Wordbaskets

Didn’t think you could weave a basket with words, didja! You may be surprised how many things you can do with words.

Here’s how to do that weaving thing. Think of an adjective (something like “hot”). Then think of its opposite (cold. Duh!)!

Now see how many words you can think of in tiny increments to turn “hot” into “cold.”

hot > tepid > chilly > cold = four (4)!

Steady, this isn’t a math quiz.

Try again (and don’t look for your thesaurus):

hot > sweltering > fiery > tropical > burning > toasty > warm > temperate > lukewarm > tepid > chilly > shivery > nippy > brisk > frosty > numbing > freezing > cold enough to spit ice cubes = eighteen (18) Wow!

Fun? Some of us word freaks think so. Anyone who writes for a living, or for an expected living, ought to think so too.

Here are some more suggestions for you to try:

  • short/tall
  • salty/sweet
  • good/bad (this one is helpful in ethics courses)
  • dry/wet
  • black/white

Focus this last one on skin color and you’ll have a great time deciding when black turns into white… and vice versa. Is “gray” actually the middle? Or is it “tan?”

And now for something completely different: another word game, but this time look at the letters. Choose two words with the same number of letters, then change one word into the other by substituting one letter at a time. (Example: GORE becomes BUSH in this way: gore, bore, bare, base, bash, bush.)

Now you try it: turn COLD into WARM by changing one letter at a time to form intermediary words. The fun is in trying to use the fewest intermediary words.

Why word games? Words are the tools of writers. Much as you learned spatial elements, finger control, persistence, and patience when you played with wooden blocks, you can learn shades of word meanings, the versatility of our language, and alternative word usage when toying around with the 26 basic letters.

Just think! We have hundreds of thousands of words at our command – all fashioned from those 26 letters. We started by using British English as a base, then we added many “revolutionary” deviations of our own, changed much of the spelling, and incorporated Native American and immigrant words (from countries around the world). We’ve chosen regional dialects and spellings. We have created our very own sound by developing colloquialisms, slang, and technical jargon. Why, just last year, the American Heritage Dictionary added more than 10,000 new words to its new edition!

Don’t just sit there, choose a few letters, combine them into words, and start to write! Your resources are rich, and you will be delighted with the results. Let me know how you do.

Copyright ©2005 Val Dumond

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About Val Dumond

VAL DUMOND is a writer who is enamored with words and putting them together to tell stories. Trained as a journalist, she also managed an advertising agency and public relations business. She has taught writing classes for many years and now focuses on her own writing, editing for other writers, and helping writers publish their books. She owns Muddy Puddle Press, where most of her books are published. Her favorite writing theme is historical fiction: She has done what-ifs for Klondike Kate — Queen of the Yukon, and the unlucky pilot who in 1933 tried and failed to be the first to fly solo across the Pacific. She also did a what-if about the status of women at a bank where she once was overworked and underpaid. (Kate received a new love interest at the age of 70; the pilot received a second chance at his heart's desire 50 years later; and the women of the bank rebelled enough to improve their wages and place women on the Board of Directors.) See: SUGAR, SPICE, AND STONE; WHEN ROOSTERS FLY; and A LITTLE REBELLION…. But Val's grammar books are the ones that draw attention. Her latest, AMERICAN-ENGLISH—The Official Guide (written for writers), is a culmination of five other books about language she has written. This new book urges writers to develop their own writing style by creating their own Style Manual, composed of preferences among the many choices that American-English provides. In it, she uses examples of uses for the various parts of language and punctuation, sets aside a section that's full of writing tips, includes a glossary and index for easy access to language solutions.
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