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Category: write better English

Somnolent: Word use and origin

Last night when I got home after a long day’s work I felt particularly somnolent. This was hardly surprising as  I woke up at 4.30am fought with myself to get back to sleep without success, and started work at 10am.

I then proceeded with nine hours of intensive sub-editing at what is arguable the world’s most condemned newspaper, and in South Africa particularly.

 

sleep time

During the inordinate nine hours, I attempted to distract myself with internet research and delved into the origins of somnolent, which means sleepy.

Dictionary.com cites its origins as the late 14th century from the Old French somnolence derived from the Latin somnolentia “sleepiness” from somnolentus, from somnus “sleep (from PIE root, swep  “to sleep”. A related word is somnolency.

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=somnolence

Yourdictionary.com gives us:

Adjective (comparative more somnolent, superlative most somnolent)

  1. Drowsy or sleepy.
  2. (dated) Causing literal or figurative sleepiness;soporific.

 

Soporific is also an interesting word which I discovered at university and it was apt to describe the nature of my tutorials on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/gawain/).  I could never understand why we were made to suffer this belaboured text as part of our first year English syllabus.

Yourdictionary.com dates the first usage of somnolent to 1615, but concurs with the other details that Dictionary.com provides for regional areas, confirming “swep” from Indo-Europe.

Read more at http://www.yourdictionary.com/somnolent#WzfHQqyI7L16MfaY.99

Somnolence is not state in which to conduct a day’s worth of subbing but  when the copy makes me yawn, due to its total lack of inspiration,   I really can’t blame myself.

No damn synchronicity: Synonyms and antonyms

A synchronous sound

Ever had such a day where things start out great and then you’re confronted with the unexpected and things just unravel?

Such was my day. I arrived for a press function 20 minutes before the scheduled start time feeling very impressed with myself  – enjoying a  mini accolade that was short-lived.

Do horses eat loose fern? A statement on reporting standards

grazing

This week, I was subbing a story about horses that had been rescued from dire circumstances. If not for the language educated among us, the situation could have given rise to an inadvertent mondegreen (when a phrase is repeated incorrectly over time and eventually replaces the original phrase).

Sucking the hind tit : related idioms

Who says there’s no food here?

Last Sunday, our six-year-old female Staffordshire Bull Terrier gave birth to six beautiful and healthy puppies. One was distinctly smaller than his four black brothers and sister and I feared he would be left to feed off the ‘hind tit’.

Among animals that birth multiple young in a litter such as dogs and pigs there is fierce competition for the milk and with puppies, bashing each other around with paws and heads is a common site around feeding time.

Less is more in the writing discipline

Make your verbs work
Verbs must do the hard work in a sentence

I am reading a book in which the author has swamped the pages with an oversupply of adjectives.

Of course, this is just my opinion, but I find the need to qualify every verb and every noun in the sentence an overreach and, worst of all, a punishment to the text. And the reader.

Six ways to take the stress out of writing a book


For all the aspirant writers out there who want to get a book out of your system, start with an e-book. Here’s how:

Getting down to writing: Write that e-book. Just like that. It is almost that simple if you set your mind to it. I never had aspirations to write a book of any kind, but when I learnt of this one-week technique, I couldn’t help but put it to the test.

So, pardon the cliché, but if I can do it, anyone can. There are two critical requirements here.

Say it all in the essay

In my school days, I loved writing essays and sometimes the result was so impressive that my teachers rewarded me with the highest marks in the class.

Such was the honour that I was called upon to read my composition to my lesser scoring classmates.

How big is your appetite for words?

Browsing through the Huffington Post, I happened upon a blog about strange and wonderful words.

When I reached the end of the text, I realised with horror that I have been known to groke on several occasions.

Very, very, completely: Keep language crisp and clean

I was alerted to my default descriptive style about two weeks ago. It happened when I ran my own document through spell check prior to a more serious edit and it stopped me at ‘really, really’.

I realised these words were redundant and creating unnecessary hyperbole.