Authors and the unusual words they like to overuse

I’ve recently been reading(well, speed skimming) the Malazan book of the fallen series, and it is absolutely ridiculous how often Steven Erikson uses the word ‘gelid’. It keeps springing up multiple times in each book, and even allowing for the fact that these are 1000 page books, it seems more than a tad overdone.

I remember reading a book by Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell, (I feel compelled to mention that this was an unusual occurrence), and her characters kept having a frisson of excitement pass though them at the drop of a hat.

Anything similar ever jumped out at you?

Ooh, great thread, and maybe it can help me with a long-delayed “ID this book series” question I have!

Some science-fiction or fantasy series that I only vaguely remember, because I think it was thirty years ago or so that I read it, used the word “roiling” a noticeable amount.

It may have been only once or twice per book, but I came to the conclusion that a word like “roiling” should be used at most once in a writer’s entire career.

(Actually, that word seems to be more popular in such genres nowadays, so probably nobody else will have noticed it in the author I’m thinking of and I’m doomed never to find out what this long-forgotten book series was. Woe is me.)

While gorging on a collection of Ray Bradbury short stories, I noticed that he used “preternatural” quite often. That’s excusable in short stories though, since I assume they were written months/years apart.

There’s always Lovecraft and “eldritch”. Don’t see “eldritch” used much anymore.

Ann Rice - preternatural
D.H. Lawrence - inchoate

Probably due to the world of self-publishing being light on proof-readers, I’ve been reading an entertaining sci-fi series where the author misuses “distain” in every single book, multiple times. He clearly means disdain from the context, but since distain is an actual word spellcheck doesn’t catch it, nor does he. What’s odd is that he uses the term so often - I can’t think of a book where it comes up nearly as much, so he’s messing up a word he actually seems to like.

H. Beam Piper loved the word “Niffleheim” in his Little Fuzzy series (it was a planet, but also used as a mild curse word and in various expressions). I noticed this years ago and dubbed the phenomenon described in this thread “Niffleheim Syndrome.”

Can’t think of any others off the top of my head, though.

After getting a Kindle about two years ago, I got me the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft and read them in one go (over the course of some weeks, that is). Man, did he love the word “blasphemous”.

EE “Doc” Smith was pretty well known for his enthusiastic use of “coruscating”.

Rick Atkinson loves him some crepuscular.

Neil Gaiman weighs in, in his short story “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar”:

It’s a funny story, and much funnier if you’ve both 1) read Lovecraft and 2) heard or seen any of the “Pete and Dud” skits.

Gyrate, I have long suspected that Lovecraft didn’t know what a “gibbous” moon was and seemed to think the word had something to do with gibbering.

Another favored word of his would be “cyclopean.”

There is a fantasy author Lin Carter who wrote some Edgar Rice-Burroughs-like Mars stories. His favorite adjective is “naked”–he uses it to describe everything: “The naked sun blazed down on the naked sand as he glared at his foes with naked hatred while sweat dripped from his naked thews.” (“Thews” was also a favored word, instead of the more common terms “muscles”.)

Borges liked “vertiginous.” But he didn’t overuse it. He didn’t overuse anything.

Do made-up words count? Because Neal Stephenson definitely over-used “phant’sy” in The Baroque Cycle.

Oooh. Vertiginous is a word I thought some author was overusing. Damnit but I can’t remember who it was. Now this is going to bug me.

Even just the excerpt is funny. British accents lend themselves really well to humour. In my head at least.

Do phrases count? I had never read about so many characters who “broke their fast” every morning until I read GRR Martin.

Should we go ahead and get George R. R. Martin out of the way?


Nelson DeMille - apropos (especially “apropos of nothing”)

Gyrate’s Gaiman quote covers much of Lovecraft, who springs to mind immediately, although you could add other favorite Lovecraft-isms to the ones he gave (nauseous, non-Euclidean).
George Bernard Shaw loved to use the spelling “shew” for “show”, for some reason. In my head, his characters always sound like Ed Sullivan in consequence.
L. Sprague de Camp liked to use the word “Futter” in place of “Fuck”. It looks as it it’s a bastardization of French foutre, which Shakespeare famously used in one of his Henry plays (IV 1? IV 2? V? They all run together) De Camp undoubtedly originally used it because he could get away with it in his puritanical pulp magazines, but he kept on using it even after standards had relaxed. I think he liked to exotic sound of it.

And now that I’ve gone and read all of it, I’m wondering if comedy-horror is a thing.