Apr 042011

Here’s a piece by Russell Working on cleaning up the brain rot. See also his wonderful story “Slava” on Numéro Cinq.


Russians have a phrase for those clichés that burrow into the mind like brain worms: slova-parazity, or “word parasites.”

Though seldom fatal, the disorder can be devastating, and it has reached endemic proportions worldwide. Doctors report that victims suffer the loss of original thought and endure hypnotic spells in which they type strings of words we’ve all heard many times before.

Brain imaging reveals these word parasites are hackneyed phrases and variations on pop lyrics, movie lines, and old ad campaigns. Afflicted writers are unable to write the word father without foggily recalling the “Not your father’s Oldsmobile” campaign, causing them to spout phrases like Not Your Father’s GOP or Not Your Father’s Censorship.

In the giddy brains of an afflicted writer, Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas, anymore morphs the Guardian headline about high-tech Japanese potties: “Toto–we’re not on normal toilets any more.”

We? You mean, you and your little dog, too?

But even as writers flee major cities in panic, medical authorities are calling for calm. The condition isn’t hopeless. Here are some tips for de-worming our minds:

via Are you addicted to cliches? Help is on the way! | Articles.

  No Responses to “Slova-parazity, word parasites, and de-worming the brain, from Russell Working”

  1. This is fun and grave at once. I like the “three words in a row” rule referred to in this piece. And, on-line cliche support…? Thank goodness for the silver lining.

  2. This morning, in an article I wrote, I used the idiom “passed the muster” and thought of Russell’s piece. Using the phrase, I was reminded of a story of mine in which a scene take place in a muster field. One workshop peer asked about clarification of place, knowing that a muster field sounded historic and rural, but not sure exactly what one was. Do we always know what we’re talking about when we use particular idioms or cliches? The noun muster means a gathering, as in, a muster of peacocks. The verb muster means to gather for inspection, as in muster the troops. It is most often attached to military use, thereby, passing the muster, refers to receiving the clearance of acceptability by a high-ranking officer. While we often understand the general meaning of well-used phrases, can we always determine their origin? In this light,the discussion surrounding “word parasites,” swells with possibility.

  3. “Toto–we’re not on normal toilets any more.”

    I plan to spend the entire day in contemplation of this one.

  4. This post made me laugh and cringe … it also paralyzed my writing for a few days. But hopefully my advisor will reap the benefits (couldn’t help myself …)

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