A Word on Diction

So, dear readers, let me say a little something about diction and why it is important.  First off, the dictionary entry according to Merriam-Webster (I promise it’ll get more entertaining after you read the definition):

Definition of DICTION

1. obsolete : verbal description
2. : choice of words especially with regard to correctness, clearness, or effectiveness
3a : vocal expression : enunciation b : pronunciation and enunciation of words in singing
dic·tion·al \-shnəl, -shə-nəl\ adjective
dic·tion·al·ly \-ē\ adverb

.learners-link div.learners-link-content { font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; padding: 0 5px 0 22px; } .learners-link div.learners-link-content a .word { text-decoration: none; } .learners-link div.learners-link-content a:hover .word { color: #5358a9; text-decoration: underline; } #content .definition div.d .learners-link a, #content .definition div.d .learners-link a:hover, #content .definition div.d .learners-link a:link, #content .definition div.d .learners-link a:visited { color: black; font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-variant: normal; font-size: 13px; text-decoration: none; }

.example-sentences ol.collapsed-list li.hidden { display: none; } li.more-sent-link { background: none; } #content .definition div.d li.more-sent-link a.more-link, #content .definition div.d li.more-sent-link a.hide-link { color: #717274; font-family: verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; } #content .definition div.d li.more-sent-link a.more-link:hover .text, #content .definition div.d li.more-sent-link a.hide-link:hover .text { text-decoration: underline; } .example-sentences ol.expanded-list a.more-link, .example-sentences ol.collapsed-list a.hide-link { display: none; } #content .definition div.d li.more-sent-link span.icon { padding-right: 2px; }

Origin of DICTION 

Latin diction-, dictio speaking, style, from dicere to say; akin to Old English tēon to accuse, Latin dicare to proclaim, dedicate, Greek deiknynai to show, dikē judgment, right (First Known Use: 1581)

Now that you know what it is, I feel like I need to explain two things: 
  1. Why it is important
  2. Why you should not use words you don’t understand
There is a woman I know who asked me to read some of her writing.  She is writing a bodice ripper.  Her major issue with it is that she is multilingual, with English being her third language, and so she uses a thesaurus a lot in order to come up with a variety of words.  Now, a thesaurus is a fabulous resource when you use it correctly, but it is a terrible resource if you don’t.  In her case, she didn’t.  Here are two examples from her second love scene, where she was trying to come up with new words to use.
  1. He entered through her rear entrance carrying a corsage of leis.
  2. She felt it in her ovaries. 

What she meant was:

  1. He walked through her back door carrying a bouquet of flowers.
  2. She felt it in her loins.

You see the problem, right?  She didn’t understand what the meaning of the words from the thesaurus really were.  The words in a thesaurus entry are not exact matches.  They all have shades of meaning.  If you don’t know the actual meaning, I suggest you look up the words you’re thinking about using in both a dictionary and on Google Images.

Let me give you two other examples.  First, the favorite response of playground children all over the U.S.
“I’m rubber and you’re glue.  Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”
Now, if you use a thesaurus or a dictionary without understanding exactly what you’re writing you can come up with this less-than-snappy response, as the character Sheldon did on “The Big Bang Theory”:
I’m polymerized tree sap and you’re an inorganic adhesive, so whatever 
verbal projectile you launch in my direction is reflected off of me, returns to its 
original trajectory and adheres to you.”
Here’s one final example:
A man and a woman are upstairs in bed when they hear a loud noise 
and someone comes in through the front door and  up the stairs.  
The man asks, “Where is your back door?”  
The woman says, “There isn’t one.” 
The man replies, “Where would you like me to make one?”
Here’s a version written using the dictionary and thesaurus.
A male and a female human are on a higher floor in a bunk when they ascertain 
a thunderous bowwow and another human enters through the forepart entryway and 
up the series of steps that leads from one point to another.
The male human asks, “Where is your rear egress?”
The woman says, “One does not exist.”
The man replies, “In which place would you like me to create one?”
Do you get the point?  Choose your words carefully.  Everything is better when you use the proper words.  Now for something I love with all my nerdy heart.  I found this t-shirt logo and it cracks me up.


  • Katie

    Heeee! Actually, last night I was watching a rerun of How I Met Your Mother where Robin was dating a guy from Argentina who spoke English but didn't understand big words, and the conversation went like this: Barney: Please… vacation romances have an expiration date. Gael's got a 'best if banged by' sticker on him. Once your romance starts to stink, you'll dump his ass down the drain like sour milk, and go back to being \”unevolved Robin\”, the one we actually like. Back me up here, Ted. Ted: I'm just happy Robin's happy. Barney: I'm telling you: Within three days… [Gael approaches] Lily: Oh, here he comes – switch to big words. Barney: Within a triad of solar periods, you'll recognize your dearth of compatibility with your paramour and conclude your association. Robin Scherbatsky: My journey was transformative, and I reassert my commitment to both the aforementioned paramour, and the philosophies he espouses. Gael: What are we talking of? Baseball? Barney: This is all going to return to masticate you in the gluteals. Support my hypothesis, Ted. Ted: I'm just jubilant my former paramour is jubilant.

Leave a Reply