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Vocabulary: In Context (I)

Posted by CW64 on October 12, 2010

I thought I would continue with the vocabulary here. This time, however, instead of presenting a general list of words, I will provide words to various categories so that lexicons can be established and studied in context. This arrangement also shows how a word’s meaning expands in light of the ways in which it is applied.

Various synonyms also accompany these words to facilitate the growth process in said lexicon by broadening a term’s particular set of correlative references. In this way, one can think about certain ideas in many different ways.

In order for me to provide room for elaboration throughout, I will dedicate a single post to each category. For example, this post will focus on terms of the paranormal and the genre of Horror (which is apropos with Halloween approaching), where the next post in the series will focus on yet a different subject and thenceforth onward. This way, I can spend more time on each category.

Anyone who knows of others terms not included here are welcome to share them and their simple and extended definitions.

The Paranormal-Horror Dichotomy

Despite what many people think, the paranormal and “Horror” are not the same thing. The former refers to ghostly entities and spiritual experiences, along with poltergeists and the true but unexplainable. The latter, as most know, includes vampires, wolf men, slashers like Freddie Kruger and Mike Meyers, the boogieman and a plethora of other monsters of the imagination. These are quite often fictitious and therefore not at all based on reality. Where stories of the paranormal describe otherworldly plains of existences and how they interact with the physical world, Horror means basically (1) to scare the audience, or (2) delve into the deep recesses of the human psyche and explore the many possible ways that humans think. These elements also serve as symbolic references to illustrate colorfully and dynamically those parts of man that are otherwise intangible yet existent in each and every human being. The vampire, for instance, is a living emblem of man’s lust for power and control, and, yes, even sex; an image of the vampire is lust personified. Other creatures, like Freddie Kruger, represent, among other things, man’s inherent desire for killing. Despite the difference in nature between stories of the paranormal and those of Horror, the vocabulary is very much a crossover. This notion, perhaps, forms a connection between the two concepts without even establishing them as one and the same—a dichotomy of two different realms, each of which is unique and still inherently shares intellectual and sensual aspects with the other.

Common and Uncommon Words

Terms and modifiers used in the field of the paranormal and the genre of Horror are plentiful, whether reflective of reality or merely something imaginative as those ideas made prevalent in movies. Below is a list of some of those words, along with extended and simplified definitions.

* Abandoned: left unoccupied and unused
* Abyss: unfathomably or immeasurably deep gorge or chasm; hell or the infernal regions conceived of as a bottomless pit
* Antiquated: aged, as from an earlier time period; old
* Apparition: an appearance of a ghost or spirit
* Banshee: female spirit that wails a warning of death
* Bizarre: inexplicably strange and/or surreal sensation, situation or behavior
* Bottomless: having no bottom; so [extremely] deep that the bottom can not be discerned (connotative; hyperbole)
* Chaotic: state of disorder
* Cacophony: harsh, discordant mixture of sounds or other sensual stimuli
* Cryogenic: branch of physics dealing with low temperatures; extremely cold or frozen
* Decrepit: weak and dilapidated due to aging; old and disintegrating
* Discordant: state of being without calmness or peace
* Eidolon: a phantom or apparition (referring to the appearance of a ghost or spirit}
* Enigmatic: puzzling or paradoxical; a riddle
* Hallowed: deemed sacred or pertaining to the spiritual realm
* Haunted: the state of being occupied by a spirit or spirits; exhibiting strange and inexplicable manifestations
* Idyllic: like paradise; quiet, calm, peaceful, serene
* Igneous: molten and lava-like; characteristic of fire; acidic and burning
* Jaundice: a sickly yellow characteristic of the disease which made it famous
* Keelhaul: to drag along the keel of a ship; to scold or rebuke severely
* Kindle: to light or set on fire; ignite or inflame; catch fire; to arouse, stimulate or inspire; foment, incite or provoke
* Labyrinthine: of or like a labyrinth; twisted and complicated
* Lacerate: to slice or cut, especially with a jagged-edged object
* Lucid: expressing or expressed with clarity; sane
* Obscure: unclear; indiscernible, especially due to some obstruction
* Otherworldly: concerned with spiritual plains of existence or life after death
* Penumbra: grayish shadow
* Phantasmal: or pertaining to a phantasm; ghostly
* Scream: a loud humanly produced screeching brought on by sorrow, fright, happiness, surprise or illumination
* Supernatural: pertaining or related to that which is beyond the physical world

The thirty words above are related to the paranormal and/or Horror in one way or another. Some of them no doubt you know; others you don’t. How are or can they be used efficaciously in writing to convey meaning? These words have many references, depending on denotation, connotation, interpretation and innovation. Determining their actual meanings is simple enough (open and read the dictionary); the real adventure begins when writers experiment with language to create meaning that isn’t inherent in the individual word.

Let’s take the word “scream” above, for instance. As many of you know, in my last post, I used the word in the description of the modern-day Lambertville: “the interior is a cold darkness screaming with a sense of foreboding.” What does that mean? Does darkness actually scream? Does darkness have vocal cords and make a high screeching sound? Still, the use of the word in the sentence creates an impression denoting intimidation, which suggests a larger meaning than that inferred by the word out of context. Language is strange and funny that way—words have their own particular meanings individually, but when used in various contexts and in combination with certain words, new, more sensual and dynamic meanings emerge. “Scream,” for instance, when applied in another context and used in correlation with other words, would not only create an entirely different but desirable tone to a given passage, it also would expand in meaning with regards to (1) the way it is used, and (2) the sensual and mental perceptions of the reader.

The child giggled with joy at seeing her favorite dancing clown scream across the TV screen.

Here, the tone of the sentence is not the same as that of the ‘Lambertville’ because the context and wording are different. The key word, “scream,” also refers to something else—in this case, movement rather than feeling—and so a new dimension of meaning is associated with the word.

All of these words can be used the same way if one is innovative enough. It’s important to first know a word’s denotative, or actual, meaning, but it doesn’t stop there; simple definitions allow writers to apply words to a virtually endless array of possibilities.

For example, “scream’s” simple definition, “screech,” made it easy to apply to a clown’s dancing movements to produce a certain effect; the particular conception has brought forth the image of a clown dancing around wild and fast (“zipping” and “zinging”), which is intended.

Stay tuned for Vocabulary: In Context (II) where I will continue with these ideas with regards to words in yet other subject matter.

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