Being Authentic

Do you ever have random words just pop into your head? Words that you rarely use but make you giggle, or remind you of someone from your past? And do they fly out of your mouth at less-than-convenient times?

They do me.

Since I’m home most of the day these words don’t fly out of my mouth so much as pop into my head, then I choose to type then onto the screen. But I usually express myself the way the thought first came to me because I feel like otherwise I’m not being authentic. Some may think I’m weird, or that I’m using a particular word to be ironic or to get a laugh, when really that’s just the way I think.

I started thinking of this while replying to a comment on Tuesday’s post. You see, I used the word “smidge.” Spell-check tells me that’s not actually a word, but I KNOW I’ve heard my gramma say it and therefore it will be used. This leads to …

(HOLD YOUR HORSES! I’M ACTUALLY GOING TO TIE WRITING INTO A POST!)

… character development and that ever-elusive voice. I’m working on the edits for After the Fall, and one of the gazillion things on my list of things to fix is making the voices more distinctive. Particularly finding a way to make the characters that are the same age stand out from each other. I have two 17-year olds, two moms, and two 9/10-year olds and right now I wouldn’t pass the “remove the dialogue tags and guess who’s talking” game.

A writer who I follow on Twitter (I forget who) asked people for ideas for her character’s “quirky” word (like the girl in Annie who says “Oh my goodness, oh my goodness.” We once counted how many times she said that through the course of the movie.) And that’s when it first occurred to me that my characters don’t have that. They each have a nervous tic, or a gesture that’s unique to them, but I love writing dialogue and I’m a little surprised I haven’t incorporated this sooner.

Time to hit up a high school game and start taking notes…

So, what odd or quirky (but CLEAN) phrases fly out of your mouth when you least expect it?

About Melanie Hooyenga

Writer. Designer. Jock. Reader. Wife. Puppy-Mama. SCBWI member since 2015.

20 Comments

  1. Teeny. The word is “tiny,” right? Nope, not to me. “Look at that teeny little dog!” “Weren’t you the teeniest bit upset?”

    Ugh. That looks irritating in print.

  2. I thought the title of this was Being Arthritic at first and thought, Oh, she’s falling apart!

    I use a weird word all the time. I tend to say sh*t (can you figure that one out?:) a lot and I had to modify it because of Joey. When I was little I used to say shazbut (from Mork and Mindy). I shortened it to shazzies and say that instead of the other sh word.

    • That reminds me of another grandmotherly goodie — fudge.

      When I played field hockey in high school we had a bit of a reputation for swearing, so our coach got us to say “Watermelon!” instead. It made us laugh and puzzled the other team because they thought we were calling a play, lol.

  3. I tend to say “good gravy” or call my daughters odd yet endearing nicknames like “pumpkinbutt” or “sugar booger.” Yep. They love that. I see therapy bills in my future.

  4. Carole

    There’s one word that my mom uses all the time, and I sometimes use it too. I have never heard anyone outside of our family say it. Jakey. If someone is dressed sloppy, they are Jakey. Poor Jake. Whoever he was, he must have left a lasting impression in a bad way.

    Growing up in the South, you learn a lot of phrases that defy understanding. You just have to have someone explain them to you if you’re not a local. My husband was baffled after his first day of work with guys from Tennessee when we moved here. He came home with a list for me to define. Any count = Any good. At ‘ere = That there, or simply That. Nanner = Banana. Right smart amount = Quite a lot. Poke = Paper bag. He was surprised to learn that lunch disappeared in Tennessee. He now eats breakfast, dinner and supper. He was also surprised to learn that Mama doesn’t mean Mom around here. It means hottie.

    • Hi Carol!

      Those are great. I lived in Virginia for high school and college and I learned quite a few odd sayings — or at least how to decipher them. I can’t say I ever would have figured out that a poke is a paper bag though.

  5. Melissa

    I’ve become fond of a word I accidentally made up several months ago: “smooshified”. First used to describe what I *didn’t* want to do to my friend’s cat as I was leaving their house. “Move Bart! I don’t want to get you all smooshified!” It stuck.

    • Smooshified is so a word.

      I’ve decided that from here on out the squiggly red line beneath a word just means that it’s FABULOUS. (Unless, of course, it really is spelled wrong, in which case you need to know the difference.)

  6. Hmmm. Good question. I guess the biggest tic I’ve got is adding “type thing/y” to a lot of stuff that probably doesn’t need to be modified that way, heh.

    I also have a tendency to use the word “monkey” a lot. As in “fudge monkey”. I’ll use that in place of a curse word, lol.

  7. What a great post! Yes, I need to do more of that.

    I don’t know if I have any speech quirks. I say “teensy.” I have secret words that I use but always delete, save once or twice, like “perplexion.” I love that word. Even though it’s not a word.

    • Thanks Natasha, I don’t know where this post came from, lol. Teensy seems to be a popular one, but I can’t say I’ve ever tried to use perplexion. Can you please define it? ๐Ÿ˜€

  8. robinaltman

    That is such a great point about voice in writing! I love the idea of characters having their own quirks.

    I say “sissy” and “boopie” for pee and poop. My mom used to say them, and I’m proud to carry on the nonsensical tradition. I also say the incredibly dated, “You can call me anything, just don’t call me late to dinner!” That one makes people look at me like I have 3 heads.

  9. Nice post – I have a ton of words I use. For some reason I say cornfused, instead of confuse. I think I heard someone say it once. I also find myself saying Holy Crow, I think I got that from Twilight… *sigh*.

    I think I need to find that separate voice for my characters too. “My” voice gets weaved in there a little too much!

    I have a friend at work that mispronounces everything – she’s a real trip ;o)

    • Erica, I know some people who say cornfused too, lol. I think you’re right about the origins of Holy Crow. Ibis started saying chillax long before he ever saw Twilight and I kept threatening that I was going to make him watch it if he didn’t knock it off.

      Mispronunciations are funny, esp from a native Spanish speaker. I hate correcting him sometimes. ๐Ÿ˜›

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