Q is for Querulous
As fiction writers we are often reminded to ‘show not tell’, appeal to the senses and use basic vocabulary so the reader isn’t distracted from the story by words they don’t understand. However, sometimes the use of ‘out of the ordinary’ words can be beneficial.
During my teaching years, I used to despise the whining and grumbling of teenagers who entered my classroom. Have you noticed if you ask someone to stop whining they do it even more? It happens in the adult world too. Tell someone they are being argumentative and it escalates. Well, after trial and error, you know the normal stuff like ignoring, imitating, getting angry, I found the perfect solution. Use more complex vocabulary.
Problem: The whining teenager enters the classroom, hurls his rucksack across the floor and slumps into the chair, continuing to whine that poetry sucks.
Solution: The teacher looks at the teenager with a sympathetic smile and says, “It’s not like you to be querulous.”
Response: The student looks flummoxed and says, “What’s querulous mean?”
Result: The student has stopped whining, is focused on the new word that the teacher writes on the board and learning begins with some element of peace.
Obviously, if you are head to head with someone who you know to be a walking dictionary, this tactic may backfire. In this case, I would suggest deep breaths, a quick exit and head to the nearest bar.
How do you handle someone who is being querulous?