The Best Fat Word Resource
Dictionary and thesaurus apps.
Etymology and word roots.
Language study and Interlinear Bibles.
Writing tools in this century are at our fingertips. Yet as I work on my first novel, the most unusual resource has resurfaced—a 1929 Hartrampf’s Vocabulary Builder. I call it my fat word builder.
I admit it’s been abandoned for a while on our bookshelves, possibly for ten years, but now—now it’s a rarefied gem in my eyes. Yes, it’s a single book. It has only been recently digitized, and there are many newer editions.
Its genius resides in the collection of associated meanings, not just straight synonyms.
Let me give you an example from my summer editing work. In my novel's first draft, I have definitely overused certain words like come, wind, were, and a most heinous repetitive phrase--began to. Apparently my heroine Carina likes to begin things. She began to sit or stand. She began to crouch. She began to laugh. Goodness. I promise she finishes things. Really.
Now for the edits with Hartrampf's help. I look up the word "begin" in the back index. I'm delighted to find an entire page devoted to its use. The top of this page says to see other possible connections for "start" or "commencement." A handy list with additional pages is right there: birthplace, excite—rouse, change, opening—foreword, musical beginnings, time preceding, or cause. Which kind of "begin" do I want? I could flip to any of those or look below at the parts of speech:
And this is just one-eighth of the page. The word wonder continues with many family and neighbor words for "begin." For my character, though, I found that many times she was not truly beginning something. Instead of "With knife in hand, Carina began to crouch..." I realized she wasn't beginning anything. "With knife in hand, Carina crouched..." was more accurate and less wordy. Of course, I could have said, "She prepared herself." In reality "crouched" became the best fat word. Yes, fat. These words contain action and image and power.
As a writer, I can say in all sincerity that I have finally found a happy and pleasant use for the word fat.
Karen L Goins
8/30/2019 07:55:18 pm
Christine, I am not a writer (except in my dreams) but I am a reader and the more I read, the more I appreciate what I consider to be good writing. I loved your Fat Word resource guide.....in fact I think it would be a good bedside book just to ponder.
8/30/2019 10:15:43 pm
I'm so glad you liked it! Other than the old edition on my shelf, I still haven't heard any other reader or writer mention Hartrampf's word guides. Definitely unique.
8/31/2019 10:50:53 pm
The etymology of fat is something that gets me mad every time I hear it used wrong. While people believe it has a negative connotation I believe in body positivity and plus size models. While this may not relate to fat words I just wanted to state that I think fat women are beautiful. Thanks
9/1/2019 10:33:08 am
Agreed. Fat words are a good thing, and I think there are many positive uses for the word.
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