A Shrug Too Far

Man shrugs    First, thanks to all those who have so far stepped up and offered themselves as dedicatees of my new book. Your enthusiasm is appreciated. I’ll draw a name from the hat during the first week of April.

Next, the  aforementioned book is now off my desk for a while. I delivered the revised manuscript to my editor this morning. I’m not saying it’s over. There will still be Final Tinker, followed by Proof Corrections, but for a week or two I’m off the hook. How do I feel about it? Flat as yesterday’s Tizer.

Before I finish work each day one of my habits is to write myself a little to-do list for the following morning. It might be to check on some fact or to reconsider a sentence that  looks a bit inelegant. It also often includes non-book jobs, so my list might look something like Date of Battle of Alma? Marinade chicken. Buy stamps. The other morning I found the following: Wash spinach. Coat to dry cleaner. Too much shrugging.

Too much shrugging? Yes, far too much. I’d been working on revisions, came upon a shrug and thought there had already been one a few pages earlier. I did one of those searches that make me bless the day Bill Gates hired the clever dudes who invented Microsoft Word and found to my horror that I had no fewer than seven shrugs in a 300 page novel. Tsk tsk.  What is wrong with these characters? Don’t they know anything? Don’t they care about anything?

But here’s the problem. Shrug is not an easy word to replace. A shrug is a shrug, even when it’s Gallic. Which, by the way, mine weren’t. They were multinational shrugs but clearly some of them had to go. I allowed myself to keep two. It wasn’t easy. How I longed for an alternative word.  Perhaps we should adopt one.

He looked at the letter and huddered?  No.

With a bored thruntle he tossed the letter in the fire? Nope.

Our rich language definitely needs a simile for shrug. I am, as ever, open to polite suggestions.


  1. heather machin on March 20, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    what about the full gallic haussement d’épaules? but in truth, after a thorough trawl through the resources of the web, there just isn’t a substitute for shrug.

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