Word rant, part II: the describing-conversation rant

images‘Dialoguing’ is not a word. ‘Talking’ is a word. If you don’t want to ‘talk’, you can converse, discuss, natter, gossip, argue, wrangle, whisper, squabble, speak, squeak, say, etc. But you can’t ‘dialogue’.

And please don’t ‘share’. Sharing needs an object, it’s concrete, not ethereal (to misquote Chrissie Hynde when she was feeling precious). If you are going to ‘share’ something, say exactly what you’re sharing: a story, a feeling, an STD, an umbrella, your last crust of bread. If you’re telling someone (your brother, a stranger on a train, your AA group) about something that happened in your life or how you feel, and you don’t want to talk or tell or say because that feels too simple and plain, you still do not have to share, you can confess, admit, acknowledge, disclose, state, narrate, inform, or rant. Just for starters.

On the other hand, when writing dialogue – a conversation between characters – you won’t need more of a verb than said, as in: he said this, and she said that. Fancier verbs can distract the reader from the actual conversation; but said is unobtrusive. In dialogue the emphasis  should be on what the characters are saying, and the reader should be able to hear how they’re saying it from the way their dialogue is written. (So far I have already found an exception to this rule in Mikhail Bulgaghov’s The Master & Margarita. See comments section after word rant part I. Better yet, read the book. But in most cases, a simple ‘said’ works best.)

Chat – why do I hate this word? (Because isn’t a reason, as the 2-year olds say.) Okay, then: ‘chat’ seems to denigrate the verbal interaction. It is perfunctory. I’d prefer to get the specifics of their brief conversation, as in: We spoke of the weather, his new shoes, and my passion for unripe fruit.

And I want to know what the interaction meant or didn’t mean. For instance, instead of saying, they ‘chatted’, why not say: They passed in the hall, exchanged pleasantries, and kept going. But if that sentence isn’t about people ignoring each other purposely, if they are only and simply unimportant to each other, why not leave their ‘chatting’ out entirely? If the talk was meaningless and they have no relationship, why include it at all? Why are you wasting my time????

I may as well admit here that I have trouble with the greeting: Hi, how are you? Especially when the person asking continues to walk past me, intent on their own business, with no discernible interest whatsofuckingever in how I am. I would much rather be ignored; if that doesn’t accord with the person’s idea of manners, a nod will do. This is probably related to hating the word ‘chat’.

But I have no problem with ‘natter’, as in, ‘we nattered all night long’. Because it says: we had fun and were absorbed in our conversation, even though it would not be interesting to anyone else. ‘Natter’ implies a cozy, frayed, wandering in all directions sort of talk, full of interruptions and/or bad puns. (Although I admit the ‘all night long’ is adding to that picture in my head.)

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