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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Curmudgeon

For some reason, I always assumed a curmudgeon was an ill tempered old man, but apparently the meaning is broader than that, meaning: An ill tempered person full of resentment and stubborn notions.

Yup. When it comes to how some people insist on following all writing rules as if the Almighty wrote them in gleaming gold letters for Moses to bring down from the mount, I'm a curmudgeon.

I don't like rules. I will break them if and when I choose. I especially don't like people telling me (and they always seem to tell me in a chirpy, happy way, as if they think I don't know) that I must NEVER use adverbs, or the word VERY, or passive verbs or compound verb constructions. Here's my rule: If the adverb works to describe inflection, if 'very' is necessary because it is embedded within dialogue, if the passive verb form reflects a certain nuance of dialect or passage of time, I will use any and all of these. Mind your own business.

I'm happy to see that I'm not the only tablet breaker. In 'Rules of Thumb' (yes, I know, an odd book choice for someone who is whinging about rules), Jill Christman's essay on 'The Very Rule' is a fun read. She writes: I am prone to hyperbole. I can't help myself. I have a dramatic streak. I am drawn to all things very. My sentences long to stretch themselves thin with very, but I pull them back, stout them up, reach up with the padding ring finger of my right hand, tat, tat, tat, tat on Backspace, and bring the curtain down on very's theatrics."

She even goes on to analyze how many times she used very in one of her novels, Darkroom, and why. Out of its 86,418 words, she used very 42 times.

I like this woman. I like her very much. I think she is most curmudgeonly.

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