My friend Myra went on a rampage yesterday. (This should explain to most people why she’s my friend, one of my most beloved, as it happens.)

“I HATE THEM!” she shrieked, as various teenagers looked on contemptuously. “WHAT DOES SCUDDING EVEN MEAN?”

We double checked, just in case scudding did not, in fact, mean moving along in a straight line as if propelled by the wind. It did.

“WHY NOT SKIDDING CLOUDS?  OR FLAPPING CLOUDS OR SCOOTING CLOUDS OR FLIBBERTY-GIBBETING CLOUDS OR ANYTHING?” (Myra is not, I hasten to say, a writer. But she cares, dear reader, she cares.)

At this point, the teenagers left the room, embarrassed beyond belief that a person of middle years could rant so much about anything, much less a stupid word. 

“AND YOU WANT TO KNOW THE WORST THING? PETER CAREY HAS USED SCUDDING CLOUDS AND SO HAS HILARY MANTEL.”

A shocked silence fell over the remaining occupants of the room. Hilary Mantel? The goddess? The font?

Life is full of crushing disappointments. Or do I mean squeezing disappointments? Whatever. It’s soul-destroying. Erm, I mean, pig-irritating.

As you may have guessed, I’m with Myra all the way. I hate scudding clouds. And limpid pools and flashing eyes and hearts pounding like hammers and thundering hooves and crushing disappointments and on and on and on….

It’s a short message today, my August lovelies, but a heartfelt one.

Don’t use a cliche when a real combination of words will do.

 

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13 thoughts on “Scudding Clouds

  1. Jody 4 years ago

    ok

  2. Anthony McGowan 4 years ago

    Fromthe OED – ‘As the earliest instance of scud refers to the movement of a hare, and this has always been a prominent application of the vb., it seems possible that it may be connected with scut n., the tail of a hare, sometimes applied to the animal itself.’ Quite interesting, I thought.

    1. Meg Rosoff 4 years ago

      A scudding hare would be truly delightful. We had a young hare in our garden in Suffolk yesterday, but I was too worried about some scud missile lurchers nearby to notice whether it scudded or merely sped away.

  3. Sarah 4 years ago

    The best kind of reminder – especially timely when looking at writing song lyrics today. Thank you!

  4. Antony John 4 years ago

    Couldn’t agree more, even if it’s something I don’t seem to manage in my own writing!

    It reminds me of a story you told a while back about your husband chiding you for resorting to cliche in the first draft of one of your novels. It really stuck with me at the time, both the story and your response to his criticism. I’d love you to repeat it sometime.

    1. Meg Rosoff 4 years ago

      I’m afraid that might have been puppies. I’ve been banned from puppies ever since. Sigh.

  5. ej runyon 4 years ago

    My big disappointment is the number of times Alacrity shows up with someone I’m reading about. That girl is EVERYWhere and she’s always doing something someone else is: Tim stood with Alacrity. Jena joined in with Alacrity.
    Alacrity.Alacrity.Alacrity!
    Man, I hate her. I never inviting her to any of my stories.

  6. Christina Wilsdon 4 years ago

    Today the clouds are *definitely* scudding here in my part of the world. I must also confess to having had many a cloud go scudding in stories I wrote in high school. Scads of them scudded.

    What I hate is when characters in books “mouth” things. I don’t know why. It seems like I never ever encountered a character who “mouthed” things at her friends and then all of a sudden nearly every novel I pick up has people mouthing at each other. I don’t know why…guess it makes me think of how my dog works over a bone, or perhaps more likely just the exaggerated faces of the type-A women I’ve worked with in my life who really DO mouth things extravagantly at each other!

  7. jackie 4 years ago

    No scudding here. Just a dark bruise of sky to match my deeply dark mood. Shakespeare is filled with cliche.

  8. Jake Elliott 4 years ago

    Nothing wrong with a few over-done analogies.
    However, if you use about twenty a chapter, I would consider a redraft.

  9. Vivian Oldaker 4 years ago

    Whoops! at first I misread this. I thought you were complaining about sodding clouds – something I do on a regular basis but not in my written work.
    I should hang my head (on a hook?) with shame and sigh wearily (is there any other way?) and smile enigmatically (wish I knew how to do one without looking rather more than somewhat demented.) Thanks, Meg.

  10. Barbaroos 4 years ago

    Being Dutch, I really had to work my way through the translation of your message, but I get it, and I will.

  11. sallyparkrubin 4 years ago

    Bless you, Meg! Finally finding my tribe out here in blogland.

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