Sunday, November 26, 2017

“B” Is for “Bling, But…”

     -- Diamonds from the Victoria and Albert Musuem

   -- Dark Amethyst

“Bling” went mainstream in 1999, with B.G’s rap song "Bling Bling.” As the term’s popularity swelled, its meanings diverged. On one hand, the term suggests glittering enticement, the thrill of light on water, sun on glass, or anything eye-catching and memorable, such as jewels and diamonds. 
But jewels and diamonds also engender devastation and death. That’s part of the “but,” as are  gentler but still offensive connotations, like garish gaudy, shallow, and tasteless. 

Considering that crude splashiness, why not just leave bling to those wearing glitter teeshirts or cheap jewelry? Or, to those who, like Edith Wharton’s nouveau riche, substitute ostentatious decor for class? 

But wait a second. Fear of bad bling, or bling without the self-censoring “but,” often inhibits style, resulting in flat prose and atonal sentences. The very concept underlying bling is flash, energy, and enthusiasm. Vitality. 

The term “bling” metaphorically combines the senses, as in the imagined sound of light striking a jewel, or a combination of “ring” and “bright.” You want to conjure strong sensations, to provide electricity, originality, and magnetism. Isn’t that the difference between “good” writing and “great”? None of that comes from playing it safe.

Unfortunately, though, there’s no bling barometer to reveal whether we’ve provided one form of bling or the other. Practice, accompanied by sound feedback, develops a sense of what’s sparkly fun and what’s offensive overstatement.

Want to experiment? Try for these.

~ Shock:
But the next day he returned to the basement to determine if he'd seen what he'd seen, and that night at dinner, ordinarily a somber affair during which his father related his business woes to an indifferent wife, Bernie muttered, “There's an old man in the meat freezer.”— Steve Stern, The Frozen Rabbi 
~ Syntactical Rhythm:
Eddie had come to understand that what a man saw and what actually existed int he natural world often were contradictory. The human eye was not capable of true sight, for it was constrained by its own humanness, clouded by regret, and opinion, and faith.― Alice Hoffman, The Museum of Extraordinary Things
~ Sound Combinations:
The forty days of the soul begin on the morning after death. That first night, before its forty days begin, the soul lies still against sweated-on pillows and watches the living fold the hands and close the eyes, choke the room with smoke and silence to keep the new soul from the doors and the windows and the cracks in the floor so that it does not run out of the house like a river.—Tea Obrecht, The Tiger’s Wife
Tip: “Bling” makes fiction sparkle, but only with moderation, understatement, and good taste.

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