Sunday, June 23, 2013

Back on the psychiatrist's couch

      "I love books, Doctor Lexicon," I say. "Hardcover, softcover, classic, trashy. Every kind of book. Even e-books. I always have."
      He nods sympathetically and then urges me to continue.
      "When I was young, I wanted to be a biblipole. I'd scour garage sales hoping to discover an original Little Women. That came in two volumes, you know. Or a forgotten first edition Whitman." I sigh. "I was so naive."
      "How so?" His voice is high-pitched, Freudian.
      My face floods with shame. It's the reason I'm lying on his couch again.
      "I love all books," I repeat. "And books are made up of words."

       I stop on the precipice of my confession, search his sunglasses until I see a glint of reassurance, and   
blurt out, "I don't love all words."
       He exhales sharply, his cheeks flapping like they're in the windblast of a slamming-shut Gutenberg Bible. Consummate professional, he quickly reasserts his composure. "Which words?"
      "Pert and frisson," I whisper. "It happened when I switched from thrillers to romances."
       He opens a dictionary. "Pert: Impudent; a pert remark. High-spirited, as in lively. Jaunty, like a ponytail."
       "Doctor, does pert mean turned up? Can can a nose be pert? A chin high-spirited? Breasts impudent?"
      "The meanings of words evolve over time. Let's move on to frisson. It comes from Latin frgre, meaning to be cold. Old French changed it to fricons, a trembling. An almost pleasurable sensation of fright or shock. A quiver, shudder, tingle, chill, thrill, shiver."
      "Can it be used in love scenes?"
      He smiles. "Close your eyes. Imagine you are at a party and the man you secretly love walks in. His eyes search the room until they land on you. He starts toward you, wanting to talk to you. You shiver with anticipation, with excitement. That's frisson."
      My mind relaxes, and I know I will finally be able to sleep again. I understand frisson.
      And pert implies sass mixed with beguile.


  1. Great post, Ana! It's great finding exactly the right words for what you want to convey.

  2. Do you have words that make you cringe?

  3. I love the way you wrote this post! And while I have many words I love, I don't have too many that I actually dislike. Except for some of the euphemisms people use when describing sex scenes and body parts. Those drive me crazy!

  4. Wonderful post. I am chucking over the frisson word. I always manage to use it wrong. I interchange frisson and fission. Maybe I should just stop using it, right?!

  5. Um...make that chuck-ling.

    Sigh, how I wish Blogger had spell check...although it probably wouldn't have caught that one.

  6. I turned off my kids' spell check on the computer. Yes, I'm a mean mom. They figured out how to turn it back on.

  7. I've just read books by two different authors who don't appear to know the difference between reigns and reins! Also phrases like 'She was sat; or 'He was stood' really make me cringe. Earlier this evening, I read this sentence in a novel: "He was stood, lent against his car" (not in a self-published novel either, so obviously a sloppy editor!).

  8. Not all of us are blessed with natural spelling ability, but spell check is not a cure for that.

  9. Agree about spell check not being reliable (particularly with homonyms), and auto-correct can be weird too. Someone told me today she often mistypes 'the' as 'hte' - and auto-correct changes it to 'hate'!