And your words are?


Highway 168 from Bishop , CA, to State Route 266, Nevada. Eighty miles with  no cell service. A perfect road on which to have a meaningful conversation about language, don’t you think?

by cheri sabraw

Most of us like to socialize  with people whom we have some commonality, right?  I know I do. I like people who regularly use the words history, mystery, mystical, down home, funny, relaxing, and avocado. Add to those words lime, salmon, quinoa, and massage.

My friends and I  understand each others’ nouns, adjectives, and verbs. It’s the tie than binds.

For example, when I meet a friend for coffee, we do not regularly talk about jihad.

Add to jihad the words left swipe, spandexual and WTF. Not my lexicon, brother.

(As an aside, in one of my Masters’ classes several years ago, one taught by a distinguished  84-year-old opera expert, one of my crass classmates began her question to the professor with WTF.  I, for one, was offended. Good God, I thought. Show some class.)

She, I am sure, would have been equally offended by my use of Good God, a pair of words that are as useful to her as butter plate, pardon me, and lace camisole.

I’m not opposed to learning new words, as long as they are relevant to my existence. Words like Smith Machine, gluteus medius, and kombucha now inhabit the hallways of my vocabulary.

Some words,however,  like traffic, transcend all boundaries, especially those of us who live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Other words jam and corrode our intellectual growth. Take for example the  A Triplets: awesome, amazing, and asshole. Overused? What do you think?

I am always listening and reading your words. They tell me a great deal about you.

And your words are?

And why?









About Cheri

Writer, photograph, artist, mother, grandmother and wife.
This entry was posted in Education, Writing and Teaching and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to And your words are?

  1. Christopher says:

    To the words that jam and corrode our intellectual growth, I might add the likes of “outcomes” and “impact”.

    Mindful of the aridity and soullessness of so many such clichéd words, I’ve found myself lately, when speaking with others, saying “denouement” rather than “outcome” “result” or “resolution”. This has led sometimes to…… shall I say……..puzzled looks? And not to speak of faintly perceptible hostility.

    I’m seeking a satisfactory outcome to this problem……..

    • Cheri says:

      Ha! Agree with you on the clinical nature of ” outcome, result, and resolution” and hooray for you for your literary sensibilities in describing the wrap-up as a denouement. Nice. Very nice.

  2. ShimonZ says:

    Ah, what a wonderful post, Cheri. Brings to mind the word, perspective.

    • Cheri says:

      Well thank you, Shimon. Such a compliment from a man of your learning encourages me to keep writing. And yes, am with you about the word “perspective.” You and Christopher seem on the same “wave length…” Happy Hannukah! May your candles shine brightly with hope in this year.

  3. Dr. Jim Block says:

    What about the phrase, “at the end of the day…” Overused?

    • Cheri says:

      Yes. I agree, little brother with the overuse of “at the end of the day.” Someone we both know and love says ” in any event” so much that it means nothing. Did you like the word spandexual? All the women in their spandex, hugging anatomy that might be better presented with pants or a skirt…loved it.

  4. Paul Costopoulos says:

    “What’s in a name that a rose, by any other name, just as sweet would smell”. Wish these words were mine.

  5. Cheri says:

    Don’t we all and thank you for decorating the comments section of this post with such lovely language! Better than a shortbread cookie.

  6. shoreacres says:

    I was delighted to see that The American Scholar has taken a clue from you and spent a bit of time pondering our truly awesome language.

    I’d be delighted to see “awesome” disappear: likewise, “transparency,” “curate,” “whatever,” and “like,” which happens to be one of the most annoying verbal tics of all time.

    The word I’m trying to send packing is “just.” It crops up a lot, especially in my comments, where I use it as some sort of weird temporal modifier. For example, I’ll write sentences like, “I just found the most interesting recipe for baklava.” Most of the time, unless I found the recipe in the last five minutes, the word’s not needed. It just galls me that I use it so often. 🙂

    My favorite new word of 2016 is “limn.” That’s a good one: almost as good as “susurration” and “genus” — not to be confused with “genius.”

    • Cheri says:

      Interesting your take on “just.” These qualifiers in our language seem unnecessary as do most adjectives. The word “like” has been with the kids since the 1980’s. I spent time in grammar instruction trying to excise it from their spoken and written language but to no avail. I love your triplets…

  7. Brig says:

    Your post is perfectly Awesome just as it is, really.
    I have words that I use way too much, but I haven’t found words to replace them… Help!

    • Cheri says:

      You are funny! How about “wonderful, terrific, splendid…?”

      • Brig says:

        Thank you for the new words, but when I try to use them they come out back askwards: “Oh Wonderful”, or “Well that’s just Terrific”! I’m not even touching “splendid” because that will get me booted from the RB book club & the Cattlewomen faster than you can say diddlysquat!

