Poppers, Crackers, Hisses, and Fizz

I love words. Not just the meaning behind the words, but the taste and feel of words.

Back before it was an illness, prose was referred to as a word salad and to make your salad palatable, you had to include croutons and garnishments. It gives the salad texture and crunch.

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Keepin’ it fresh

Linguists refer to these special words as Plosives, Fricatives, Sibilance, and Affricatives. That’s way too involved for me, so I call them Poppers, Crackers, Hisses, and Fizz.

Words that start or end with these are fun to say and read. Formed with the lips and glottal stops, they are active words.

Poppers and Crackers are the Plosives. Purple, puppies, cake, crack, and especially when several such words are in close proximity. “Sally smacked her husband smartly, making his cheek shine.” “The freaky few who feel forced to comply will fail.”

Hiss refers to sibilance or the “s” sound. Stifle, success, steal…

Fizz belongs to Fricatives and Affricatives, the “f” and “ph” sound. Fellow, follow, freak, and phonics.

While nailing the sound of these is the realm of the actor (go ahead and listen for them, especially with Shakespearean actors (Ian McClellan loves his plosives)), the writer originates them.

Good writing is all about finding the fewest, best words for your prose. Too many garnishes and your prose becomes purple and putrescent. With just the right measure, salt the following kinds of words into your writing:

  • Onomatopoeia – The word sounds like it’s meaning. Snap! Moist. Crack! Bang! Smooth. These are great words that can add texture to your sentences.
  • Crunchy words – Plosive (Poppers and Crackers). You’ll find most of our curse words are crunchy, that’s why they are successfully crude. Typically, these are short words that pop in your mouth.
  • Punch – You can give prose punch by using a short, strong sentence after using several long sentences.
  • Metaphors – Make a sentence vivid with metaphors; “Love is a battlefield” “His thoughts were a knife.” Simile, comparisons that throw in “like” or “as,” is less vivid because it draws the reader away. “Love is like a battlefield” loses immediacy.
  • Stay true to your running theme – At the beginning of this blog, I said, “Word Salad” and then continued to use food-themed words.
  • Adjectives – When you have to modify a word, you are not using the right word. There are thousands upon thousands of words. “Very hungry” is less visual than “starving” “famished” “tummy-growling.”

None of these should be used with a heavy hand or it will hurt your prose.

What are your crunchy words?