What In the Detritus Are You Talking About?

ClasticDetritus.com. Used by permission.

I received an e-mail from a friend a few days ago. The beginning went something like this:

“I cleaned up some of the detritus around the house this morning, so I feel like I’m in control of things more than I really am.”

Exactly.

Just what I was thinking you’d be doing.

Uh … run that one by me again?

Because of my impressive Bachelor of Science in Communications degree, I was familiar with 24 of those high-falutin’ words like, you know, “Cleaned,” “House,” “Control” and “Really.” But just when I thought I really was smarter than a 5th grader, my friend comes along and tosses in the “D-Bomb” …

Detritus.

Di-TRY-tus: “Loose material … A product of disintegration or wearing away … Loose remnants.” (Thank you Merriam-Webster. Appreciate the iPhone app).

Now what you just read perhaps was not news to you. It was certainly familiar territory to my friend. She’s well-educated, well-spoken and well-written. What she wrote, she meant to write, because she knows what it MEANS.

I didn’t. That must have been the class that I took Ferris Bueller’s day off.

The point is (and believe me, I DO have one), is that as a writer, it’s OK to toss in a $25 word on occasion. Her use of the word in the sentence already gave me a huge clue as to what it meant, but I wanted to make sure and searched for the definition. In a very simple email describing life’s daily routine, she utilized an age-old axiom that every good writer should follow when attempting to connect with his/her audience:

Made you look. And made you think.

A caveat to this point. A word not commonly used is a good tool to use every once in a while, because it keeps your readers interested … and awake. I’ve seen and read writers who overdo this principle. The end result is, as in the classic flick Cool Hand Luke, “…a failure to communicate.” The writer comes off not as someone interested in telling a story, but rather as one who gives the distinct impression that he/she is an erudite snot.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think that’s why one gets a Kindle.

Keep writing. Keep communicating. And when the mood strikes you, don’t be afraid to throw in the “D-Bomb.” I’ll figure it out. My dictionary apps will make sure of that …