Wacky Words: Alas, I Digress

Another place you'll see ALAS and DIGRESS

Today’s going to be a short one, folks, but something that’s made me go “huh” for a long time: Are there certain words and phrases we only use in writing?

Of course, there’s jargon and the occasional formal term (especially legal) that don’t typically occur in spoken conversation, but I’m talking about ordinary, everyday English, and not words that have simply fallen out of use – they’re just not used verbally.

One such word is alas. I can’t remember the last time I heard someone say “alas,” or even if I’ve ever heard it. It’s not obsolescent; I’ve seen it in written form far more than I’d like. The same is probably true for any writer who’s tried the query-coaster of submitting work to publishers, agents or magazines, as the most common use for “alas” seems to be on the lines of, “Alas, we regret that this doesn’t meet our current needs.” Which is probably why “alas” is a word I’m not particularly fond of. 🙂

Another word – or phrase, rather – that I see written often, but seldom hear, is “but I digress.” Bloggers digress a lot! I try not to, but I’m sure I do. I just don’t tell you about it. 😀 Digression happens on a regular basis while eating lunch with my coworkers. No one ever acknowledges it.

Can you think of other ordinary words that you see often in written form, but hardly ever hear spoken? Curious minds want to know!

Dictionary photo by Dr. Marcus Gossler via wikipedia.org, Creative Commons license

10 Responses to \

  1. A word I’ve been seeing a lot lately in literary fiction in particular is “for”. “For he knew it wouldn’t turn out the way they planned.” It strikes me as odd every time I read that because nobody talks that way. Nobody. I want to chop it off the sentence every time I see it lol.

  2. LOL I would want to chop off that “for” too! The word I use like that is “still.” But I also talk like that.

    Thanks for your input!

  3. I have heard “I digress” used quite often in conversation. I’m not sure about that one. But yes, I think there are phrases used only in writing, and “alas” would likely be in that category! I read “Moreover” far more than I hear it as well. Can’t think of any others!

  4. Oooh, Julie, “moreover” is a good one! You’re right, I read it all the time (usually in some boring academic text), but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it!

  5. I still see people write-“but I digress”-but it’s funny how it would be odd to hear someone say that in conversation.
    I should try it sometime. People already think I’m a little nuts for being a writer!

  6. Hi Jennette:

    Funny you posted this, my very first blog launch on Tuesday, November 1st, is very similar, but broader. I hope you’ll stop by and leave a comment. Great minds think alike I guess.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  7. @Jansen – be sure to let us know on the WANA1011 Facebook page, and I’ll be sure to check it out! Your website is very attractive and well-designed. 🙂

  8. This is so funny/true. I tend to write like I talk, so I have to go back and clean it all up later. Too many sentences start with “So” and “Still.” LOL How odd would it be for someone to pull out the word “moreover” or “alas” in daily conversation?

    Good post Jennette.