When I was a teenager and interested in learning foreign languages, I developed this idea: that the limits of my languages was indeed the limits of my world.
In college, I studied as many languages as I could, including Esperanto. Many were quick courses, others years of study. And it was true. By studying other languages, I learned about people and their worlds, but something else happened. I developed a love for words. Okay. An obsession for words.
One of my favorite areas to study is Proto-Indo European, known as PIE: Scholars estimate that PIE may have been spoken as a single language (before divergence began) around 3700 BC, though estimates by different authorities can vary by more than a millennium.
In ‘The Lone Hero’ I used Etymology and Latin to help develop some of the words that the dragons spoke such as dhugheter for daughter. Linguistics is one of my favorite areas to study even today.
Linguistics is the scientific study of language. There are broadly three aspects to the study, which include language form, language meaning, and language in context.)
Finding that perfect word for your story isn’t just a matter of using the thesaurus. Here’s a 2minute clip from ‘Friends’ where Joey discovers a Thesaurus and applies it to a recommendation letter:
As funny as this video is, it happens every day to writers who want their works to sound better. They run off to the Thesaurus and pick a word, not understanding its true meaning or if it will fit in the story.
Keep it simple. One of my favorite scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean is when the pirate captain Barbossa meets Elizabeth Swan and she uses the language to show her superiority, but Barbossa isn’t a stupid man. His answer always makes me laugh.
Of course, you don’t want to use the same word over and over and over again. That’s when the thesaurus comes in handy. For instance, the word run. Here are some additional synonyms:
race, rush, dart. What about amble? It’s listed. Amble – to go at a slow, easy pace. Does that fit what your character is doing? What about Lope? I see this used a lot. Lope:
verb (used without object), loped, lop·ing.
to move or run with bounding steps, as a quadruped, or with a long, easy stride, as a person.
to canter leisurely with a rather long, easy stride, as a horse.
Is this what your character is doing? Or is he running or rushing or dashing? Understand the meanings of the words you choose. They’re very important to your story.
Finally, here is a 2 minute video that shows the importance of choosing the right words to make your meaning clear. Warning – you may need a tissue:
LHR my friends.