Finding the Dunce in Redundancy

I’m reading a book set in Australia in the early 1800s. Or rather, I was reading it. The author seemed competent, the story flowed, and the characters were engaging. Then all of a sudden I was jerked out of the fictive dream. “She had the intestinal fortitude necessary to help build this new country.” What? Intestinal fortitude in the 1800s? I think not.

First, intestinal fortitude is a ridiculous euphemism for guts. Fortitude is courage. Period. It needs no modifier. And it has nothing to do with intestines. Sure, some people do get cramps or diarrhea when facing fear, but then it’s up to the author to show it rather than relying on the wretched phrase “intestinal fortitude.”

Second, guts meaning fortitude did not make an appearance until the 1930s. Which means that the euphemism intestinal fortitude came later.

There are certain terms I would like to rub out of the English language. Intestinal fortitude is one. Coed is another. What a patronizing term! Coed is short for coeducational and refers to the women who were allowed into previously all male colleges and universities. Perhaps it had meaning back in the nineteen-thirties, but its use today is demeaning. It says men are educated, and women are co-educated. (Like a pilot and co-pilot.) So please, do not use coed. Student is sufficient, or woman student if you have to differentiate.

Another term that grates is excess verbiage. Verbiage means excess words, so excess verbiage is excess excess words. Doesn’t even make sense. Nor does “reiterate again”. Reiterate means to say again and again. Reiterate again means to say again and again, again and again.

The moral of the story? Don’t take any of your words for granted. They are a gift. And a responsibility.

On Writing: Coeds with Intestinal Fortitude Eating Veggies

Coed is a term that was born in the nineteen thirties when women enrolled in previously all-male colleges, and it is a term that should have died there. Writers today are careful about not using other sexist terms, but coed is still prevalent. Short for coeducational student, it is demeaning when used as a term for a college woman. It says that men are students, and women merely co-students.

Writers who do not fall into that trap often fall into another, calling a man/woman team, such as police partners, a coed team. Unless it refers to education, it is meaningless. When applied to unisex restrooms, coed might be appropriate, but then, as adults, what can we learn about the opposite sex in a restroom that we don’t already know?

So, do your writing a favor, and can the coed.

Intestinal fortitude is another term that ties my guts into knots. I suppose with all the indigestible food that we eat nowadays, intestinal fortitude could refer to the digestion process and the garbage that goes in one end and the crap that comes out the other, but any other application is ridiculous.

So use plain old fortitude or have the guts to say guts, and leave the overly cute and clichéd intestinal fortitude in the toilet where it belongs.

And don’t get me started on veggies. I will merely say that kiddies might need to be coaxed to eat veggies, but we are adults, and we should eat vegetables and write vegetables.