  8. Cheri says:

    Try spendid… It’s a blogpost!

  9. Richard says:


    Master of what has gone before
    Not to exhort to further study or redoubling of effort
    But to enlighten in the unity of all things

    Modest servant of the labouring wordsmith
    Who, charged to reshape his iron to other needs,
    Strikes free the spark of easy adaptation

    Maker of treaties in new accord
    Where once was war
    Healer of wounds, safeguard of children

    Excitement in discovery of young love
    When all is shared in first embrace and kiss
    A bold faith in life’s unknowns

    Bearded sage, who sighs
    Upon what has been
    Upon perilous paths re-trod

    May I be as likewise and his helper, otherwise

  10. Cheri says:

    Is this wise and peaceful poem of your own design?

  11. Christopher says:

    The word “funny” when used in a review of a novel almost always puts me off reading that novel, because I’m just not into reading “funny” novels.

    But, whenever I do put aside my distaste at the review (and reviewer), and actually read a novel that a reviewer has said is “funny”, I invariably find it mostly thoughtful, not so say serious, and that any parts in it that a reviewer might describe as “funny”, I think are witty, or droll, or ironic.

    I equate “funny” with books (or films) aimed, by means of their coarse and boorish content, to elicit belly laughs from the hoi polloi. Such books (or films) I almost always find distinctly “unfunny”.

    Hence I would add “funny” (especially as used by book reviewers) to “awesome”, “amazing”, and “asshole”, in your list of dispensable words. .

    • Cheri says:

      This comment is most interesting, Christopher. I have never thought of the adjective “funny” as one to include in my list of hackneyed ways to evaluate literature. On another note, I remember you and Richard sparring over Hillary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. I recall that you liked it, right? I could not finish it…Please tell me what I missed.

      • Christopher says:

        As far as I recall, it was Andreas, not Richard, I was sparring over “Wolf Hall” with.

        Andreas, like you, couldn’t finish “Wolf Hall” because he couldn’t figure out most of the time, who in the book was saying what. Perhaps you had the same difficulty, and you gave up as a result?

        I also had this difficulty. But I laboured on nonetheless, because my pride was at stake.

        I mean, all the critics had praised “Wolf Hall” so highly, I would tacitly have have had to admit to myself there was something wrong with me if I couldn’t do what everyone else apparently could do, which was not only to get through all of “Wolf Hall”, but like it too.

        I had opined to Andreas that Hilary Mantel had deliberately made “Wolf Hall” difficult to read, because she didn’t want its readers to rush through it so fast, they wouldn’t savour it in the way she wanted them to. Hence she deliberately employed a “speed bump” literary technique to slow her readers down.

        She seemed to eschew this “speed bump” technique in “Wolf Hall”‘s sequel, “Bring Up the Bodies”, which I found infinitely easier to read than “Wolf Hall”. I enjoyed it much more too.

        You’ll doubtless know that both “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up the Bodies” won the Mann Booker literary prize, which is not only Britain’ most prestigious literary prize, but arguably also the world’s most prestigious literary prize for English-language literature.

        This made Hilary Mantel the only woman, and the only Briton, to win the Booker Prize twice.

        I just know that having read all the above, you’ll now retrieve “Wolf Hall” from your bookcase, and will now read it all the way through, and tell yourself at the end that, yes, you do actually like it, and how couldn’t you have the first time around!!!

        • Cheri says:

          Very interesting, Christopher, and thank you for taking the time to remind me about the conversation. I did not remember that it was between you and Andreas.

          I share Andreas’ frustration with Hillary Mantel’s use of the pronoun “he” so often that I was backtracking sentences and paragraphs to remind myself who was speaking. The speed bump tactic is of interest, but still (I wonder), why would one put speed bumps in a book that already would demand time to read?
          My assessment of the 3/4 of the book that I did read is that it is granular in its narrative. I found the layers of detail (as I did with Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch) annoying, to say the least.

          I’m sure my not finishing it also had to do with my lack of knowledge (or interest) in all of the datail about Cromwell.

          I admire you for finishing books you start. You would have been the best student.

          I have not taken my own advice recently, having left Hamilton and Wolf Hall unfinished on my iPad in my Kindle app. Richard put me onto the Matthew Shardlake mysteries–which historically also tell of Cromwell–and I am enjoying those much more. I’m also reading the The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore about the battle between Edison and Westinghouse…excellent read. What are you reading, Christopher?

  12. Christopher says:

    Wanting to see how professional book reviewers treated the very confusing “he” issue in Wolf Hall, I perused reviews at some of our most august publications.

    Well, the reviews in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NY Times, London Review of Books, Washington Post, Huffington Post, LA Times, and The Independent, said absolutely nothing about this “he” issue.

