Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Vocab Builder: I

Vocab Builder: I
Vocab Builder: I. Image logo created by me.
Welcome to the ninth of the Vocab Builder series. Last time we covered the letter H. This week, for those not following the pattern, we will look at the letter I.

A strong vocabulary allows you to select the precise word for what your trying to say.Whether you're an inimical person with insouciance who is irrefragably ineffable, or live in indigence who's intransigent, you should have a strong vocabulary suited to your situation.

It has been commented that it is all very well knowing these words but one mustn't show off vocabulary for the sake of it. Remember if you want to use these words make sure you are using them correctly and because they are the right word for the job. Let's start:


Meaning:  severe poverty

Sentence:  The elves were driven to indigence by the orc overlord.

Origin:  Latin. Indigere means 'to need'.

Discussion:  I don't have much to say about this word. It isn't uncommon, nor is it overly used. It has a specific meaning, but could easily be used in a metaphor or hyperbole. For example:  How much do you want me to pay for my Sky+ HD subscription? If I pay that I'll become indigent!

Indigent is somebody in indigence.


Meaning:  Indescribable / taboo

Sentence:  The dwarf tried to explain what the giant said, but found he couldn't repeat the ineffable language used.

Origin:  Latin. Ineffabilis from in-, meaning 'not' and -effari, meaning 'to speak out'

Discussion:  I'd imagine most people have heard of this word, or know roughly what it means. When saying the word, I find there is a slight stutter built in to the word. This really enhances the word. 'It was just ... ineffable' is an example of when it can be used in dialogue as opposed to describing dialogue. It's a good word to use if you want to vary your vocabulary in a scene where there are expletives without actually writing the expletive.


Meaning:  hostile / adverse due to hostility

Sentence:  Dragons are often perceived as inimical, but one child knew differently.

Origin:  Latin. Inimicus is a combination of amicus, 'friend' and in-, 'not'

Discussion:  I rather like this word. I'd say your typical readership for fantasy will be split 60:40 knowing the word : not knowing the word. For that 40% who don't (although it may be more like 35/30), your context will typically be strong enough to make it not matter that they don't know the word. If the protagonist encounters an inimical character, then the chances are that person will behave in a hostile way.


Meaning:  nonchalant / light-hearted unconcern

Sentence:  Knights often enter dragon battles with an insouciance air ... often to their detriment.

Origin:  Latin. Sollicitus means 'anxious'

Discussion:  It has quite a French air, don't you think? Well we English speakers did take it from the French in the 1700s. It isn't a word I had come across before reading it on the 365 New Words a Year calendar. I don't know how that translates to most Fantasy readers, but I would use the word only if nonchalant, or unconcerned, etc... are not suitable for your scene. The other thing to point out, is if the reader doesn't know the word then the length and look of the word can be jarring and may disrupt the flow of your scene a little. However, as I say in the introduction good vocabularies are important and readers are more willing than most to learn new words. For example I didn't know the word 'ostensibly' until about 8 months ago when I read it in one of the Mistborn novels. I looked it up and now use it in my day to day life.


Meaning:  uncompromising

Sentence:  The king was intransigent:  he would not sign the peace treaty supposedly proposed in earnest by his enemies.

Origin:  Latin. Transigere means 'to come to an agreement'.

Discussion:  This one is my second favourite on the list. It sounds like what it is. Say it out loud with an emphasis on the 'in' and 'tran' parts and a long 's' sound and it sounds like you're emphasising a point. You refuse to say it any other way. In context most should know this word, but avoid using it more that once in a paragraph as it isn't overly common.


Meaning:  impossible to break/refute

Sentence:  The treaty, if true, would be beneficial to the nation, that much was irrefragable.

Origin:  Late Latin. Irrefragabilis means pretty mush the same thing and is derrived from the Latin, refragari meaning 'to oppose or resist'

Discussion:  This is my favourite 'I' word. Maybe it's sad to have favourites, but I don't succumb to social convention. I'd much rather listen to the Top 10 charts for best words starting with 'I' than for pop music. For me it is an irrefragable, knowledge is far better that's Scream and Shout or 50 Cent's 'My Life'! Anyway, the word is great and if used in moderation should fit into most stories.

So there you go. Six words beginning with I.

Please post in the comments below. Perhaps have a go at using all 6 words or discuss the 'I' words further. Can you think of any good 'I' words? If you found this post interesting or useful please share it using the social media tools below or send links to people you think may be interested.

Matt B


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