Do some words, or terms, or phrases utterly delight you?
Let’s turn away from pet peeves to language we love.
My last column applauded a reader who turned a lovely phrase: He wrote that someone using bloated language is creating “the illusion of fluency.”
That prompted me to start recalling favorite phrases I have read.
The first described a person who stormed out of a room as leaving “in high dudgeon.”
Dudgeon means deep resentment; there’s no such thing as “low dudgeon.” That would equate to “mild rage.”
“High dudgeon” has eye and ear appeal.
Even though it is a cliché, it appears very seldom, so when it does pop up, it’s a delicious reminder of the first time I read it — a vivid example of words making a sentence say what it means.
People who love vivid language bask in pleasure delivered by words, phrases, sentences and paragraphs that not only stand out, but linger.
If you have not yet read Erik Larson’s nonfiction book “The Devil in the White City,” a smorgasbord of linguistic treats awaits you. I remember gasping at sentences in that book; after a few such gasps, my wife, sitting nearby, blurted out: “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing is wrong,” I said. “There are sentences in this book that take my breath away.”
Rather than cite examples from that book, I leave the pleasure of discovery to you. Please let the rest of us know what you find that has you, like me, wishing the book would never end.
And please submit favorites from your other reading.
Lest we think that the current plague of political invective has no precedent, consider this explosion by the liberal U.S. Sen. Hiram Johnson of California, speaking of Harrison Gray Otis, the red-baiting, strikebreaking publisher of the L.A. Times in the 1890s and early 1900s. It’s one of my all-time favorites:
“He sits there in senile dementia with gangrene heart and rotting brain, grimacing at every reform, chattering impotently at all things that are decent — frothing, fuming, violently gibbering, going down to his grave in snarling infamy — disgraceful, depraved, corrupt, crooked and putrescent — that is Harrison Gray Otis.”
Twin Cities writing coach and Emmy Award winner Gary Gilson has taught journalism at Colorado College. He can be reached at writebetterwithgary.com.