Friday, September 14, 2007

Adverbiage Ad naseum

I recently finished Susan Cooper's Over Sea, Under Stone, which a friend had recommended to me years ago. She's a dear friend, and she taught children's literature and this was a classic, so I was ready to dive in. (It's a good thing, too, because a movie based on The Dark Is Rising sequence, is about to be released on October 5.) While I was not disappointed by the story -- although it did feel a bit dated (it's almost as old as me, afterall) and it was too long -- I was distracted by the crazy use of adverbs. I might not have twigged on it so much if I hadn't read this great essay by Carrie Mac not so long ago about the overuse of adverbs in the Harry Potter books (thus, adverbiage ad nauseaum). Here's my favourite from Over Sea, Under Stone:

"Boiled," said Barney sepulchrally. "In a great big pot." Uh, sepulchrally? What does that mean anyhow? [My COD says: suggestive of the tomb, funereal, gloomy, dismal]

Since it's Friday afternoon, I've finished work for the week, it's still a bit early for a cocktail, I thought I'd procrastinate by choosing a spread from Over Sea, Under Stone and one from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to see who wins the highly coveted Tough City Writer Overuse of Adverbs (TCWOA) prize.

Page 16-17, Over Sea, Under Stone
"Cannibals!" said Barney with scorn...
"Well, that's not very interesting," said Jane, disappointed.
"Now I know what this room reminds me of," Jane said suddenly.
"I mean," said Jane hastily,..."
"Oh all right." Simon put the case down reluctantly.
"Boiled," said Barney sepulchrally. (I couldn't resist.)

Okay, Cooper wins the prize hands down -- averaging 3-4/page. Rowling uses them, but she's showing considerable restraint in comparison to Cooper.

"Oh, poop," said JK sepulchrally, "I didn't win the prize." (She's got enough of them, I say!)

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