MONSTER Vocabulary

I’m sure I’m not the only writer who occasionally gets bogged down in words. I LOVE words, but sometimes I seem to drown in them. Right now, on the bulletin board over my desk I have two words on little pieces of paper, tacked up there haunting me, taunting me to use them in one story or another.

Crepuscular: referring to animals active in twilight

Crepuscular has been up on the board for too long. It’s a luscious word, but outside of nature writing it feels a bit pretentious. I’m sure it’ll find its way into a story about vampires or other creatures of the night, but it needs the right story. Maybe it’s destined for a story about a 19th century naturalist hunting a rare insect and stumbling upon something on a much larger scale?

Cryptonym: a secret or code name

This is a spy-thriller word, but the challenge would be to use it in another context. It’s on the same piece of paper as a note about selenium poisoning. I think there’s a murder mystery germinating on that scrap of paper?

MONSTER words are used in all sorts of contexts. MONSTROSITY is used to describe all sorts of things from huge, ugly buildings to anything that is outrageous, offensive and wrong on a grand scale.

You’ll hear pundits use it when talking about politics. “That legislation is a monstrosity!” “The gaff in the debate was monstrous!” It suits political hyperbole and the attitude of cable news reporters.

Frankenstein’s monster has become an easy metaphor for anything that is a combination of disparate parts. It’s a tempting reference and it comes up all the time. Mary Shelley’s creation has also become synonymous with ugly — again on a grand/monstrous scale.

The “Frankenfish” (AKA Northern Snakehead) is truly an unappealing creature. It’s a predator fish that can live for extended periods OUTSIDE water and its been known to devastate local populations of frogs and fish. This spring warning signs went up in New York’s Central Park advising anyone who caught one to kill it, freeze it, report it and basically NOT to throw it back into the water where it could damage the delicate equilibrium from its natural habitat in Russia, China and Korea. It’s a monster.


  1. Funny you should mention words such as these. I was thinking of GMO foods today. I found it odd that protestors have gone with such a tame word now. It used to be frankenfoods. I think that gives a darker connotation.

    • Candy

      “Frankenfoods” I remember that. Although, because of “Frankenberry” cereal it had this cartoonish association for me.

      I’m fascinated at how Frankenstein has become so much a part of our vocabulary. It’s an easy metaphor and rolls off the tongue. Dracula never got that far into the language. Maybe it was too specific? Umm… no real way to find out why.

      • It may be because vampires are such a huge part of world culture already. The creatures that feast on the living can be found in the folklore of pretty much every different culture. Bram Stoker did not create a new thing. What he did was romantasize the creature. In a way he was the first person to make being a vampire “cool.”

        Frankenstein and the monster he created were something new. Mary Shelly created a whole new mythos when she wrote her book. With culture’s love of new it can easily catch on to the word usage as something hip.

        Just thought of this as I am writing…

        You could say that Stoker created a culture, and Shelly created the language.

  2. Unlike Jon, I became fixated on the Frankenfish and looked it up, half expecting it to be some kind of urban myth. But no. I even found a youtube video of one not-quite-walking around on land. Scary, yet also amazing. Could the earliest amphibians have looked, and moved something like this?

    Hope you don’t mind but I’m going to throw that video clip up on my blog so my aussie friends can see this weird creature.

    • Candy

      They are very real and very scary!
      It’s a case of a creature from one ecosystem mucking up the balance when it travels outside its home turf.

      As for urban myths, I’m fond of the gators in the subways. One of the subway stations has a mosaic mural with alligators. Gotta love scary art!