    The reviewer at The New Yorker did, however, admit that Wolf Hall’s confusing use of “he” “…….is strange, but after a while you get used to it, and understand that the book is, without qualification, Cromwell’s side of the story………”.

    The New York Review of Books was slightly more expansive, saying, “………Mantel contrives a telling effect by often referring to Cromwell as ‘he’ without further identification, so that in many sentences the reader must figure out where, in a welter of ‘he’s” and ‘him’s’, Cromwell is…………………The point is not to create an insoluble puzzle but to make you, the reader, do a little work in order to orient yourself. And orienting yourself in this novel always means returning to Cromwell, who has, we are told, a special gift for orienting himself……..”.

    What is this, but the “speed bump” technique?

    Wanting to know what general readers thought about Wolf Hall, I went to its customer reviews on Amazon. These reviews were mixed, and a significant number of them complained about the confusing “he” issue, so much so that many of these readers (customers) abandoned the book halfway through.

    What does this say about the litterateurs at the posh publications, who ignored, or at best trivialised, an issue that was important not only to general readers, but also to the likes of you – as a many-decades-long English teacher with a masters degree, and to the likes of Andreas – as a senior journalist at a prestigious international magazine?

    Perhaps it says that the litterateurs at the posh publications are so strataspherically clever, they could read Wolf Hall so easily that they couldn’t imagine others finding it difficult?

    Or perhaps it says that they (the litterateurs) themselves did actually have much difficulty reading Wolf Hall, but couldn’t confess to this?

    I’m grateful for one thing though. None of the reviews I read, said Wolf Hall was “funny”.

  13. Cheri says:

    Dear Christopher,
    What a wonderful comment! I appreciate your researching this topic which, I admit, I did not take the time to do.

    Regarding this quotation you cited: ” The point is not to create an insoluble puzzle but to make you, the reader, do a little work in order to orient yourself. And orienting yourself in this novel always means returning to Cromwell, who has, we are told, a special gift for orienting himself…” (can’t remember hmtl to create italics…)

    I think this is bull. Over-interpretation of a writer’s maybe intention…Whew…as convoluted as my granddaughter’s meltdowns…

    My observations regarding form contributing to content only apply to this discussion of WH. Just because Cromwell himself had a knack for orienting himself within the many contexts of his complex life, doesn’t mean that we ought to be trying to do that just to finish a novel. If you are in touch with Andreas Kluth, perhaps you could forward him the crux of our conversation and see what he has to say…if he remembers…

    And your words: “What does this say about the litterateurs at the posh publications, who ignored, or at best trivialised, an issue that was important…”

    It may say that the litterateurs (love your word here) knew that HL’s story would make money for their publications, so what the heck? Why not pretend that having over 3000 ( I am guessing here) of the subjective pronoun HE without definitive reference is cool?

    Sort of like Hillary Clinton writing off how many unemployed working class people-many of them non-white, too–might actually vote.

    At best, Hillary Mantel chose to leave all the HE pronouns up to reader tenacity: at worst, she got tired of writing Cromwell and decided to shorten her story by 6 letters per reference to her subject at hand.

    Thank you Sir Christopher!

  14. I see you two are starting another populist uprising against the aesthetically correct ‘elites’. What would HE say about that?

    • Cheri says:

      Here is Shallow Alto, the elites are writing in intellectual pain. They would dearly like to be populists but have too many addictions–Blue Coffee at 12.00 per cup, Teslas (made in Fremont, California, across the bay from Shallow Alto), Bluetooth everything (as opposed to Blue States)…you get the picture. You’ve been there to cover Tech.

  15. Cheri says:

    HE would tweet GREAT!!!!!😳

  16. Well and that gets deep, I speak and write Texan but I also try to use a bit of class. Class to me can mean many things. I am not a word snob and don’t profess to be among the well educated. Probably I should not be commenting here since I’m clearing out of your class and the other commenters as well. But since I’ve begun writing, I’ll end this with the following. I abhor awesome and amazing and the A-hole word. I like slang and will continue to use slang. I’m not a writer nor do I claim or profess, which ever you prefer, to be one. I could not hold a match to your flame as a writer. But I can say that I am a snob about certain aspects of what makes a good blogger. I have deviated from your topic and I apologize.

  17. Cheri says:

    Not sure why you are apologizing. The post made the point that language means something. And that is just your point, so you are spot on.

    Do you think that country and western music would hold its sway if the lyrics were in the King’s English? Ha Ha! Some of the best books I have ever read are about the South with all the dialect and inflection. I believe Mark Twain used 7 different dialects when writing Huck Finn.

    And had you been a reader for the last eight years, you would see that “deviation” from the topic is part of the package!

    Thank you for the honesty in your writer’s voice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s