Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Words That Should Get a Divorce (One in an occasional series on words whose relationships have grown tired)

fell and swoop

Really, are there no other kinds of swoops? Must every swoop be "fell" (which means savage, cruel, or fierce)? Is there no other kind of swoop? Couldn't you have a robust swoop, a thorough swoop, hell, a happy swoop? How about a swift swoop? A comical swoop? A no-nonsense swoop? A dizzying swoop? A waggish swoop? A mirthful swoop? A snooping swoop? A plain-vanilla swoop?

How about a barbarous swoop?

And why must fell swoops only come in quantities on one? Couldn't you accomplish something important in two fell swoops? Or would that suck the fellness right out of them?

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12 comments:

Joel said...

I think what's saddest still is that the flavor of the lead partner is washed away in the deadness of the cliche. Really, is there anything "fell" about most "fell swoops"? The sense seems more to have devolved into "encompassing or entire" or something like that, if anything at all. I wonder too if "fell" hasn't been swooped up under it's homograph, the past tense fall, so that a fell swoop feels more like a passively descending--if perhaps inexorable and suffocating--net than a preying dive-bomber of a bird.

Honestly, I never did much care for this expression anyway. Though your alternatives are intriguing.

I also wouldn't mind hearing of a "dread grasp" or "savage pounce" or"barbarous embrace." Though, hmmmm, yeah, those already sound a little hackneyed.

Alas, like much of the language of the Bard, beautiful and poetic as it was in its context and as it mostly remained in the first couple o' million times it was misused and abused, it's fallen into an emptiness, so many genteel tumbles later.

June Casagrande said...

Hmmm. True. "Fell" gets lost in the shuffle. And it's such a good Lord-of-the-Ringsy word.

I can see why people like "fell swoop." It's kinda fun. I just think that, when words and expressions become almost completely restricted to unthinking use, it's good to shake things up a bit.

Call me fell, but that's how I feel.

Cathleen Mesquita said...
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Cathleen Mesquita said...
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June Casagrande said...

Lotiony! Lotiony?

I'm overwhelmed. And they're "lotiony hands" -- on "dudes" no less. Though I'm someone who usually avoids all musical sounds that come out of people wearing cowboy hats (a little condition I hereby dub Post-Southerner Dissociative Disorder), you've given me much to think about!

Joel said...

@Cathleen: I don't know if you mean this Joel. Um, if you don't, this is really awkward and let me just issue a preemptive "never mind." Really. Please stop reading if you're not talking about me. Yeah, I know that won't work. But please understand that I earnestly mean it to.

Joel does worry that he comes across as "a bit much"--and in all the wrong ways--wherever he and/or his words go (Joel tends to think that he is more fully present where his words are than where his body is, for whatever that's worth), although, perhaps ironically, given his freakish stature and verbosity, Joel is somewhat soft-spoken and mild-mannered, sort of. But Joel didn't take offense at your previous remarks directed his way. In fact, he thought they were friendly and quite amusing--and amusing in an intentional way, just to be clear.

In any case, whether you hate him or not, Joel can't help but admire anyone who appreciates "Lord-of-the-Ringsy" and "lotiony" and, for that matter, the June-ness herself.

Joel speaks of himself in the third person, he thinks, in part because he's recently been checking up on Facebook. Plus, Joel is flattered that you'd even have thoughts of him. And maybe self-conscious and is avoiding direct eye [pun intended] contact. But maybe feels grandiose in a Julius Ceasar kind of way and is just basking. Joel isn't quite sure.

In any case, he thanks you.

And he can't help adding, for the multitudes who really don't like him: "It's okay. I quite understand. And I apologize. Well, kinda. I don't apologize for being me, but for, in that process, clumsily stepping on your metaphorical toes with my metaphorical big awkward feet. Really, I am sorry. It happens a lot. But I keep dancing around."

And, to June, "Thanks again for putting up with me. I am finding myself far too frequent a contributor to this discussion. It may be that words and language, especially in the way that you approach them, matter far more to me than most of the other things that people discuss (and use to frame their discussions of things in general, if that makes any sense) in the blogosphere."

But, again, if you refer to another Joel, never mind.

Joel said...

Alrighty then.

@June: I just wanted to say that I completely agree with your assessment. That is maybe why I so loathe the expression: instead of celebrating "fell" it oppresses it in the most insidious way.

And I love this: "Call me fell, but that's how I feel." That makes me smile big. :-D

June Casagrande said...

Re the conversation that I'm not really part of and should butt out of but I can't help but being a middle child about: Joel, I don't think you should worry about how you come off in contexts like this. I think you're giving yourself too little credit.

Re: "Call me fell, but that's how I feel": I was kinda pleased with that myself!

8'FED said...

If you want to research adjectives for describing swoops, come to Australia in the spring and catch the attention of one of our magpies. I'm sure you'll be able to think of some adjectives.

This page, found for me by Google, suggests the word "alarming". I also found some video footage.

June Casagrande said...

Hmmm. One of my maybe ambitions in life is to become at least a half-hearted bird watcher. Or are they calling them birders these days?

I suppose that's why now I really want to go to Australia and see magpies. Delicious, delicious magpies. (Just kidding.)

8'FED said...

You can also come to Australia and see me, if you like. As in drop in for a coffee on your way from one bird-watching perch to another.

The only blog (or website) I read that has any bird-watching in it is The Greenbelt.

June Casagrande said...

If I'm ever in Australia I will definitely find a way to bilk you out of a cup of coffee!

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