“For a thing to endure, it must be made of either granite or words.”
The reader who sent that in as a favorite phrase says she has no idea who said it. Neither do I, but as a word enthusiast I’m all for it.
Here’s a collection of words and phrases sent in by readers happy to shift from pet peeves, in recent columns, to favorites.
• New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, responding to questions about reopening the economy in the face of the COVID-19 crisis: “We all need to think outside the box — because there is no box.”
• “Toxic positivity” — unwarranted belief in technology. Um, Hydroxychloroquine?
• An aficionado of Robert W. Service’s Yukon gold-rush poems offers this, from “The Land God Forgot:”
“The lonely sunsets flame and die;
The giant valleys gulp the night;
The monster mountains scrape the sky
Where eager stars are diamond bright.”
Savor the verbs: flame, die, gulp, scrape. Good, clear writing hinges on strong verbs.
And thanks to that reader, who sparked my faded memory of the pleasure of reading Service’s comic creation “The Cremation of Sam McGee.”
•The 2015 Pulitzer winner for fiction, “All the Light We Cannot See” — set during the Nazi occupation of France in World War II — moved another reader to say, “I soaked up and loved hundreds, maybe thousands, of creative passages. They leapt out of every page. Here’s one:”
“Metallic, tattered moonlight shatters across the road, and a white horse stands chewing in a field, and a searchlight rakes the sky …”
Again, the verbs: shatters, stands chewing, rakes.
•Back to today. This, from the owner of the Manhattan restaurant Prune, closed in the virus shutdown: “For 10 days, everyone in my orbit had been tilting one way one hour, the other the next. Ten days of being waterboarded by the news, by tweets, by friends, by my waiters.”
The reader says, “I think her selection of the term ‘waterboarded’ is just right. And in one paragraph she manages to completely immerse you in her own unique world.”
Nice touch, dear reader, using “immerse,” close kin of waterboarding.
Who doesn’t love the perfect word?
Twin Cities writing coach Gary Gilson can be reached at writebetterwithgary.com.