Tag Archives: language

Defying Mrs. Grundy.

Irony at its best.

I get a chuckle out of contemplating how writing gurus and publishing gatekeepers, by their sourpuss anathematizing of the adverb as an unnecessary part of speech, and by their stigmatizing proverbs, colloquialisms and idioms as “clichés” (all of which writers are told they must avoid using, or expunge from their writing), unwittingly transform themselves into poster children for the ultimate idiomatic expression: “Mrs. Grundy.”

If the Grundyists of the wordsmith world had their way, all writing would be as drab and unfocused as a week of winter rainstorms.

Proverbs, colloquialisms and idioms developed over millennia of communication. They paint pictures in the mind which are based on real human experience, thereby fostering reader empathy for fictional characters. In this way, they bring vibrant color to dialogue, in a manner which no amount of “turning the air blue” with profanity and obscenity can do.


No matter where their origins, or what language they speak, everyone comes up with these gems. I studied Hiberno-English usage when I wrote Irish Firebrands. Now, I’m  studying German idioms as part of the research for my work-in-progress, The Passions of Patriots, a prelude to my first novel (in which a character had discovered an ancestor’s involvement in the First World War). I’m impressed by the imaginative ways Germans have developed to express the experiences that occur in all people’s lives.

It’s not for nothing that the Bible admonishes, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). The familiar phrases that are used in every language are also like highly polished precious metals which can adorn our writing like beautifully wrought antique jewellery.

What are some of your favorite sayings?
Have you used proverbs, colloquialisms, and idioms in your writing?
If you write fantasy which has an imaginary language, does it have traditional sayings your characters use?

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Watch Your Language!

IRISH FIREBRANDS: A Novel ~ and Other Works by Christine Plouvier, Indie Author

The Art of Writing is still the predominant form of communication used by educated people, which reinforces the status of Writing as the most powerful Art form. A large and versatile vocabulary – a language’s lexicon – is the source of that power. That’s why the 6th of The 7 Reasonable Rules of Writing requires love for language and loyalty to its complete lexicon.

cassidyAnglophones are thought to be in possession of the largest vocabulary* in the world: The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) estimates English to include somewhere between 615,000 and 750,000 words. Most of them are loan words, which the heirs of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes happily borrowed from many of the world’s other tongues, to supplement their comparatively meager and monosyllabic original vocabulary. The OED estimates that actual English words may currently number about 250,000.

As usual, “experts” disagree about how to classify these words, because…

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Irish Lessons for the Gaeilge-Impaired.

IRISH FIREBRANDS: A Novel ~ and Other Works by Christine Plouvier, Indie Author

Research for a novel can lead to unexpected places. For me, learning Irish was one of them.


pimsleurWhen I started writing IrishFirebrands,  I knew that the Irish spoke a version of Commonwealth English, which I was comfortable reading and writing (my mother’s personal library having included very many books written in that dialect). I began by reading Irish newspapers online, to pick up the flavor of Hiberno-English usage.

spoken world irishThen, my back-story and character background research in the newspapers began running into oddly spelled names, and other words that resembled no language I’d ever encountered that used Roman letters. These words were as unintelligible to me as Cyrillic characters or Asian pictographs. Welcome to Irish!

dictionary & phrasebookI started out studying this new language by consulting early 20th-century Irish reference books at Project Gutenberg and other public domain sites, to gain a linguistic-historical perspective. Acting on an item found in one of the Irish…

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