Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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If you're like me -- and I fervently wish, for your sake, that you aren't -- there are words that inspire obsessive-compulsive revulsion and words that inspire obsessive-compulsive attraction. The list changes over time, but not dramatically. "Inextricably" is one that has fallen under the latter rubric for many years now. I love the word. But it also makes me anxious. While many people freely deploy the adverb without qualification, I live in fear that, should I take this bold step, I will commit a grave error. So I write, "inextricably bound up with ______," or, "inextricably caught up in ______," instead of a simple, "inextricably."

My reasoning is that it's only possible for something to resist being extricated if it's tangled up with something else. Whether that something else actually needs to be specified, however, is unclear. Being naturally timid, I have learned to err on the side of safety. Now, though, I'm starting to see light streaming in at the end of the hallway. Henry James is lending me his hypotactic assistance:
At last I took my way home again, slowly getting all but inextricably lost, as I did whenever I went out in Venice: so that it was considerably past midnight when I reached my door.
While the cause of the tangling is clear -- everyone seems to get lost in Venice -- the sentence avoids the inelegant prepositional phrase I have, until now, felt compelled to deploy.

There. I've made my decision. From now on, I will couple "inextricably" with a choice adjective and put my fears to rest. Now if I could only settle on the right pronunciation of the word -- stress on the "ex" or the "tric" ? -- I'll be good to go.

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