exercises in compound storytelling

Thursday, September 4, 2008

divided by a common language

Here's a description of Gary Numan's wife via today's Paper Monitor:

A self-confessed plastic-surgery addict with an alpine cleavage and hair extensions in iridescent pink, Gemma exuded the air of warmth and thoughtfulness that so often personifies vaguely Gothic/industrial types. She referred to the master of the house at all times as 'Biffo'.

I like Paper Monitor, but I found this paragraph obscure and arch. Maybe it's the names (how many people to you know named "Gemma" or "Biffo?"), maybe it's the adjectives ("alpine" for "large" or possibly "pointed," "iridescent" for "bright" or "DayGlo?"), and maybe it's the nine syllables chasing one foggy notion ("vaguely Gothic/industrial types?"), but I think the lesson we can all learn here is that if you're using lots of punctuation to gin words into other words (hyphen and slash, I'm looking at you) either you don't know what you're describing or you don't know how to describe it.

Then again, maybe UK English and US English have drifted far enough apart that readers of each consider different and diverging things to be well-written. Or possibly Paper Monitor is being sarcastic.

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