Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Mike and Bob on Synonyms

“Well, at least it’s a good day for a walk,” Bob said.
“Speak for yourself,” Mike replied. “I’m going to saunter.”
“‘Saunter’? Why not ‘walk’?”
“Too pedestrian. No, we must eschew the tired words that normal people use and punch up our dialog with stark, striking synonyms.”
“Keep it up, and you’ll be using words ordinary people don’t know.”
“Ha! It’s more than that: a lot of writers use words they themselves don’t know. They sneak up on a thesaurus, club it senseless, and rummage around in its pages for a fresh, new word that they don’t know how to use correctly. It’s called creativity.”
“They don’t check in a dictionary?”
“An amateur’s move. Sometimes they do, if they’re unusually literate, but the point of a dictionary is to tell you how to interpret the behavior of a word you encounter out in the wild. It doesn’t tell you how to make a convincing puppet of one that’s already stuffed and mounted in a thesaurus.”
“So the moral is, Don’t use a word you aren’t already familiar with.”
“And the corollary is, Read the work of literate writers—which pretty much means nothing modern.”
“I’ll saunter to that.”
“Good. We can avoid the quotidian vocables of—”
“Hold on thar!” a new voice called from one side. It emanated from a bearded object who had probably been run out of Central Casting for impersonating a cliché.
“What are you?” Mike asked.
“Don’t y’all mean, ‘Who’?”
“Not yet. I thought we’d start with ‘what’ and continue if it looked promising.”
“Well, what do I look like?”
“Like proof that a mad geneticist spliced DNA from Gabby Hayes and Slim Pickens. Did they throw you out of Texas for perpetuating a stereotype?”
“That’s a lie! I’m one of them culchural imbassiters.”
“Okay, that exceeds my interest level. Back to sauntering.”
“Now y’all just hold on. Y’all can’t go saunterin’ past mah store.”
Bob and Mike turned to investigate the establishment. A sign proclaimed the site “Gabby Pickens Western,” followed by several crossed out words that approximated “emporium.” The word “Store” was scrawled at the bottom.
“Okay,” Mike began, “if we can’t saunter, do you want us to walk?”
“Y’ dang dudes! Y’all gotta mosey!”
“Oh, very well. Let me borrow your hat.”
“Rental’s five bucks an hour.”
Mike removed the hat from the man’s head and seemed completely unsurprised to find another underneath. He set it upon his own head very precisely and proceeded to execute a slow, experimental circle.
“Now, that’s moseyin’!” the storeowner beamed.
“Bob, take note: I’ve just confirmed that ‘moseying’ is sauntering with a cowboy hat.”
The cowjoke bristled. “What! Well if y’all are so clever, what’s sashayin’?”
“‘Sashaying’ is sauntering with a cowboy hat and not enough talcum powder.”
“Y’ durn dude! Are y’all from Dallas? I oughta fill y’all fulla lead.”
“First, you should have your hat back. You wouldn’t want to damage it.”
“Well, that’s right—Hey! Why’d it get so dark of a sudden?”
“Total solar eclipse?” Mike suggested helpfully as he adjusted the hat at jaw level.
“Agin? That’s the third time this mornin’! An’ it’s always gone when I git mah hat off.”
“Come on, Bob; time to go.”
“I think we should run.”
“Too banal. Let’s dash.”

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