What do you actually mean with that word…?

A person can disguise what they mean when they describe something by choosing the right word: a word that both conceals the meaning of what they are actually trying to say, but can also reveal that meaning upon further reflection. Whether that thing the person is describing is another person, an ideology, or a piece of writing. Whether that person is doing this to be kind or intentionally sly.

We can choose words like these to describe prose. These words have literal meaning that you can locate in a dictionary, but actually mean something else to us when you think about it; they are implying something different. Words like these, which pertain to prose, that come to my mind are adjectives that criticize the prose without seeming like a criticism if you just look at the word itself. Here are some examples:

Ambitious — If  a prose is ambitious, you could be complementing the writer for taking on something difficult (like an important subject or using a complex syntactical structure). But… you could also be saying “this piece is out of the writer’s league, they should stick to something simpler”.

Dramatic — If a prose is dramatic, or has a “dramatic voice”, then the prose is not convincing enough, not reliable, not believable to the reader. 

Enthusiastic — Describing a prose as enthusiastic is a way of saying that it could have been passionate, but something was missing that made it one level below a passionate piece: an enthusiastic piece.

Emotional — If you say its an “emotional piece” well perhaps you are saying that the emotions and feelings that the writer is expressing substitute for lack of substance, facts, analysis. 

Rhetorical —A rhetorical piece is one where the writer is trying to write as a way to appeal to a certain group of people; they are trying to influence them. But if you describe a piece as “rhetorical” you can also be implying that it is dishonest, not true to the writer or a reader not in the group that is being targeted, and thereby not worthy of a read. 

One thought to “What do you actually mean with that word…?”

  1. Jordan, I really like what you’ve said about enthusiastic. I notice the same thing when someone is describing another person as enthusiastic: he or she is just excited about something without expressing meaningful emotion.

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