06 January 2007

Why I Love the Word "Verisimilitudinous"

Last month I inveighed against the clumsy and unneeded word "excitedly." So it's only fair to discuss a word I deeply admire and enjoy. As I announced to an entire international SCBWI conference a coupla years back (a long story), one of my favorite words is "verisimilitudinous."

Just listen to it (or its root). It starts with a cascade of five soft consonants paired with five short vowels. Then there's a sonic climax in the percussive yet not at all harsh syllable TOOD: hard consonants, a long vowel, a break into the dactyllic pattern. But then the wave settles back with two more soft syllables and a trailing sibilant. Verisimilitudinous.

And the word's very useful for writers. Not for use in actual stories, mind you, especially for young readers. But its meaning is vital for us, especially when it comes to fantasy. We're trying to create a similitude of reality, a situation that feels real, rather than to recreate reality.

We don't have to write with veracity to every detail, but we do have to write with verisimilitude. The two words have the same relationship as "truth" and "truthiness," the latter being what people want to believe. We need to convince our readers to accept what we write as true--as long as the story lasts.

2 comments:

chimeraleon said...

. . . and I thought on 25JAN2009Verisimilitudinous was mine

Sarah said...

I have just discovered this word, in writing an essay on Viking Sagas.
I have fallen in love with it; it's just such a fantastic looking word.