Should these Connotations Always Apply?


Just read any book or film review.  Dark implies deep, complex, fascinating, intelligent, and, therefore, somehow worthy.  I tend to think that dark is just dark.  It’s not good, it’s not bad.  It’s just dark.  But, since we’re on the subject, I believe that, for reasons possibly akin to the force of gravity, which bodies obey without needing to make any effort, it is easier to depict something dark that something Light.  The same way as it is easier to write a tragedy than a comedy.  The elements of tragedy are the same throughout nations, cultures, and centuries.  Their weight keeps them fixed, unchanged.  Comedy, however, is therefore ever-changing.  A sense of humour alters over time, and doesn’t necessarily translate from one culture to another.  So, surely, writing enduring, internationally appreciated comedy requires true genius.


You hear this word and you think weightless, low-fat, superficial, not requiring much thought, lacking in substance.  And yet think of the actual meaning of the word Light when it’s a noun.  Light.  Sunlight.  Daylight.  How many of us can stare at a light without wincing and shying away? Brightness.  Truth.  Speed.  All the colours of the spectrum.  Understanding.  LIGHT.

Comfort Zone

For some reason, people described as “not wanting to leave their comfort zone” are always viewed with disapproval.  The comfort zone is a synonym of limitations, of fear, of narrow mindedness.  What exactly is wrong with comfort, anyway? Besides, a comfort zone could be a choice that fits our strength and abilities.  In my experience, people who accuse others of remaining in their comfort zone are, quite often, people who are very firmly set in their own comfort zones.

Can I be honest?

Since when has the term honesty equalled negativity, insult, rudeness and unsolicited opinions that are too personal? Someone says, “Can I be honest?” and you can bet all you have that a negative comment is about to follow.  Not only, but that the speaker feels that the word “honest” somehow entitles him/her to impose their opinion on you, and judge you.  “Can I be honest? I don’t like the way you’ve furnished your house.” “Can I be honest? I think you have such or such a defect.” When was the last time you heard, “Can I be honest? I think you’re a wonderful person”?

Real People

For some reason, only working-class, underprivileged, socially and financially disadvantaged individuals are referred to as Real People.  A play, film or book about Real People.  So not Downton Abbey, then.  Rich, privileged people are therefore imaginary.

I once had a play workshopped in a London theatre.  The characters were a barrister, a Cambridge academic, and a polyglot photographer.  During the feedback session, the man chairing the discussion asked the audience, “Yes, but don’t you think this play isn’t about Real People”? At that moment, I mentally measured the distance between my fist and his face, and wondered how real or imaginary he’d feel my punch landing on his nose.


The buzz word of the decade.  Of course, I do believe that everything should be grown organically, i.e. without harmful pesticides, or GMOs.  But I do find that the word Organic is being somewhat overused and abused.

I ask, as I order breakfast in a café, what their baked beans are like.  “Oh, they’re organic,” the waiter replies, as though that means the baked beans are automatically in a league of their own in terms of high quality, flavour, health benefits, and probably ability in guaranteeing eternal youth.  I have had food poisoning from so-called organic vegetables just as I have had from non-organic ones.  Organic is politically, correct, healthy, tasty, and generally superior.  The other day, swayed, I bought a box of organic cherry tomatoes.  Their skins were so hard, I could probably have used them to re-sole my shoes.  There’s a wonderful scene in the film version of David Auburn’s play Proof.  A do-gooder older sister is insisting her rebellious younger sister try a hair conditioner with jojoba.  The girl asks if it’s a chemical. “No, it’s organic,” the older woman replies.

“It can be organic and still be a chemical.  Haven’t you ever heard of organic chemistry?”


There is Natural, and there is good.  They two are not necessarily synonyms.  A hairdresser I used to go to kept asking me if we should have my hair look “natural”.

“No,” I replied.  “‘Natural’ would mean I don’t come here to have my hair cut at all.”

I have a natural tendency towards being impatient and abrupt.  Left in my natural state, my presence in a social scenario would be intolerable to many.


Sales assistant seem to think that if they tell a customer that a particular item is Popular, then you’ll think it’s automatically worth buying.  This is based on an assumption that the said customer believes that the majority is always right.  Wrong.  Whenever I’m standing in a clothes shop, dithering over a dress or a handbag, and the sales assistant tells me it’s a very Popular dress or handbag, then my knee-jerk reaction is NOT to buy the said item.  I wouldn’t want to turn up at a party and see another woman wearing the same dress.

Scribe Doll

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20 Responses to Should these Connotations Always Apply?

  1. I love this, Katia. It reminds me of what Orwell says in “Politics and the English Language” about meaningless words. Just perfect. I couldn’t nodding and saying, “Yes!” Thanks! 🙂

  2. julietashton says:

    A marvellous smorgasbord. I, too, always wince at ‘real people’; surely all humans, no matter now exalted or low are real? And this notion that honesty is a cloak to smuggle insults.

  3. Katia, you dissected this collection of words and phrases with dead-on accuracy.

  4. I chime with that … ‘Left in my natural state, my presence in a social scenario would be intolerable to many.’…

    Words have become loaded with association, seized for fashionable advice, and also adopted as brands, lifted from their factual meaning into the symbolic sphere. Type apple into googles and you get a corporation. Elegant brands are irresistible, but challenging to writers. When I invent a new word, my spellchecker box stares at me, blank, uncomprehending, I’ve transgressed rules. It seems the challenge is to create an ever new context for overused words.

  5. Dear Katia, Sorry I got the name of your cat wrong! I believe that Genie’s spirit is presiding over you, and blessing you with her insider cat knowledge and wisdom! Have a great time wherever you go next for one of your translator stints or vacations.

  6. de Chareli says:

    Can I be honest? I think organically grown veggies should be affordable for all real people. They are light on the stomach and don’t give any dark feelings after digestion, especially in the evening. Such food keeps people in their comfort zone, a very popular occupation nowadays! 😜

  7. Dear Katia, Your post was both witty and insightful. I really enjoyed hearing you broaden out the language to include multiple meanings, which we need to acknowledge more often. I started to think about things like this too, a few years back, when I heard Suzanne Vega sing one of her beautiful songs in which she has a few lines which say something like “I would like to shelter you and keep you in the light,/But I can only give you night vision.” That song acknowledges that traditional sense of light being good, and dark being something to contend with, but “night vision” is also good because it allows you to see when things are murky. Both owls and cats and maybe many other animals have night vision as a part of their regular seeing equipment, and they are very interesting animals. (Just ask my cat–she thinks that she’s the most interesting animal in the world, to judge by her behavior sometimes! But then, I spoil her a bit!). Thanks very much for adding so much to our thoughts about language; it’s a subject dear to my heart.

    • Scribe Doll says:

      Your cat sounds brilliant. I wish I could have a cat. Sadly, when you rent a flat here in the UK, you just about have the legal right to live in it!

      • Maybe you and H. will someday find an apartment where you will be able to have cats again. I still remember your piece about your cat, Gigi, was it? My brother just brought back a piece of black turf carved in the shape of the lucky bog black cat from his trip to Ireland, so I guess Ireland is another of those countries where black cats are lucky too!
        Ta! for now. Keep writing your wonderful posts.

      • Scribe Doll says:

        Genie. Let’s hope we do – thank you :–)

  8. Great observations, Katia. I agree with so many of them. ~nan

  9. evanatiello says:

    May I be honest, Katia? I LOVE this post! So spot on and very insightful, as usual. I especially love your honest thoughts about your fist and another’s face! Fabulous. xo

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