The Effective Author: New Words for New Culture
© 2020 Kebba Buckley Button, MS, OM. World Rights Reserved.
No language demonstrates cultural evolution more clearly than does English. Perhaps that’s because so many different cultures speak it and introduce variations. Yet other languages are clearly evolving rapidly also. My husband and I were exploring TV channels recently, and we came across one that offers European dramas, commercial-free. Both having formerly known a lot of French and German, we were fascinated at how much those languages have changed in recent years. Amazingly, quite a few American words were being used by the Europeans in the French and German dramas.
I had just been pitching to my husband that the French and German we were taught decades ago would sound like out-of-date, stilted, schoolbook conversation, were we to speak it in Europe today. I wondered aloud how we might modernize our language skills, which were nearly fluent in the past. But it isn’t only to our European friends that we may sound quaint, if we aren’t careful. Just a few weeks ago, I was helping set up a conference, and we were stacking materials in a hotel lobby. A 40-something attorney asked me if a certain thing was correct, and I cheerfully replied, “Verily!” I knew that was hardly a hip 2019 term, but I thought it was cute for a minister to reply with that quaint word, so often seen in Bible translations. Also, it was more culturally apt than “Tru dat!” It means something like, “Supertrue!”
But the attorney pulled his chin back and repeated, “VERily?” He disapproved and seemed uncomfortable.
Authors especially need to be aware of how modern or quaint their languaging is. There is nothing so sad as a “period” movie with Victorian costuming and 21st century conversation and behavior. An author needs to take care to choose a time frame for his/her writing and utilize vocabulary and phrasing that are specific to that time. Finding historic conversation is easy, if we look to the classic novels of whichever previous cultural period we have chosen.
But how can we be contemporary in our conversation stylings without sounding like we’re trying too hard? A great way is to read opinion pieces written by contributors of the age group we want to match. Another way is to be sure to read the articles on new words, from the Oxford English Dictionary and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Merriam-Webster claims to have added more than 530 words in September 2019! I believe them, but I’m not taking the time to count.
Of course, we now have shortened words: vacay (vacation), inspo (inspiration), and sesh (session). We also have new words for new phenomena: podcast, solopreneur, and escape room. And we have old words applied differently for evolving culture: they and themselves.
The best strategy for writers and authors now, with the rapid rate of language change, is to always think of the target audience’s time frame and cultural context, then research that cultural framework when beginning a writing project. Then and only then, begin to outline and write. After all, you need to maintain your fabulosity. And you will be even more The Effective Authorsm.
Kebba Buckley Button is a stress management expert with a natural healing practice. She also is an ordained minister whose passion is helping people find their Peace Within. She is the author of the award-winning book, Discover The Secret Energized You, available on Amazon, plus plus the 2013 book, Peace Within: Your Peaceful Inner Core, Second Edition. Her newest book is Sacred Meditation: Embracing the Divine, available through her office. Just email SacredMeditation@kebba.com. For an appointment or to ask Kebba to speak for your group: firstname.lastname@example.org.