By: Melinda Brasher
I've been running into a problem lately: characters I otherwise like are constantly smirking. I'm reading the third book now where this word appears in conjunction with friendly amusement, tenderness, or affection, and if I were sitting down with the authors, I might not be able to resist quoting The Princess Bride: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
To Smirk or Not To Smirk
To me, a smirk is
But after so many counterexamples, I thought maybe I had my definition wrong. So I looked it up.
Oxford: "to smile in an irritatingly smug, conceited, or silly way."
Merriam-Webster: "to smile in an unpleasant way because you are pleased with yourself, glad about someone else's trouble, etc."
Apparently back in the day it used to mean simply "to smile," but we're not back in the day, and even if you're writing historical fiction, it's a dangerous game to use an old definition of a word that now has quite a different meaning.
Other Smiling Words
I've come across the same thing with
Synonyms for 'laugh' can cause problems too. If your tough manly man giggles, that's
. . .
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