Wednesday, December 2, 2020

You Talking to Me? by Guest Author Camille Minichino

Please welcome today's guest, author and good buddy Camille Minichino, she of many authorial pen names, including her latest, Elizabeth Logan. Her (that is, Elizabeth's) newest book is FISHING FOR TROUBLE in her Alaskan Diner Series. For more about Camille and her work, check out her website at


One great thing about Ann Parker's Silver Rush blog is that even a part of speech is acceptable for a topic. Guests like me don't have to come up with a thesis sentence or ten pages on Compare and Contrast, as if we were back in English 101.

We don't even have to stick to mysteries, which gives me permission to talk about a work of nonfiction: "The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words say About Us," by J. Pennebaker, a social psychologist and language expert.

 Doesn't that sound worthy of a blog hosted by an author who slings words around magically, transporting us flawlessly to another century?

I was especially interested in Pennebaker's chapter on how men and women "speak" in books and movies. Which writers have both men and women sounding like men? (Shakespeare and Quentin Tarantino, it turns out.) Both men and women sounding like women? (Gertrude Stein and Woody Allen.) Men sounding like men and women sounding like women? (Sam Shepard and Thornton Wilder.)

Now I need to know where my books fit. Do my female characters use more personal pronouns, as suggested by Pennebaker's research? Do my male characters shy away from social words, in favor of action words?

My research for dialogue doesn't involve computers as Pennebaker's, but I do try to pay careful attention to the patterns of men and women of all ages and walks of life—the ones who populate my life, anyway. I query a friend's 35-year-old son ("Do you call everyone 'Dude' even when I'm not around?"); my 50- to 60-year-old friends ("How much Net Lingo do you use in everyday life?"); and my 9-year-old grandniece ("What do you say when you think something is pretty? ugly? tastes bad?")

I'm luckier than Ann Parker, of course, since she can't eavesdrop or quiz folks like Inez Stannert and her crew. But maybe she's the lucky one—the language of 1880 is not going to change. It is what it was, to twist a popular phrase, whereas my techie buddies might come up with a new word or phrase before I finish my query.

Consider Net Lingo, characterized by abbreviations and acronyms, such as LOL and BTW and IDK; letter/number homophones—gr8 and b4; nonstandard spelling, like luv and cuz. I fully expect one of my younger relatives to LOL when I use ROTFL past its prime.

Wonder if the use of the subject pronoun will go the way of romance languages, thus disrupting Pennebaker's thesis. I often sign off an email, "Hope all is well." In Italian, "I hope" is simply "Spero." No one uses the "io" for "I."

Like most readers and writers, I enjoy the endless discussions of words, their origins, their evolution, and their telltale patterns.

I wonder if writers of an earlier day fooled anyone by using initials only, or pen names of the opposite gender? Or were readers counting the number of personal pronouns in George Eliot and saying, "Aha! Too many I's and we's. I'll bet this is really a woman."

Camille's second Alaskan Diner mystery FISHING FOR TROUBLE is now available!
Read more about it and find "buy" links here.


Camille Minichino said...

Thanks for hosting, Ann. I'd love to hear from readers whether they notice how an author distinguishes male and female voices. My author friends, Margaret Grace, Jean Flowers, and Ada Madison are getting together to hold a raffle just for Silver Rush blog readers who respond.

Hoping everyone stays safe!

Ann Parker said...

Ooooh that's a good question, Camille! Let's see if we can get some folks to chime in over the next week....

Priscilla said...

This was absolutely fascinating! Gender expression must be era driven. But I remember my mother trying to teach me that a woman never raised her voice (too masculine) and, in my early days of the 9to5 job, being advised to raise my natural voice pitch to sound more feminine. But social vs action words or pronoun use? I never even thought about that. Is it natural? Is it taught? As for the raffle, I have Camille’s...opps, Elizabeth’s latest book and it is another winner in this series! BTW, do cats have their own gender speech?

Unknown said...

I never thought about this before - but now I'll be watching. Great post! And 'yay' to you Camille, and Ann, too!

Liz V. said...

Interesting and not something to which I have paid attention.

The title of Pennebaker's brought to mind a delightful, though off-topic, book

Best wishes for your newest book and for the holidays.

Camille Minichino said...

Cat speech! Thanks, Priscilla. I'll have to contact my expert witnesses. Do YOU have a suggestion? ��

Camille Minichino said...

Hi Liz -- somehow that URL didn't work for me. Do you have a direct link?

Liz V. said...

Sorry Camille but, in truth, I am a Luddite struggling with technology.

The link was to Goodreads. I have added the Goodreads' author page and the author's website below :

[author:Keith Houston|6985221]
[book:Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols & Other Typographical Marks|17573647]

Camille Minichino said...

Thanks, Liz. Sometimes I think software engineers write code for other software engineers! Camille