Not everyone uses words in the same way, and Jennie Erdal shows the funny and frustrating effects of someone with a different take on what the ‘right word’ is, in ‘Ghosting’ (Canongate, 2004), her extraordinary book about life as a ghost writer.
“Once I used the word humility, as in ‘I felt a deep sense of humility‘ – to explain how Tiger had felt in the presence of a woman he very much admired and who had borne a heavy cross. I was confident he would love humility. But he didn’t.
‘Isn’t it the same like humiliation?’ he asked.
I thought: up to a linguistic point, Lord Cropper. But what I said was:
‘I think humility is the right word in this context. It’s to do with feeling humble in comparison to her strength and courage.’ He wasn’t convinced.
‘Humble…humble,’ he said, trying it out for size, ‘no, it’s not good for me.’
And then, with the thoroughness of a lexicographer, he did an eyes-closed sift and search for the right word. When he found it, he said:
‘I’ve got it! I’ve got it! Foreboding. Listen – “I felt a deep sense of foreboding.” It’s much better. Write it down.’
This is Lewis Carroll territory, I thought.”
Reading ‘Ghosting’ was partly what inspired me to set up this blog: it spurred my interest in the particularities and peculiarities of people’s spoken and written language. Of course, the blog is a living thing and will evolve over time, but it will always, I hope, reflect on the world of words. Be great to have your thoughts and contributions.