February 23, 2012


I came across another delicious word in my reading the other day: Coruscate.  It means to give off sparkles. As it begins with a sound that reminds me of “corrosive,”  “corrupt” or even “corrugated,” it struck as one least likely to provoke images of iridescence. For a time, I considered how to use the word in a proper setting: I stood gazing at the coruscated water… the moon coruscated on the shimmering lake… her eyes coruscated with the light of many diamonds.

Somehow, the word lacked the proper onomatopoeic quality for these descriptions and so it was natural that a quote by Mark Twain sprang to mind: 

          “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”                                         (quoted in “This Week,” 1/27/12)

Words really do matter. Consider the number of synonyms that exist for the word “creative: fanciful, original, clever, ingenious, enterprising, resourceful, visionary, fantastic, clever, skillful, shrewd, cunning, craft, acute, sharp, keen, adept, smart, gifted, bright, brilliant, talented, handy…. to name a few. These are words a thesaurus would offer as an alternative. Yet being “adept” is not quite the same as a being “fanciful” and a person described as “cunning” might not be altogether pleased. 

(courtesy: favecrafts.com)

A writer must explore his words not only for meaning but for sound and connotation. Like a quilter who rifles through a bag of swatches in search of the right hue so, too, the writer requires the right word. This need to rummage through the language may be one reason for why writing is generally a solitary craft… the chosen work of introverts. But those of us of this ilk needn’t apologize.  Susan Cain in the “New York Times” explains that,

          “Brain storming sessions have been shown to be ‘one of the worst possible ways to stimulate creativity’… it’s often in quiet, private moments that our best work is done.”                                                                                                   (“In Praise of the Introvert,” Susan Cain, quoted in “This Week” 1/27/12)

Maybe we should add the word “solitary”to the list of synonyms for “creative.”  I think the idea coruscates with promise.