimper, keen, blubber, or if you're feeling academic, lacrimate, or use a myriad of other words to describe shedding tears. Verbs ain't the problem. It's the noun.

Tear (n) teardrop.

That's the best my thesaurus could come up with. Tears are tears, that's it.



Anonymous said...

Vanda - I empathise. There are some words - and tears is one of them - that really don't have many synonyms. The only word I can come up with is droplet, but that often doesn't work. Sometimes, you just have to go with tears.

J.T. Webster said...

Wipe the moisture from your eyes and sniff discreetly.
It always amazes me that we can edit a chapter in a very short time, then spend hours and hours on one sentence or paragraph.
But we get there in the end. :)
When I read Bound, I'll be looking for the tears.

The Paradoxical Cat said...

Fascinating problem.

Don't forget Rachael King's useful paraphrase of that great piece of advice to the writer: "Don't describe the grief, describe the coffin."

Am I going to need a hanky when I read your next book? xx

Dorte H said...

If you think the English vocabulary is limiting, you should try writing in Danish! You often have 3-7 synonyms when we have ONE word. I have sometimes helped my husband when he had to read an English article on theology. He has almost been in tears when I translate several of your words into the same Danish term.

Mary McCallum said...

I'd go with describing the coffin... for sure... or have her wiping mascara across her face or him sniffing ... I personally don't like too many tears dropping from faces as they don't often seem to do that often in real life...

Vanda, there's a post on my blog that went up Friday 'the joys of bookselling' that mentions a very happy customer who bought your book....