Tag Archives: Dictionaries

Using Posh Words

One of the joys for me, as a young reader, was learning new words. I loved looking up meanings in dictionaries, gradually learning how modern English words came from ancient languages.

As an author, I try to make my use of words appropriate for the character who’s speaking. For instance, a regular presence in my series of Cornish detective novels is a 65-year-old forensic pathologist. She was raised as an army brat, in India during the closing days of the British Empire, and has a formal way of speaking that’s quaintly Victorian and militaristic.

As the omnipotent narrator of my stories, I’ll use long and unusual words if they suit the description. Thus, a specialist auditor would scrutinise a dodgy businessman’s account books. I’m not showing off by doing this, more honouring my readers’ intelligence.

I have a large vocabulary, but even so, I was challenged by a novel that I read recently. My eye was caught by Kim Zupan’s debut novel The Ploughmenas it was the last book in the fiction section of my local library. It’s a brilliant crime thriller, with a highly unusual plot. Zupan looks to be in his sixties, (which gives me hope!) and is an admirable stylist in his descriptions of landscape, wildlife and weather.

Image result for Kim Zupan ploughmen

He used at least twenty words that were new to me, including albedocanzonet, arcature and bindlestiff. I guessed the meaning of the last one from the context, and it may be familiar to American readers of this post.

Zupan’s use of such words demonstrated his love of language, and it made me think about whether I was providing enough linguistic gems for my readers.

Do you use posh words?

Have you come across any good ones?

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Planet Spell Checker

I’m interested in learning if anyone knows where companies who produce writing software get their spell checkers from.

I’d have thought that to support their product, the spell checker would be of the highest quality, perhaps produced by, and bought from, an expert in dictionaries, such as Oxford, Collins or Chambers. This is hard to credit when I see the words my software queries. It’s easier to believe that spell checkers are based on an outdated children’s dictionary acquired for a few pennies at a charity shop!

I use LibreOffice Writer to create my novels, as it’s easier for me to understand than MS Word and more importantly, is free! It has a thesaurus and an automatic spell checker, which I’m sometimes grateful of, other times irritated by.

Grammarly provides useful support, and I’m particularly glad of its punctuation checker as I tend to suffer from comma-itis! Its spell checker is just as elementary as LibreOffice. Words that I’ve typed recently, and which have been questioned, include track, moor, wizard, mauve and siphon.

I’ve added them to the spell checker’s dictionary so that it doesn’t query their use again. I well understand, why British novelist Will Self declared that the one thing he’d rescue from his burning house would be his laptop—not for the WIP—rather, to preserve his spell checker!

Occasionally, the software cautions me in a humorous way. Just this morning, I was writing about a dangerous guard dog, which my detective protagonist sees prowling the house of criminals he has under surveillance. When it barks, it reminds him of the Hound of The Baskervilles. Spell checker sprang into action, asking me ‘Do you mean Hound of The Basketballs?