Thursday, January 26, 2006

Sometimes a Smaller Word is Better

In today's reading I came across the following snippet:

its members known only to each other, exacted revenge, sometimes sanguinely

adv. 1. In a sanguine manner.
I can not speculate quite so sanguinely as he does.
- Burke.

~Websters Dictionary 1913

To which there are these definitions of the word sanguine. And unless I take the final definition, a transitive verb and create an adjective from this -
I am reading the originally quoted passage to say that the members cheerfully, confidently or heartily exacted revenge. I don't think that this was the author's purpose or meaning.

The writer was on the correct path, "sanguis" being the latin for "blood" as in "exsanguinate" or "bleed out" (something your's truly has less risk of than most)

But he did not count on the Medieval humor theory, which is not a joke about how many Saxons it takes to make a pottage. In short one is Sanguine having plenty of blood and therefore cheerful, Phlegmatic having plenty of phlegm and is thus laid-back, mellow, or indifferent, Melancholic having plenty of Black Bile and is an unhappy soul, or Choleric having plenty of yellow bile and thus being an all around son of a bitch.

So after all this the writer could have just said:

its members known only to each other, exacted bloody revenge

So sometimes the simpler word is the best. Most of the time it is, unless in dialog, in the mouth of an overbearing know-it-all character, sort of like me.


At 12:11 PM, Blogger Erik Ivan James said...

Typical Bunion quality post, way over my head until I came to your last statement. Simple words are the only words I know.

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Lisa S. said...

Plain speech makes for the best writing, Erik.

At 1:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that rare, technical, and multi-syllabic words can be jarring to the reader. Too many bumps, and the reader may put the story down.

At 2:01 PM, Blogger Dana Y. T. Lin said...

*looks around to see if M.G. is in the room*

Lisa, I hope to GAWD you tell this to M.G. - remember Bubbas, the Original Version???

At 2:21 PM, Blogger Lisa S. said...

Yea verily, Dana. Forsooth, I dost recollect those days of yore.

*runs and hides from M.G.*

At 4:24 PM, Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

Gee, Lisa, why don't you read us all your deathbed scene...

All three, very long, very excruciatingly sad, tragic, poignant and overly-adverbed freaking CHAPTERS.


Min was sad. Her mother-in-law is angry. Her husband goes away on business. That makes Min very sad. She sadly decides to change tenses on a whim. She will be past in the future, but only is she was past in the present.

At 4:27 PM, Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

Sanguine is also a red crayon.

Mary drew a pretty apple with her sanguine.

Nope. Doesn't do it for me.

At 4:51 PM, Blogger R.J. Baker said...

Lisa, Tis'
part of the title to MY novel, artists know it as blood red but others could view it as life is both and so is my novel.

At 5:02 PM, Anonymous jamie ford said...

Hmmm, let's try some song titles:

Sanguine Sanguine Wine
Sanguine Skies at Night
Lady in Sanguine
Little Sanguine Corvette

Just doesn't seem to work.

At 5:18 PM, Blogger Lisa S. said...


Because I care about The Bunions and FOBs and would not inflict on any of you the excruciating pain that were those chapters.

I don't believe that there is enough Compazene in the world to prevent the nausea that attempt at writing would provoke.

At 7:10 PM, Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

When we're published and famous, we should do a reading of the early versions of our works. If we can stop laughing enough to do it.

Lisa and I end up blowing snot and drinks out our noses when we read these things. BUBBAS was so godawful that I should try and that original version published as a comedy, or farce.

But the three chapter dying scene - I'm not sure I outdid the three chapter dying scene. Think Camille on steroids.

At 8:31 PM, Blogger Lisa S. said...

Hello Jamie! Welcome to this little hamlet on the blogisphere.
From the tunes it looks like we both fondly remember 80's music.... the best of times...

At 8:32 PM, Blogger Dana Y. T. Lin said...

If Brothers is renamed, "Bubbas" and Deepest Blue renamed "Palest Mauve"

What would my Min book be renamed? "Mindy"


At 8:57 PM, Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

Your Min book should be renamed, Min and Kan Got Married

At 11:57 AM, Blogger Gabriele C. said...

All three, very long, very excruciatingly sad, tragic, poignant and overly-adverbed freaking CHAPTERS.

Oh, you have one of these, too? :-)

At 1:10 PM, Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

It was death by poison. Very very slow poison. The poison got slower and slower the longer you read.

At 2:51 PM, Blogger Lisa S. said...

Thank you M.G. - but you forgot to mention that the poison was painless too.

Gabriele - Want a new best friend?

At 2:53 PM, Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

Death by slow, painless poison, with plenty of time to right all one's wrongs and utter all one's regrets...


At 11:31 PM, Blogger Bonnie Calhoun said...

Lisa sometimes fewer words are better...I know M.G. is always cutting words on me...LOL.

But it's interesting that you would choose to give speech to Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Melancholic and Choleric, as I just finished and eight week study on the personality traits connected to each, and then the variations.

The way you defined each is exactly the way the personalities are portrayed!

Eric, it's a foreign language! LOL

At 2:41 PM, Blogger Bernita said...

Begin the sanguine...

At 5:08 PM, Blogger Lisa S. said...


That's a groaner - I love it!

At 6:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Wasn't he a famous Italian illusionist?

At 1:25 PM, Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

The Great Sanguini. Performed for all the Crowned Heads of Europe.
And their wives.

At 4:51 PM, Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Gabriele - Want a new best friend?

Sure. :-)

My first novel was a tad influenced by operas which I love. Do you have an idea how long someone still can sing beautifully with a dagger or bullet in some vital body part, or poison running through his/her veins? LOL

At 7:22 PM, Blogger Lisa S. said...

Absolutely Gabriele!


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