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How Much Characterization Can You Get Out Of 1 Word?

This is not the safest word to use in conversation.

This is not the safest word to use in conversation.

Having a character use this word is instant characterization. Off the top of my head, I can picture 3 entertaining uses:

  1. The Attempt To Be PC – Maybe it’s the Latin, but I picture a young, inexperienced person who was raised in the upper echelons. I imagine that he/she is put on the spot in some fancy cocktail party and after stumbling for a polite term, reverts to something he/she learned in school.
  2. The Accidental Insult – This works best with aliens, elves, Sheldons, etc. Traditionally, the characters who do this either do not have a filter or do not realize that the description would be insulting in this land/culture. They insult people without knowing that they’ve done so (you often see this in situational comedies).
  3. The Added Insult – If a character uses this to deliberately harm, he/she is probably aiming for multiple levels of insult. First, there’s the obvious commentary on the target’s weight. On top of that (and probably more important overall), would be the superiority insult. The I’m-so-smart-I’m-insulting-you-with-words-you-don’t-even-know complex. There might even be a sub-type here with teenagers trying to show off.

I’m sure there are more, but even with 3, that’s a lot of characterization out of one unusual word.

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