Wednesday, May 7, 2008

the ever-popular 'swang'

From: Marie

I am a recent fan, having "discovered" your books a couple of months ago. I really enjoyed The Blue Place and started Stay just recently, with plans for Always after that. While caught up in the portrait of Aud and the plot of Stay, I am finding myself distracted by your frequent use of the word "swang". I decided, that if you used it so much and it got past the editor that perhaps it's a form of the word "to swing" that has come into acceptance while I wasn't looking. However, I have checked all kinds of dictionaries and English usage sources both on and off line and can't find it other than the occasional "improper form of" entry. Am I missing something? You draw detailed imagery throughout your books--of the natural world, of people--that coming across "swang" is more jarring than it might be in a lesser novel. I'm curious and wonder what your thoughts are....

I am officially banning future questions on the word 'swang'. It's a real word used by real people e.g. me: swing, swang, had swung; sing, sang, had sung. Simple. It's still used in England. But it is going out of style. By the middle of the century, everyone will say 'swung'. Shudder. And I will mourn the word.

I remember my first conversation with my first publisher. It was in London, I was talking to Malcolm Edwards at HarperCollins. He was thinking of buying my novel, Ammonite. He was telling me about his slush pile. Thinking to empathise, I said, 'So you get lots of fantasy novels starting, He swang his massive sword with his mighty thews...' And Malcolm smiled at my innocence and said, 'More like, He swanged his massive sword...'

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