Thursday, October 21, 2010

Things I Learned Along the Way Thursdays

This week's topic is word choice.  I used to think that my writing should just be authentic and natural.  The way I say things would probably be best and forcing words I don't use a lot to sound scholarly just felt awkward.  Then last night I went to an All You Can Eat Chinese Buffet.  First of all, this entire post could be about how the words "all you can eat" constitutes poor word choice, but that is for another time.  This time I ate as much as I wanted of dumplings, bacon wrapped shrimp, and low-dollar sushi.  When my wife and I got back from our first round at the buffet a woman was eating at our seat.  We tried to tell the waiter about it so we could get another seat, but he moved her in front of us.  Anyway... eating eating eating, and then the bill came along with the customary two fortune cookies to end the meal (which, had I eaten all I could eat like I was supposed to under the harsh bylaws of the lighted sign out front, would have set me over the top.)

My wife opens hers.  "You will take exciting travel both for business and for pleasure."  Pleased as punch, she texted her friend who she is flying across the country this weekend to see and who she is also going to a vet conference in Cali with.  

I opened mine.  "Everything will now come your way."  At first I was elated.  Do you know what this means?  I'm going to get a book deal!  I'm going to author several popular book seriesesizez...  
I'm going to buy a waffle maker for my yacht!  
As my dreams rattled on in my head the part of me that spoke English started to really analyze my fortune.  The cookie did not say, "Good things"  it said "all things."  I began to panic.  Sure, I was going to get a slinky, and even the stairs to send it down, but I was also going to get tetanus and fruitcakes.  I began to imagine everything that was coming my way: aardvarks, lentils, those little metal brads you poked through oak-tag when you were eight to make leprechaun puppets, anteaters (though similar to aardvarks, clearly not the same.)  I even wondered if I'd get the green cardboard box that the metal brads came in.  Then I remembered I was getting everything.  
But did I really want everything that came with -- EVERYTHING?  Sure I'd get lucky powerball numbers, but what good were those when I was also going to get cirrhosis and wouldn't be around to spend it anyway.  And I didn't even need the powerball numbers because I was going to get gold bricks and barabonds.  For all the fuzzy unicorns and cotton candy I would be getting, cylones and scoliosis were sure to follow.  And what was I going to do with 74.56 pounds of Styrofoam peanuts? 
Everything was too much to take.  It made me realize how much a single word can change and flavor a sentence.  Sure there is also how people interpret a sentence.  for example I could interpret that "your way" means everything will go my way.  Makes some sense, but isn't verbatim what the sentence says.  So for all the times I don't want to bother dusting off my thesaurus or looking at my word choice I will remember the time I almost got everything and came away gaining 3 pounds.  


P.B.P. (post blog post) Lucky #'s 4, 24, 26, 33, 40, 45


  1. Use the Styrofoam to pack the aardvarks!

  2. I expected that the "everything" would include the bill for what the woman ate who sat at your table. So, your fortune was lucky.

  3. Very good, Chris. A thoroughly entertaining and actually a thought provoking posting.
    And speaking of fortune cookies, I opened a fortune cookie and the note inside stated, 'Help!, I'm being held hostage in a fortune cookie factory.'
    Happy writing and thank you very much for your very thoughtful comment on my blog. That was most appreciated.
    In kindness, Gary.

  4. LMAO! This is a hilarious post, and such a fun way to get a great writing point across. You're so right - a single word can really change the meaning of a sentence. Thanks for the laugh! :)