Changing Meanings

In one of my workshops, we were happily going over a friend’s excerpt, commenting on this and that when our faculty leader drew our attention to the first page. The time was predawn, the setting a city street. A gaggle of girls stood on the corner twittering. The sentences the author had written evoked such imagery, with the girls taking the place of dawn birds to greet the morning. Until our faculty leader said that he had thought all the girls were on their cell phones. Twittering.

Language has a way of morphing, which is good. Cultures grow and change and language should change with them, but sometimes the change is frustrating. Words we once enjoyed and loved can suddenly take on new meaning that isn’t always pleasant or destroys the word for its old meaning.

I noticed yesterday a phrase in my story. The characters were “writing on tablets of paper.” I thought, “My goodness, it’s a good thing I specified paper!” Writing on tablets has new meaning since the emergence of those tiny clipboard-sized computers.

So when you are doing revisionary work, remember to check your phrases and words to make sure they mean what you intend them to mean.

Happy Writing!

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