Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Poignant Post: In Defense of the Word

So the other week during her presentation  Megan Whalen Turner gave all readers advice, saying "Never read a book with poignant on the back!" 

We all laughed. I laughed. It's very funny, yes?

And yet, later in thinking it over, I wondered.... but why? Why SHOULDN'T we read a book declared poignant?

Is it because that word is way too much overused? (I've used it! Many times. Have you?)

Is it because no one really knows what it means?

Is it because it's a word reviewers and blurbers use when they can't think of anything else?

Or is it that we shouldn't like poignant books?

Let me help you out here.

The definition of poignant according to

: pungently pervasive <a poignant perfume>
a (1) : painfully affecting the feelings : piercing (2) : deeply affecting : touching
b : designed to make an impression : cutting <poignant satire>
a : pleasurably stimulating
b : being to the point : apt

Sounds like a book I'd want to read actually!

Okay, here are some words to use in place of poignant, should you so need them (also nabbed from

affecting, emotional, impactful, impressive, moving,stirring, touching, eloquent, expressive, meaningful, significant;demonstrative, excitable, feeling, passionate, responsive,sensitive; exciting, inspirational, provoking, rousing,stimulating; dramatic, histrionic, melodramatic, theatrical,cathartic

Now it REALLY sounds like a book I'd want to read!

Here's a trend I'm seeing a lot lately all around twitter and on many many blogs to describe a book: "It makes you feel ALL THE THINGS".... or "I felt ALL THE FEELS!!" (You've seen this too, right? Have you used it yet? I think I may have once or twice!)

So, is that not just saying poignant, without saying poignant? I think so, yes!

And while I like the above phrase, and it makes me smile, and it gets the point across,  I do think it is on its way to being overused AND if it's not a cop out for "I-don't-know-what-word-to-use-to-describe-the-feelings-I-felt-but-I-felt-them".... I don't know what is!

And so I for one will NOT be turned off from a book that's been declared poignant and while I may try not to not use that word myself to describe a book, I guarantee nothing!

What about you? Do you hate the word? Will you take the above advice to heart? Or does this word not bother you so much? 


  1. Poignant is one of my favourite words! I am far more likely to pick up a book that is described as poignant than any of the other words in your list. The only other word that excites me as much is powerful. I guess it all depends on what type of books you enjoy, but poignant ones are my favourites. :-)

    1. Jackie: I seem to enjoy them too and I always thought it was a cool word! Yay!

  2. I like the word, but it has become overused along with I have all the feels. I understand that the book made you feeling something. That's what books are for :)

    1. Julie: Exactly! I guess we need to always be thinking of ways to describe the feelings...

  3. I'm with Julie, I like the word but definitely think it's overused lately. I definitely won't dismiss a book with the word on its back! :)

  4. what a great post, Suey!

    I have a hard time writing my "reviews" lately, mostly because I am not finding the words to adequately describe how I felt. Been thinking of just simply saying..."Hey, I liked (loved) this books tons! It was entertaining, believable and took me on a great reading ride." and leave it all at that. But, I must say, if poignant sums up how I feel about a book, I just may simple and plainly state that...."this book was simply poignant. read it." because after reading your post, and now having a strong grasp on the word....its a good word to use. I am with you, the word definition is a book I would want to read, and then all the synonyms for the word...ummm...yeah, I want to read that type of book. :D

    As far as over-use is concerned; seriously, how many *different* words can people use to describe the same idea/emotion? A word will be over-used. I have no problems with that. But I would hope that when one uses a word that they are truly feeling it...using it to express their thoughts...and not just using it cause it sounds good and its an "in" word.

    (ps...I am on my desktop, much easier to comment on blogger)

  5. I feel like poignant is often a word used to excuse graphic material. People don't want to call it abusive, crass, violent, or any of those negative words, so they call it poignant. As such, it is a word that makes me leery. BUT I do love the word itself.



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