The Word Police
I was summoned before the Word Police.
"You've written 650 stories, Mr Oblong," they said. "Most of them very long."
"That's right," I said. Were they complementing me on my productivity?
"We've been examining the content of your collection," they said, "And found it wanting."
"In what way?"
"Your limited vocabulary. Did you realise that you've used less than 2,500 different words in all of your writing. Shakespeare used over 20,000 different words even though most words weren't even invented in his day."
"I try to avoid complex jargon, to keep my work simple and readable," I replied.
"We approve of keeping work simple and readable, but you appear to have a smaller vocabulary than some chimpanzees."
"That's not fair. There are some words I know but will simply never have occasion to use in a story. Like 'octopation' - an octopus' profession."
"In fact Mr Oblong that brings up another issue with your writing. Your use of made up words. Over the course of your stories you've invented over 73 different words, as if to cover up your lack of actual vocabulary. 74 with octopation. I'm sorry, but in light of your limited word range and your regular use of fake words we are going to remove your writers' license."
"What does that mean, exactly."
"We shall contact the gods, requesting that they stop sending you story ideas, instead directing them to someone with a higher literary prowess. Bonzo the Chimp for example."
"You can't do that," I said. "I live for writing."
"We'll give you one more chance, Mr Oblong. "Write a story that contains five words you've never used previously. Real words, not made up words. Show us that you have a sufficient vocabulary to remain as a writer."
"I will. You will be amazed by my sesquipedalianism."
"And the words must be used in a comprehensible manner and fit the story, they can't just be thrown in willy nilly to show that you know some big words."
Arsebiscuits. Except the Word Police probably wouldn't allow me to make up the word arsebiscuits.
This was a tough assignment. Where was I going to find five new words and a scenario where I could use them plausibly?
Then I remembered reading that Shakespeare's work contained over twenty words linked with the process of glove-making (his father's profession). I would simply get a job in a glove-makers, use it as a setting for a story, and throw in a dozen or so glove-related words to keep the writing gods happy.
Luckily I was able to find a temp job in a nearby glove factory starting the next day. I took along my notepad, so that I could write down all the glover words and meanings.
"Right Terrence," said my line manager. "This is the machine.
"What's the machine called?" I asked, pen poised ready to transcribe a word never seen before in a piece of oblong prose.
"Er, the machine. You press this button here and it makes gloves."
"What's the button called?"
Clearly industialisation had streamlined the linguistics of the glove-making process since Shakespeare's' day. Not a single new word did I learn.
Sport, I thought. Every sport has it's own peculiar set of words unique to the game. I would simply set a story around a sports game, throw in a few of those words, and the gods would have nothing on me. After work I went to my local cricket club to learn the rudiments of the game, and along with it, the vernacular of the sport.
"This is a bat," said the coach, "And this is the ball. "Your aim is to hit the ball with the bat."
I learnt a whole host of words. ''Pads', 'crease', 'box', 'gloves', 'catch', 'run-out', 'hit', 'runs', all of them single-syllable words in common usage, as if the entire sport was designed entirely to appease the linguistically-challenged. An absolute waste of everybody's time, something to which cricket obviously aspires.
I had wasted my day making gloves and playing cricket. My time was up. The Word Police arrived to execute their authority.
"You time is up Mr Oblong. Have you written a story contain five new-to-you words?"
"No, but it's not my fault. I blame modern glove-manufacturing processes."
"You would. That's a typically oblong excuse. You leave us no choice but to summon up the gods and remove your divine inspiration.
"Oh omnipotent deity, controller of the holy lexicon," they said. "We call on you to intercede in case of the affront to literature that is Terrence Oblong. Please eradicate his divine inspiration and end his mediocre literary outpourings.
In response I simply laughed.
"What are you laughing at Oblong?" said the Word Police, clearly unused to merriment in their immediate vicinity.
"Five new words. Omnipotent, deity, lexicon, intercede and eradicate. I've never used any of those words before, all I have to do is write these events up as a story and I've met your target."
And now that the Word Police have used the word arsebiscuits, I'm free to use the word myself without being accuse of making up fake words. The story-telling gods are smiling on me. For now at least.