Sunday, September 14, 2008

Logophiles unite!

There is a disease which consists in loving words too much. Logophilia first manifests itself in childhood and is, alas, incurable.
—Peter Ackroyd, "Visions from an addiction to fiction," The Times (London), March 20, 2002

We’re all writers, which means we're all logophiles. This summer, I particularly enjoyed discovering the new portmanteau words like “staycation” and “glamping” (glammed-up camping) in print and elsewhere, then hearing them become part of my friends’ everyday travel-speak.

When I’m writing, however, being a logophile can also be problematic. The reason: I seem to love certain words and phrases so much I overuse them, without even realizing it. I’m not talking about million-dollar babies like “manky” (The Bartimaeus Trilogy) that send me straight to Webster’s. I’m talking about all those dime-store variety words that tend to self-replicate in my manuscript like lexical bunnies.

My stealth words include “practically,” “just then,” and “cocked” (as in, a head or an eyebrow). I’m already in self-imposed rehab for prior overuse of “suddenly.” Never again! I suppose I should add “particularly” and “seem to” to the list, since I also overused them in this post.

Fellow logophiles, am I the only one suffering from obsessive logophilic disorder (O.L.D.)? Are you too afflicted with the disease? If so, take the first step. Tell me which words tempt, no, torment you, manuscript after manuscript, no matter how hard you try to avoid them. If we share, perhaps we can overcome O.L.D. together.


  1. Okay, (there's one)the words I use over and over escape me at the moment, but I know the subjects I overuse...eye color and weather. Hmm..what else, "a mix between" "heart thumping out of chest, in ears, etc.". I'm also quick to pick up on words in books I'm reading...the last two books I read, by different authors, both used the word "hissed" as a speech tag. "s" was involved at all. Is that even "legal" in grammar, lol. (yes I use lol ALOT, you all must think I just walk around laughing, and laughing all day about, subltle smile...melodious chuckle...hee, hee...) the end.

  2. I'm overly fond of the word "but" because I like to set up sentences with contrasting ideas. Gets boring.

    And speaking of words I like, I'm always looking for a place to use "flapdoodle" or "lickety-split." Used the latter once in a picture book that didn't sell. Never have found a use for the former.

  3. I'm always on the lookout for just, that and as. I can't imagine what I would do without search and replace.

  4. Language....I am always in awe of the exceptional writer whose word choice focuses on an incredible word rarely associated with the character or topic but which captures all the essences of the situation with depth and zing.