Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Stop Trying to Make Quirk Happen

I read an Advanced Readers Copy of Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story.  In one scene the protagonist is insulting her future husband.  He smiled at first but as she really lays into him, his drunken mirth fades.  According to page 112 of the ARC, “The grin on his face was still there but it was getting smaller, fading until it was little more than a quirk and one shallow dimple.”  

As an ARC, it’s uncorrected.  I assumed Stephen King really meant to write “smirk.”  If not, more power to him.  "Frumious" didn't exist until Lewis Carroll used it to describe a Bandersnatch.  Quirk, for an odd grin, a knowing smirk, or a small, weird smile , is brilliant nonsense that still gets the point across.  The guy in King's scene is dying emotionally so maybe quirk doesn't work for this particular sentence, but it should be filed for later use. 

Then again, on page 350 of the ARC of Lauren Oliver’s Delirium, (and be on the lookout for this distopyan young adult novel in February; it will be big, and deservedly so), we have: “One side of Alex’s mouth quirks up into a smile, but the rest of his face remains stony.”

On page 98 of the Vintage edition of Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me, there’s: “His eyes strayed a second from mine, and his mouth quirked a little.  I knew his secretary had winked at him.”  

I keep reading that word; I do not think it means what I think it means.  

Searching online for a definition of quirk reveals "oddity, a strange attitude or habit," "an unpredictable act or event," or (and here's the one that's news to me) "twist or curve abruptly."  

I should have looked it up after seeing it used a second time, but I couldn't let go of the idea of making quirk happen the way I wanted it to, as in, "You wipe that quirk off your face young man, or you're going to get it."  

I never quite trusted him, because he always wore a quirk.

Blake thought his quirk was charming so he used it often - upon meeting new people, trying to chat up women in crowded bars, passing through a crowd of unsavory types - but he didn't realize the expression creeped people out.

It seems quirk as a twist is always used to describe lips, and I have to guess that's because of its proximity to smirk.  I'd put dollars to Voodoo Donuts that the reason floundering became a synonym for foundering is because people unfamiliar with the right word heard others using it and thought, fish?  I guess if you pulled a flounder out of the water, it would flop around a lot.  Yeah, floundering.  That makes sense.  Eventually it just kind of caught on, the way chomping at the bit is becoming acceptable for champing at the bit.

Conversate on that for a minute.

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