I’m a sucker for great TV ads. The best combine a simple, actionable message with a delicious dollop of spit-take worthy humor — and in the process transform a pitch into conversational shorthand, like this:
If you’ve seen this video you know the subtext: “Dude” is the everyword, a homograph that’s as appropriate for describing dismay (“Duuuude”) as it is joy (“Dude!“). There’s art in the subtlety; inflection breeds variance. Of course, we writers act as if everywords are detestable. We’d rather revel in vocabularic mastery, as if an encyclopedic knowledge of words great and small is a pridemark — a tribal tattoo of the literati. But this, too, is excrement. (See? More vocabularic hoo-ha!)
The truth is that writers need everywords because not all outcomes are equal, even if they share the same word. Take “rejection.” Sure, it’s sometimes as awful as it sounds but any writer who has been freelancing for a while will tell you: Not all rejections are cause for dejection. Some rejections are worth celebrating. One I received last month from a national publication included this note from the editor: “You’re a good writer, and I wish you all the best.” I think she means it. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself these days.
In the shorthand age of Twitter — where you’ve only 140 characters to convey meaning — homographs have taken on new currency, as if everything old is somehow new again. Balderdash. For writers, homographs have long defined our business. Rejection is only the tallest and most noticeable, a descriptor that can either sustain or destroy us depending how our editor breaks the news. We need the everywords to help us describe what we’re feeling in the aftermath.
Another rejection? Which sort is it: Dude! or Duuuude?