Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Starts With 'F'

Posted by: Christine_Price
My mom doesn’t curse. She hates it. She considers it lowbrow. She can’t even watch a movie in which there is frequent cursing without wondering where the director’s mother was the week she should’ve been covering good manners. It’s one of a host of small sins that she considers to be the weak foundation atop which modern society is collapsing. So imagine how hard it was for her when she and my father taught me and my husband to play Canasta (or, as she and Dad are fond of calling it, ‘Canasty.’) As she doesn’t swear, she had to find a different way to communicate her extreme agitation when my father and husband went down and out when she and I didn’t even have cards on the table. Hence her decision to utilize the term ‘fizzlewiggies’ in place of another word that starts with F that she couldn’t in good conscious bring herself to say. Except for that one time, but I promised her I’d never speak of it again.

Why is this important? Well, I suppose in the great scheme of things, it’s not. It’s one of those stories that’s funny to family members but few others. I just wanted to explain the context behind the word ‘fizzlewiggies’ so you’ll understand what I’m talking about when I substitute it for another ‘F’ word for the remainder of this post.

While writing The Usual Apocalypse (my new paranormal romance, due out from Carina in September), I didn’t notice the frequency of the word at the time, but when my wonderful and probably-more-than-slightly-beleaguered editor Deb returned the first round of edits to me, she included a small note along the lines of ‘Chris, the word fizzlewiggies appears in Usual Apocalypse over 200 times. You might want to do something about that.’ Apparently, I’d sort of gotten my Quentin Tarantino on. Initially, 200 occurrences in a manuscript of 80,000 words didn’t strike me as particularly bad (come on, 0.0025%? totally a non-issue, amirite?). And we’re not talking the casual use of the word once every few pages. I tended to cluster them together. And when you have the word fizzlewiggies appear more than six times on a page, it tends to start standing out.

It never crossed my mind that this was a problem while I was writing it. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the casual use of it detracted from the importance of the word and how useful it was if used rarely and for emphasis.

Let me use the following excerpt from The Usual Apocalypse to illustrate my point:

Where the fizzlewiggies was the fizzlewiging stupid fizzlewiging form for this fizzlewiging requisition?

She’s not leaving the country. She’s not even leaving the building. She’ll be on a different floor, that’s all.

And why the fizzlewiging fizzlewiggies wasn’t this fizzlewiging program opening? What the fizzlewiggies was an invalid fizzlewiging file type?

She’ll be on a different floor, with different people and doing an amazing job, like she always does. And this is all my fault. I was the one who pushed for results. She never would’ve gotten caught on any of those security breaches if I’d been patient enough to wait for them to edit the info before sending it my way.

Fizzlewiging computer. He was going to fizzlewiging throw it out the fizzlewiging window.

(Hold on a second, seeing the word ‘fizzlewiggies’ used that much has caused me to collapse into incoherent giggling from the sheer absurdity of it).

I ended up revising the section to this:

Where was the form for this stupid requisition?

She wasn’t leaving the country. She wasn’t even leaving the building. She’d be on a different floor, that was all.

And why wasn’t this program opening? What was an invalid file type?

She’d be on a different floor, with different people and doing an amazing job, like she always did. And this was all his fault. He was the one who pushed for results. She never would’ve gotten caught on any of those security breaches if he’d been patient enough to wait for them to edit the info before sending it their way.

He hated this computer. He was going to throw it out the fizzlewiging window.

When I changed it, suddenly it went from being ridiculous to having significant emphasis on the last sentence. Instead of trying to drop it into common parlance, saving it and using it sparingly was a better way to utilize it. Because no matter how you try to get around it, it’s a powerful word. One of those words that will automatically draw someone’s attention. And, while it took me a while to figure it out, I finally realized that total overuse of the word made it less meaningful. Deb knew this, and instead of trying to tell me, she simply highlighted every instance of the word in the manuscript and let me draw my own conclusions. And while I might’ve been inured to the word itself after frequent exposure to it during the course of far too many Tarantino films, seeing them all highlighted and standing out really drove the point home.

There’s a time and a place for fizzlewiggies. And I maintain that it’s still an excellent word. But it’s a word that’s more effective when used sparingly. Instead of twelve times in a section of 120 words (hah! Got up to 10% there!) using it once made it that much better.

I’m not saying that I’ll never use it again. Just that I’ve come to appreciate how to use it.


  1. But Fizzlewiggies is such a good all purpose word...it's like "Aloha", but even better. It's a verb, it's a noun, it's easily converted to adjective, adverb (? okay, that might be pushing it). If you type it in ALL CAPS, then it becomes an explitive. Just sayin'.

  2. I know, right? The Quentin Tarantino in me still wants to bust it out. Frequently.

  3. What a fizzlewiging great post!
    I love your mom. Playing Canasta with her must be hilarious.

  4. Well, fizzlewiggie. What do you know. hah! I'm not going to be able to get fizzlewiggie out of my head now.

  5. Wow. I can see what you mean. The second version seems much stronger. Guess some words just pack a more powerful punch.

  6. I knew some folks who used the f-word as often as in the first version. However, most of them toned it down by the time they left high school. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  7. Wow, I got that same note from Deb for my just-finished edits! Looks like we're all a bunch of fizlewigging potty mouths! LOL


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