Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Another English Language Rant

And possibly some stream of consciousness, because I can never stay on one subject.

Been reading a LOT of fan fiction recently.  Yes, it's still Sherlock flavored.  I can't seem to escape it.

And one thing I've noticed is that people misuse the word "dilation" in relation to pupil size in eyes.

So I want to go over what dilation means, and what contraction means, and when your eyes do both.  I happen to be very well informed of these things because I have horrific vision and thus have been to an optician several times in my life.

Dilation: noun  1) the act or action of dilating; the state of being dilated 2) the action of stretching or enlarging an organ or part of the body.

Contraction: noun 1) a: the action or process of contracting; the state of being contracted b: the shortening and thickening of a functioning muscle or muscle fibre

Dilation of the pupil occurs when it is dark in a room, a chemical eyedrop has been placed in the eye and to produce dilation in order to see the inner eye clearly, or in the case of sexual arousal.  Sometimes it occurs when a person has been drugged.  It also occurs in the case of death (I learned this from tumblr, so it might not be true, but based on zombie movies, I'm not entirely sure it isn't true).

Contraction of the pupil occurs when in bright light, and sometimes in the case of being drugged.  There are probably other times this happens, like for a fear response (this, again, was probably learned from an unreliable internet source, but seems pretty accurate, considering movies).

I see a lot of people just completely ignore the term contraction when speaking of the pupil.  For instance, in this particular fan fiction I am reading where this came up once more, and I was thusly prompted to write about it because, well, ADD:  "Character X's pupils were so dilated he might as well be staring at the sun".  Admittedly, this is a vampire fic, so it could be that his pupils react opposite to a living human's, however I don't believe this is the case, as this is not the first time I've encountered this lapse in vocabulary, and certainly the other times were not in reference to vampires.

So when I read a sentence like the one quoted above, I'm left to wonder "Were his eyes dilated to be very wide and black almost through his whole eye, or did he look like he'd been staring at the sun, and had severely CONTRACTED pupils, so that there was a very small dot of black?"  And it detracts from the story, I'm sorry.

It's like trying to figure out what position the characters are in when they start kissing/making out/cuddling/having sex.  It's rare you find an author that tells you when they change position so that the previous position they were in and the current position they are now in are both possible in the context of the scene.  It irks me.  It also annoys me when people don't specify which side so and so character is on in relation to the other character -- as in right and left.  Obviously they have written with specific sides in mind, so tell us, so we're not thrown off by the image in our head when something changes.


Okay, enough ranting.  I'm going to go back to reading, and hopefully there will be no more atrocities to the english language whilst reading.

I mean, I'd understand if they weren't native speakers, but they are and honestly!!!

Until Next Time, Dear Readers,


  1. UGH you know what word people misuse ALL THE TIME and it annoys the bejeezus out of me? Moot. The author of the book series uses it a lot. And BF says that the definition doesn't matter anymore because of common vernacular/jargon.... but I say that's not okay because a word means what it means and that's that.

    a moot point: debatable, open to discussion/question, arguable, questionable, at issue, open to doubt, disputable, controversial, contentious, disputed, unresolved, unsettled, up in the air.

    And when people use "a moot point" they use it in a way that they mean "unimportant" or it doesn't matter. WRONG. I will kick them. In their hoohas.

    1. Oh dear, I better watch myself around you then! I use it all the time! *erk*

      But it's okay, because I can just use the Joey (from Friends) version of "Moo" It's a moo point. Like a cow's opinion. It doesn't mean anything, it's moo.

  2. I haven't noticed you use it, I noticed it in my book series and I was like NOOOOO YOU'RE A FREAKING AUTHOR AND YOUR EDITOR SHOULD HAVE CAUGHT THAT!