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View Full Version : Is "Nuanced" a word?



laroche
01-28-2007, 11:07 AM
It makes sense to me, but all the dictionaries say only the noun form, "nuance", is correct.

Here's my sentence:

"With subtle, nuanced twitches of the wheel, the driver skillfully careened the vehicle."

Couldn't a surgeon perform finely nuanced motions? Why doesn't that adjective work?

Imagination
01-28-2007, 11:49 AM
"With nuanced, subtle twitches of the wheel, the driver skillfully careened the vehicle."


What if you switched them like so? Just a thought since it means a slight difference.

AnAirplane
01-28-2007, 11:51 AM
It's in my unabriged Webster, so yeah it is.

Medievalist
01-28-2007, 11:56 AM
Yes, it is, and you've used it correctly -- but subtle and nuanced is overkill

Marlys
01-28-2007, 05:53 PM
Nuanced is used properly, but careened isn't--careen usually implies a wild, out of control motion. You might try something like: With nuanced twitches of the wheel, the driver brought the careening vehicle under control.

Sandi LeFaucheur
01-28-2007, 10:17 PM
But a twitch is a jerky motion. You'll never bring a careening vehicle under control with jerky motions. Smooth is the way to go.

laroche
01-29-2007, 08:42 AM
Thank you for all who replied. To hell with "thefreedictionary.com" and "dictionary.com" and all others who insist nuance is a noun ONLY.

Now, about careen: given the nature of the story (a wild bus ride through a third-world island), I love the implications of that sentence. So, isn't "careened" a word?

Medievalist
01-29-2007, 09:08 AM
With subtle, nuanced twitches of the wheel, the driver skillfully careened the vehicle.

You're engaging in overkill here. First, you've got conflicting adjectives, and too damn many adjectives. Look at all the blue words; those are all adjectives.

Second, you're telling, not showing.

Judg
01-29-2007, 09:25 AM
Careen as a transitive verb means to turn a ship on its side for cleaning. Careen derives ultimately from a verb meaning keel, so anything that is careening is tilting to one side or the other (starting to keel over). It's also used in the sense of hurtling along (unsteadily, having difficulty staying upright).

It just doesn't work with anything subtle and nuanced. And four-wheeled vehicles don't normally careen in any event, unless they're rounding a corner on two wheels, also not produced by subtle twitches of a steering wheel.

So the choice of the word careen in this context doesn't work for several different reasons, grammatical and semantic. Pick a different word.

Jamesaritchie
01-29-2007, 05:24 PM
You might write something like, "With subtle twitches of the wheel, the driver brought the careening bus under control."

Or "With subtle twitches of the wheel, the driver brought the bus right to the edge of careening out of control."

laroche
01-29-2007, 10:34 PM
Judg- Thank you for the extensive explanation! It's very helpful. Unfortunately, though my lesson of the week is how a writer's (my) own ego is a great obstacle in producing readable work, I'm going to have to keep it as it is. The driver used subtle and nuanced twitches to careen the vehicle -swerving wildly. He did not keep it from careening out of control, but kept it from being in control! (I'm aiming for an "exaggerated" (well, not really) make that vivid account of a bus journey, one that borders cartoonish proportions.

For your reference, I post the entire intro here:

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=1086902#post1086902

Jamesaritchie
01-30-2007, 12:32 AM
Judg- Thank you for the extensive explanation! It's very helpful. Unfortunately, though my lesson of the week is how a writer's (my) own ego is a great obstacle in producing readable work, I'm going to have to keep it as it is. The driver used subtle and nuanced twitches to careen the vehicle -swerving wildly. He did not keep it from careening out of control, but kept it from being in control! (I'm aiming for an "exaggerated" (well, not really) make that vivid account of a bus journey, one that borders cartoonish proportions.

For your reference, I post the entire intro here:

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=1086902#post1086902


It just won't make sense that way. Readers will stumble. If you want the vehicle out of control, you won't get it this way with subtle, nuanced movements of the wheel. You telling teh reader opposing things in teh same sentence.

Exaggeration can be great, but this isn't what you're doing. You're understating what it takes to make a vehicle careen out of control. And if it really is out of control, it had better crash.

Judg
01-30-2007, 01:14 AM
I'm with James on this one. Either it's exaggerated or it's understated. You can't have both in one sentence. And you'd also be breaking the laws of physics. Twitches aren't going to keep a vehicle careening. Something's got to give. You are not only being hard on the suspension of the vehicle, but also on the suspension of disbelief. It sounds like all three words, subtle, nuanced and twitches, are going to have to go.

You can keep them if you like, of course, but if all goes well, you'll just have an agent or an editor telling you the same thing.

Silver King
01-30-2007, 01:27 AM
I'm going to have to keep it as it is.
Are we to believe, then, that all of the advice given in this thread has been for naught?

aka eraser
01-30-2007, 01:53 AM
When a writer lets his ego careen out of control despite the subtle, nuanced nay-saying of his peers, he deserves his fate.

Sandi LeFaucheur
01-30-2007, 05:41 AM
The Collins dictionary defines careen as "to sway or cause to sway over to one side". It then goes into the nautical definition. So despite the fact that I thought that careen means out of control, it actually doesn't. With that definition, it sounds like maybe the driver is making the car drive on its two right (or left!) wheels. If that was the case, then the sentence would work. However, I'd choose another word simply because of the common meaning of careen. If 98% of your readers don't understand what you're trying to say, then you'd better find another way of saying it.

It's odd that the Collins has nothing about it meaning out of control, whereas askoxford.com has the meaning as out of control, and the swaying to one side solely applying to a ship. Words are weird. And with a word as open to interpretation as this, best to find another one.

janetbellinger
01-30-2007, 07:49 PM
don't subtle and nuance mean the same thing?