Language Is A Virus

Funny that even the masters of storytelling are prone to the mistake of uncommon-word repetition. With the Munro story I just read there was only one instance I noticed: She repeats the word “brisk” within the scope of very few pages, in different context (once in a statement about business during WW I, the second time describing passing-by new Ford automobiles). Maybe this kind of phenomenon escapes the native language reader, even the sharp eye of an editor. Maybe you have to be unfamiliar with the word to trip over its recurrence, but it always strikes me as something wrong, some obstruction in my reading pleasure, something I would recommend the writer to correct, had she given me the manuscript.

I still remember the first time I noticed this. It was in a crime novel by Sara Paretsky (not a very good writer by any standards). In that book she’s obsessed with the word “shenanigans” – it reappears in every other chapter. When I read another Paretsky novel I found there was again a word that haunted the story. Since then I’m alerted to repetition.