Ever looked over a piece of work and realised that you’ve used the same word several times in one paragraph? I sometimes do this deliberately when I’m in a hurry to get something down and don’t want to interrupt my train of thought with the thinking up of possible alternatives. Then, I highlight the offending word and come back to address the problem later.
No, the repetition I’m talking about here is the unconscious use of favourite words time and again. Once you’ve noticed it, it’s easy enough to substitute another word using your computer’s inbuilt thesaurus – what a miracle that synonyms function is – or a well-thumbed copy of Roget’s, if you’re still struggling to find the exact word.
I had a bit of a mental meltdown this week, and I couldn’t think of anything to blog about until I found myself talking with some like-minded people about the lamentable and ongoing corruption of the English language. That got me thinking. I mentioned a well-known apocryphal tale from the First World War as a humorous illustration. You know the one – the message, “send reinforcements, were going to advance“, is sent from the battlefield back up the chain of command. When it arrives at its destination, the message is received as “send three and fourpence, we’re going to a dance“. It’s an extreme example but it demonstrates how easily our language can be altered and distorted when we rely on the spoken word.