Checking in

Ian W. Riddell iwriddell at
Thu Jan 22 14:09:31 EST 2004

Not quite . . .

It's not that a concept is repeated like that. That's . ..  ok . . .  
it's that a fairly basic word is used twice within two sentences when  
it would have been just as easy and accurate and more . . . stylish . .  
. to rephrase the second sentence. Sparked a "She really needs a better  
editor" response in me.

I don't have time right this second to find a specific example, but  
I'll take a look this evening.


On Thursday, January 22, 2004, at 12:56  PM, minnow at wrote:

> widdy wrote:
>> Just checking in that I've not been bumped off the list. We've been
>> awfully quiet. I know I've been swamped with work.
> I've collected 87 whole posts in January, 4 of them (including yours)  
> since
> 16th.
>> I'm noticing some patterns in Rowling's writing that I don't like.
>> Most specifically, she commits the "sin" of using the same word too
>> often, too close together. I don't have a specific example
> Time to employ the sortes method, methinks.
> <goes downstairs and invades daughter's room>
> <finds random HP book under bed>
> <selects a random page number using dice, mice and other arcane  
> methods>
> <opens book at page selected>
> P 432 of HP&TGOF has five mentions of 'merpeople' and two of  
> 'merperson' in
> five paragraphs, is that the sort of thing you mean?  I assume (not  
> having
> read the book) this is set underwater clearly enough for it not to need
> quite so much rubbing in, particularly when we also get a "mer-version  
> of a
> village square". On the following page they are all "mermen" or "a  
> merman"
> after the first "merpeople" near the top of the page....  It does seem
> slightly like a verbal tic.  The second "merperson" of p.432 feels
> definitely otiose; the statue has just been said to be of a merperson,  
> so
> why say it again in the very next sentence?  "Four people were bound
> tightly to its tail" would have done, without repeating that it is  
> stone
> and it represents a merperson, I would have thought...
> Is that the sort of thing you mean?  Not letting a notion be  
> taken-as-read
> but repeating it every few lines to make sure the reader's attention  
> hasn't
> wandered?
> But do I not recall that when this tendency to repeat effects was  
> mentioned
> as a flaw in Potter, the defence was immediately put up that it was a
> deliberate writerly ploy of some sort whose technical name for the  
> moment
> escapes me?  It doesn't read to me particularly like deliberate  
> anything,
> but I suppose it could be.  Can't remember whether that defence was in  
> this
> list or not, and I'm not going to hunt around looking for it, I'm  
> afraid.
> If whoever put it forward is here, maybe it'll get repeated (I hope...
> don't want to be unfair and unreasonable, or no more so than usual).
> Non-male merpersons don't seem to be merwomen or mermaids, I notice;  
> the
> only one who appears is called "the chief merperson, a particularly  
> wild
> and ferocious-looking female".  I slightly wonder why, even if not
> mermaids, they shouldn't be merwomen to go with the mermen.
> (OK, I admit I cheated and went on to see whether it was consistant in  
> its
> use of the terms.)
> On a different subject, and this isn't meant as a criticism of JKR in  
> the
> least, it just struck me as I was thinking about this:
> A lake is mentioned as the setting, on p433.  So technically they  
> ought not
> to be mer-anythings, I suppose.  Can someone please tell me if there  
> is a
> proper word for a fresh-water-dwelling person?  Lorelei?  Do those have
> male counterparts?
> Minnow (wouldn't you bet I would get something underwater. Is there a  
> lot
> of underwater action in HP?)
> --
> To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at with the body  
> "unsubscribe".
> Visit the archives at
Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like  
bread, remade all the time, made new.
Ursula K. LeGuin

Ian W. Riddell
iwriddell at
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