It’s Monday. Mondays aren’t funny. Mondays are the opposite of funny. Antonyms of funny include: sad, unhappy, melancholy, tragic, unamusing, and, you guessed it: unfunny. Those are Monday words.
All right (‘all right’ was our April 1st “A” topic), let’s try to make Monday funny with a visit to our handy-dandy thesaurus – a truly hysterical reference book and my best pal during the A to Z Blogging Challenge.
Today’s letter? C. Today’s word? Cackle. Which (witch) as you will soon see, will lead us to other “C” words like chortle and chuckle.
He looks like a smooth guy that waltzes over to you at a party
to deliver a pithy joke about synonyms.
“Synonyms? I love synonyms. Hey, dinosaur dude, wanna buy me a drink?”
* flashes a flirty dinosaur smile *
That’s not me. She looks like me. But she’s not actually me. We’re lookalikes.
Words sometimes lookalike/look-alike. And their meanings often lookalike/look-alike. But grab a thesaurus and you’ll start to see vast differences between words and their meanings. More importantly, you’ll start to see HUGE opportunities to modify the meaning of adjacent words in close proximity. (Was that redundant? Adjacent. Close proximity…)
Imagine I’m standing with a friend and I’m wearing a green shirt. Now imagine I change that green shirt to a blue shirt. My friend wouldn’t change just because I changed my shirt. Would she? I argue that my changing my shirt from green to blue changes my friend into a bicycle. Stay with me. I’ll explain.
But first, a joke. We need to liven up Monday.
Q: What kind of flooring material did the dinosaur use in his kitchen remodel?
Ha ha! One good joke leads to another . . .
Poor T. rex. He was just the butt of our joke.
Butt was Saturday’s Thesaurus Tyrannosaurus word.
Cackle (verb): laugh, laugh loudly, guffaw (which is loud and boisterous), chortle, chuckle.
So there’s this thing the thesaurus does . . . Like our above dino jokes (when one good joke leads to another), in a thesaurus, one good WORD always leads to another. Let’s see what our resourceful, funny little thesaurus says about the two “C” words found in our cackle discussion: chortle and chuckle.
Using our thesaurus, some synonyms of chortle include: laugh, giggle, titter (which is more restrained and self-conscious), tee-hee (or: tee-hees, tee-heed, or tee-heeing depending on its function in your sentence), snigger, and chuckle.
Using our thesaurus, some synonyms of chuckle include: giggle, chortle, titter, tee-hee, snicker, and snigger.
So what. Big deal. Confused? Me, too.
Here’s my thinking: They’re all very similar. But if you spend time with a thesaurus, you’ll come to appreciate the finer subtleties of words — and that not-so-subtle level of word knowledge will give you immense power as a writer.
So. I noticed ‘giggle’ in both chortle and chuckle — but ‘giggle’ did NOT appear in cackle. And I see ‘laugh’ in both cackle and chortle — but I did NOT see ‘laugh’ in chuckle.
So . . . cackling is not really giggling. Can you picture this in your mind? Someone cackling, but not giggling? Cackling seems a bit more sinister than giggling. I can imagine a little girl giggling. But I’d be hard-pressed to imagine a little girl cackling. Actually, that would creep me out a bit. Using a thesaurus vastly improves writing and understanding. Like using controlled brushstrokes in a painting.
Consider this: according to the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus, chuckling is not really laughing. It’s more like, half-assed laughing. Like you’re not willing to give it your full laugh; you’re just chuckling.
Show me a novelist that doesn’t bump into at least one funny moment in their novels. Should that writer use cackle, chortle, chuckle, or the bland fallback — laugh? Perhaps none of these words fit the situation. The point is: they all seem the same — but when you lookclosely at the lookalikes — they’re different.
WARNING: We’re about to turn my friend into a bicycle.
A witch doesn’t laugh. She cackles. If you want one of your characters to seem more witchlike, make her cackle.
Hm. I need the mother-in-law in my novel to appear more witchy.
Should she chortle? No… Chuckle? No . . .
She should cackle! Like a witch.
Sit for a minute and think about this: A thesaurus helps you change a verb (laughs) into another verb (cackles) which then implies the subject of your sentence (the mother-in-law) is a witch. And if she’s not actually a witch, changing ‘laughs’ to ‘cackles’ implies she’s at least witchlike.
AMAZING! The choice of verb modified the meaning of the noun.
Holding a thesaurus is like holding a magic wand. Poof! I change the color of my shirt. Now my friend is a bicycle. Changing the identity of one word in a sentence – can change the identity of other words in a sentence. How freaking awesome is THAT?! Thank you, thanks, danke, gracias, merci, Thesaurus. Much obliged!
Did you notice what I did there? By using German, Spanish, and French synonyms for ‘thank you’ I lifted my gratitude to a global scale.
When I was a child, I thought ‘thesaurus’ was the name of a dinosaur. eeYup. It’s true. Now that I’m older, I know better.
Would you cackle, chortle, or chuckle if you heard this joke?
Q: What do you call a dinosaur as tall as a house, with long sharp teeth, and 12 claws on each foot?
I’d probably chuckle.
My father-in-law, if he were alive today, would cackle. His laughter was so exuberant (filled with lively energy and excitement), you could describe it as being cheerful, lighthearted, joyful, merry – even jubilant. His cackle made everyone in the room laugh, chuckle, chortle, guffaw, giggle, titter (which is laughing in a restrained, self-conscious, or affected way), snigger (a smothered or half-suppressed laugh), snicker (to define ‘snicker’ see: snigger – because, hey, that’s how the thesauruses works – one thing leads to another), tee-hee (defined both as ‘titter or giggle’ if it’s a verb, and ‘a giggle or titter’ if it’s a noun — which is a bit redundant if you ask me. Why list both words but in reverse?). His cackle caused others to burst out laughing, roar/hoot/howl with laughter (Hey, dinosaurs roar!), crack up, dissolve into laughter, split one’s sides, be (rolling) on the floor, be rolling in the aisles, be doubled up, be killing oneself (laughing).
Whew! I’m exhausted. A great way to feel after laughing.
Monday just got a whole lot better.
Q: What do you call a dinosaur with one eye? A: Doyouthinkhesawus?
‘Ha ha!’ is an exclamation used to represent laughter or amusement. Something I hope I brought to you on this very unfunny day.
Today was brought to you by the letter C.
Tomorrow? You guessed it: D.