eyes1We’ve looked at the incidence of “noticing” (83 uses) in Irish Firebrands. Now, let’s consider its prevalence.

The novel is just under 200,000 words long. Searching a PDF copy found 508 uses of the verb “to see” (230 see, 163 saw, 80 seen and 35 seeing). The runner-up was forms of “to look” (468). That makes at least 1,059 instances of reported vision, of which the 83 uses of “noticing” make up less than 8%.* Therefore, the amount of “noticing” that happens in Irish Firebrands doesn’t seem to be excessive in proportion to the expression of other notions of sight.

eyes4But I think this issue is part of a bigger picture, one that concerns the value of vocabulary. For some time, now, the trend has been to disparage and discourage the use of most adverbs, many adjectives, and even alternative verbs (especially when writing dialogue attribution tags, with some gurus insisting on strict adherence to “said”). Writers are admonished that descriptive language is old-fashioned, and that readers don’t have the time or the patience to pay attention to writing that appears to peregrinate the thesaurus. The only creative use of language that gets approval is the schizophrenic word salad that the avant-garde lauds as “stream of consciousness” writing. Anything that exhibits the vitality of our natural vocabulary gets tattooed with the scarlet letter of “flowery language,” or branded with the port wine stain of “purple prose.”

eyes2I believe that this attitude is dumbing down our language. Disqualifying so many and such varied parts of speech leaves writers of English to work with only monosyllabic Anglo-Saxon grunts (and some expletives that are best deleted).

What do you think? Should our vibrant vocabulary go the way of the dodo?

* Other visual verbs in Irish Firebrands include: discern, perceive, behold, gawk, goggle, scan, stare, inspect, view, observe, note, seem, appear (including dis-, re- and -ance), survey, watch, vigilance, regard, study, witness, sight, vision, spy, discover, recognise, glimpse, glance, peep, peer, gaze, pore, ogle, glare, gape, visible (including in-), wink, blink, squint, and even blind. There may be others, but I need to get a life.


Caricature eyes available from: http://www.magixl.com/heads/poir.php

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