Difference between Colloquialism and Slang

People often use the word colloquialism for slang, and slang for colloquialism. The reason for this is that quite often people take them to mean the same thing. Colloquialism and slang do overlap to a certain extent, but they are actually two distinct forms of language.

How do colloquialism and slang overlap? In other words, how are they alike? The answer to this is – they are both informal, and they are both spoken forms of language. Now one may ask if they are both informal and both spoken forms of the language, then how can they be different? Well, the difference is this –

Colloquial language is the informal language used by people in every day speech. Its form is distinct to certain people and lends them their identity. Colloquialism may be words, phrases, or complete aphorisms. For example:

Word – gonna

Phrase – what’s up?

Aphorism – the rich get richer and the poor get poorer

Slang, on the other hand, is more informal than colloquialism. It is used only by certain groups – like teenagers or people of certain professions.  For example:

Stinks – for “is bad”

Buzz off – for “go away”

Salad dodger – an obese person

Other differences are:

* Colloquialism is considered standard language, but slang is not

* Colloquialism is geographically restricted, whereas slang may be used in any culture or class of society

* Colloquialism enriches a language, while slang waters it down.

Do you know of any other difference between colloquialism and slang?

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Punctuation – Inside or Outside Quotation Marks

There is general confusion on the use of punctuation with quotation marks. Should the punctuation be inside or outside quotation marks? The confusion is understandable since it is seen written both ways – inside and outside. So, which is correct? The answer is – both. Here’s why –

According to the American style, the commas and periods (or full stops) always go inside the quotation marks. For example:

“Sam,” he said, “your dinner’s on the table.”

I like Shakespeare’s line “to be or not to be.”

So, the American rule is – always place the comma and the period inside the quotation marks.

In the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth countries where there is British influence, it’s different. Here instead of following a rule, logic is used. In other words, the placement of the comma or period depends on whether it belongs to the quotation or to the sentence that contains the quotation. For instance in the examples above, the first example remains as it is –

“Sam,” he said, “your dinner’s on the table.”

This is because the comma after the Sam and the period after the table belong to the quote.

The second example, however, changes to

I like Shakespeare’s line “to be or not to be”.

The reason for the change here is that the period belongs to the complete sentence and not the quoted material.

So, the British rule is – place the comma and period inside the quotation marks if they are part of the quoted material, otherwise place them outside.

But the rules for the question mark, exclamation mark, colon and semicolon are the same in both the American and British systems.

The question and exclamation marks follow the rule of logic – they are placed inside the quotation marks if they are part of the quoted material , otherwise outside. For example:

She asked, “Am I late?”

He screamed, “Help!”

But –

Did you hear him say “I don’t want to go”?

I can’t believe he said “I am scared”!

The colon and semicolon are always placed outside the quotation marks. For example:

I found three things in the new magazine “The World Today”: quality, information, and attractiveness.

The guard said “Stop”; I stopped.

Do you know of any other rules pertaining to punctuation and quotation marks?

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Julia Quinn on Writing Humorous Dialogue

Author Julia Quinn talks about writing humorous dialogue.

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Why We Procrastinate

When I was last writing on procrastination, I realized that it was such a wide topic that it was not possible to cover everything in one post.  It was then that I had decided that I’d do few – each covering a different aspect. Today we’ll look at why writers procrastinate. I did a little research of my own and this is what I came up with:

1. There are days when we just don’t feel like writing. This was the main reason given for procrastination. According to these writers – You can’t force yourself to write. If there are times when you don’t feel like writing, it is best to leave it for later. Forcing yourself will never produce good results; it may even lead to frustration, which is even worse. These writers go on to say that in such cases, whenever they have left writing for later, the results have always been good. It’s as if their creativity rejuvenates during the resting period. (This reminds me of the comment by Mary Maddux to my previous post. She had said this exact same thing.)

2.  We don’t know enough on the topic. Some writers say that they procrastinate when they feel they don’t know enough on the topic. Leaving things for later gives them time to think, to check/recheck the material they have collected, or even to further research the topic. This happens mainly with writers who are perfectionists.

3. We don’t like what we write. Quite a few writers say that they put their writing off for later when they feel the quality of what they are producing is not good enough. They feel they can write much better than what they are writing now. This again is a sign of perfectionism – wanting their writing to be perfect.

