How to chill to an ambiguous word

That embarrassing moment when you realise that you’ve written a word that can also mean something else.

For example.

This was a sentence from story two of my new series of stories called ‘Plague Doctor.’

At first I wrote the following.

‘The king was cold.’

Then I thought ‘hey, that’s boring, let’s try something that’s more evocative, that’s nicer to look at, that’s prettier.

(This is a personal view, but some words are prettier and nicer to look at than others.)

So how can we improve on ‘the king was cold?’

How about this, instead?

‘The king was chilled.’

That’s much better.

‘Chilled’ is far more evocative, is much nicer to look at, and much prettier than ‘cold.’

So can we use ‘chilled’ instead of ‘cold’?

Oh, oh, there’s a problem.

You have to be pretty young, a teenager or in your twenties, or ‘young at heart’ to understand why there’s a problem.

In modern English usage, ‘the king was chilled’ doesn’t necessarily mean that he was feeling cold.

It can also mean that he was ‘chilling,’ or relaxing.

You can use a pretty word such as ‘chilled.’

But it might not be interpreted in the way that you intended it to be interpreted.

And if it’s interpreted in the wrong way, it might make you look pretty foolish.

A scenario like the following springs to mind.

The scene is a medieval disco and the king is grooving along to the music.

But after a while he’s deafened by the loud pulsating beat of the lutes and flutes that the band is playing.

So he decides to chill.

Later on he feels fine, maybe the music wasn’t so loud after all.

In other words…

Yes, you guessed correctly…

The king was chilled.

Author: Paul Gresham

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