Thursday, November 29, 2007

Words of a Feather

For some time now, my favorite candidate has been very, as in, very is the word that should be stashed in the garage, put in a drawer and shoved toward the rear, boxed and sent under the bed to ferment among the dust bunnies. Very tells us nothing except that something is shimmering before us in a degree more intense than usual or normal. It was a very hot day. Very nice. Not just hot, not simply nice. Hot hot; nice perhaps squared.

Next case is interesting. Absorbing. Arousing attention.

Let's start with very interesting. The ultimate put-down. Your poem was very interesting. Yeah, right.

So let's say then that your poem was interesting. That's better; at least it has a chance, like maybe the same chance an army ant has in the trail that leads from the drainboard under the sink to the place where you forgot to put the cap back on the strawberry jam.

I am willing to be absorbing and to arouse attention or, should my descriptive and evocative abilities fail me, not absorbing this time or completely lacking in ability to arouse and maintain attention. But puh-leeze, not interesting.

If someone tells me something I have said or written is interesting, my take on the subtext is that I have lost them, either because they did not get my intent or because I had mismanaged the trope and brought it forth ill-formed.

How's that for ambiguity and interdisciplinary warp in the American language? A word that means absorbing or arousing attention is interpreted as meaning the opposite. America and American English are often conflated with irony. This trope is irony squared, which is to say very ironic, freaking ironic, you might say.

In some parts of the country, NASCAR and Gun Lobby parts, you tell someone they are absorbing or arousing and you're looking at some sudden down time while your clock is being cleaned.

Just don't bring your arousal near me.

I find your work highly arousing but find it necessary to decline given the structured society in which our books are distributed and the don't ask-don't tell attitude our polls show existing among our readers.

I am aroused to an extraordinary degree by your latest story but unfortunately we have just taken on something of a similar degree of arousal and accordingly must decline to opportunity to publish it here. I will however hope to be aroused by your next submission.

So out to the cemetery with interesting, which can go right next to that lovely crypt that contains very.


f:lux said...

Which is hard upon the plot where nice was (or should have been) buried long ago?

Smiler said...


-I plead guilty on both counts you honor.

- Your honor, she's a good kid, she didn't know what she was doing. Put her on probation, but don't send her to jail - I'm know she'll clean up her act and be a model citizen.

-Fine. Six month's probation. Next case!

-I got you out of the fray kiddo, now don't mess it up, you've only got this one last chance.

-Thank you very much Mr...

-What did you say?

-I meant to say: thank you... much.

Lori Witzel said...


You'll see why I'm chortling if you nibble on my post today.

I find the post synchronicity, uhm, er, interesting.

R.L. Bourges said...

i've noticed lately that literary agent's, in their rejection letters, have replaced the word "interesting" by the word "intriguing" (as in intriguing plotline, intriguing characters etc...). once you get over the new take, you realize that, basically, they thought your work was, well, interesting.

Anonymous said...

It was just two weeks ago in Survey that I was ranting against the word "very," which performs the odd function of weakening what it is intended to strengthen.

And, as I tell my students, when someone says your play was "interesting," they usually mean the opposite.