4. We have other things on our mind. According to other writers, they leave their writing when they go through bad phases. That is, when they are under stress or tension due to some personal or work-related reason. They say it’s just not possible for them to write anything when they have so many other things on their minds. If they force themselves to, the results are not good. So, it’s best to leave the writing for the time when they are feeling better and their minds have cleared.

5. We’re too busy. A few writers procrastinate when they are busy with other things – personal or otherwise. They say that sometimes they just do not have the time and so have no choice but to leave the writing for later.

Do you procrastinate? Or does a writer that you know does? What is your, or his/her, reason for putting things off for later?

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Humorous Quotes

For a change, here are some quotes by writers that I found quite humorous:

* I am the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and Fries.  ~  Stephen King

* In literature as in love, we are astonished at what is chosen by others.  ~  Andre Maurois

* NOVEL, n. A short story padded…  ~  Ambrose Bierce

* Journalism largely consists in saying “Lord Jones Dead” to people who never knew that Lord Jones was alive.  ~  G.K. Chesterton

* A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says is never accurate because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.  ~  Bertrand Russell

* I have been commissioned to write an autobiography and I would be grateful to any of your readers who could tell me what I was doing between 1960 and 1974. ~  Jeffrey Bernard

* My main reason for adopting literature as a profession was that, as the author is never seen by his clients, he need not dress respectably. ~  George Bernard Shaw

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Rhetorical Devices

This post is a follow-up of my previous post on clichés. The reason? I received several requests from readers asking me to clarify, or explain, the rhetorical devices further. There is confusion in the minds of some as to what is what. It is not possible to write everything on the subject in one post, so I’ll just restrict myself to the queries that I received. The rest will follow in future posts.

First off:

What is a rhetorical device? Rhetoric is the study of effective speaking and writing. It is also described as the art of persuasion. Therefore, a rhetorical device is a means of, or a tool used to effectively speak or write. The main devices:

Figure of speech: This is a rhetorical device that uses words in distinctive ways to achieve special effects. Figures of speech are used to emphasize or bring freshness to expression. There are several different types of figures of speech – some being metaphor, simile, and personification.

Metaphor: A metaphor is a figure of speech, which compares two things without the use of ‘like’ or ‘as’. It is used to bring more force to the comparison. For example: a heart of stone, or food for thought.

Idiom: An idiom is a figure of speech – a phrase that means something other than its literal meaning. For example: get cold feet (meaning: become timid), or rat race (meaning= struggle for success).

Cliché: A cliché is a phrase that conveys a particular message, but has been so overused that it now sounds boring and irritating. For example: at the end of the day, or bottom line.

What are the similarities/differences between the above?

Difference between a metaphor and an idiom: A metaphor and an idiom are two different things. Whereas a metaphor compares a person or thing to something that possesses similar characteristics, an idiom is a phrase whose meaning as a unit differs from the meanings of words (of the phrase) taken separately. For example (taking the examples given above):

A heart of stone is comparing the heart with a stone – meaning the heart has no feeling, just like a stone doesn’t. (Meaning = the person has no feelings in his/her heart). Therefore, it is a metaphor.

Get cold feet – here there is no comparison. Instead, the whole phrase has an implied meaning, i.e. becoming timid. This implies meaning is very different from the literal meaning. Therefore, it is an idiom.

Difference between an idiom and a cliché: The idiom has been explained above. A cliché on the other hand, is a phrase that has become stale or boring due to its overuse. This phrase may be anything – a proverb, a metaphor, a simile (a comparison with the words like or as), an idiom, or even a single word. Hence, terms like metaphorical clichés (clichés that are metaphors).

So, what we see here is that an idiom can be a cliché, and a cliché can be an idiom… and yet, the two are different. Some ask – how can we tell whether a phrase is an idiom or a cliché? The deciding factor is its use – if the phrase is a common one and you hear it several times a day, then it’s a cliché, otherwise it’s an idiom.

There is so much that can be written on the topic, but I confined myself to the questions that were asked.

By the way, how would you tell the difference between an idiom and a cliché?

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Writing Prompts of the Week – 7

Write stories, articles, or poems using the following prompts:

1. Your writing goals for the year 2010.

2. You wake up one morning with the unique power to change one thing in this world. What would you change and why?

3. Something revolving around the words – dirty clothes, spaghetti, handkerchief, plastic bottle, red ribbon.

4. Something beginning with “I wish I could touch……..”

5. Whatever comes to your mind on seeing this picture –

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