“The Night was Moist…”

If you've never seen Throw Momma from the Train, Danny DeVito plays a talentless creative writing student, who starts off his murder story "The night was moist."  His incredulous teacher begs him to find a different adjective ("sultry," eg).  Hilarity ensues.

English is a language redolent with adjectives, teeming with modifiers, bursting with descriptives.  You get the point.

For some reason, I was thinking today about especially nice uses of the language.  I'm sure part of this was that Kirk used "the night was moist" in a recent post.  Another is that I walked outside this morning and said to myself, "Self? It's really moist this morning." Then I had brunch with a good friend and her two kids, and one of them made an especially amusing description.  I can't remember what it was, but it led me to remember a story from college.  I was taking German 3, and one of my classmates inadvertently described his girlfriend as "cozy." In the thesaurus, the word worked; not so in the sentence.

Also, we had a brief thunderstorm this afternoon.  So many beautiful images involve rain: walks in the rain, rain falling outside while we're inside with a loved one, running out to the clothesline as a thunderstorm bears down, those first giant drops of a summer storm, even the sideways rain of a tropical storm or hurricane.

Singer-songwriter Michael Franks wrote a beautiful song called "Rainy Night in Tokyo."

He sets quite a lush image:

Paul Desmond on the stereo,
We sipped the sake very slow,
Kissing in the candle glow,
That rainy night in Tokyo.

The music is beautiful as well.

Part of the beauty of writing is painting pictures with language.  There's a certain rhythm to words, so many shades of meaning and nuance.  We can vary our sentence structures.  Speed things up.  Or slow the pace, trickling out our images like butter melting on a steaming stack of blueberry pancakes.

Whether the night is sultry, moist, steamy, or–if you live near a paper mill–as wetly poisonous as a beer fart.

In this new world of omg's and lol's, description may be dying, but I don't mind being a relic.  Not if it means I can use language for important things. Like…

OMFG! Jennifer Garner has dimples you could totally serve ice cream in! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

She's very cozy, too.

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9 Responses to ““The Night was Moist…””

  1. dewd. I read this post about ½ hour. enjoyed the wordsmithing but didn't post a comment.picked up the book I started today, Gone Baby Gone, and didn't go five pages until I came across this: "…If it were last night, moist and balmy…" (GBG, p.73)…and that's how I knew I had to come back and comment.

  2. That's a little weird! Not only did GBG use "moist," the film GBG was directed by Ben Affleck, who's married to ice-cream dimple girl Jennifer Garner up there. (cue Twilight Zone theme) Thanks for coming back to share that.

  3. I love everything about a heavy thunderstorm moving in…the smell, the winds, the colors, the animals as they react…birds taking shelter, the dogs realizing the shift in the weather. It's quite beautiful really.
    And yep J.G. does have gorgeous, adorable dimples. Love 'em. She's got one of the best smiles I've seen.

  4. Heh yeah. "Moist" I've heard for pastries, and in erotica, for someone's warm, sweaty skin. But rainy nights? Coming as I do from the Southern coastal rainforests of India, I'd say "sultry"!JG does have a lovely smile.

  5. I know, right? Moist has either a positive (in a chocolate cake) or nasty (ie, a place where a fungal infection would grow) connotation, but not for describing weather. Here on my sandbar, I'd describe our summer days as "steamy," with nice "sultry" nights. What I love about JG is that she seems to use her smile a lot–very happy, normal person…with huge dimples. 😉

  6. I agree: for as powerful, loud, and chaotic they are, thunderstorms still have an odd peacefulness. I love the rainfall on my lake, and even the thunder doesn't scare me. They certainly point out to me exactly how non-powerful I am in the grand scheme of things.

  7. i've learned to embrace rain as my friend, now that i live in FL. (okay, so i've been living here for nearly 3 years already, but i'm only just starting to truly embrace it … so, so what?) anyway, i've gotten used to "moist" days, steamy nights, and more tropical storms than i care to count. i don't think, though, that i've ever used the word "moist" to describe anything other than chocolate cake and the laundry i've hung out to dry but hasn't finished drying yet. (even then, i think i used the word "damp" more often than moist.) for some reason, it's a word that makes me giggle every time i say it … kinda like being 8 and saying "toilet" a hundred times.
    hee!
    now that it's officially summer in miami, i'll be saying "sticky," "humid," "nasty," and "thick" must more often. maybe i'll throw a little "moist" in there for good measure!

  8. okay. the word "moist" grosses me out. i don't know why. hehe.

  9. It is sort of ookey, I guess.

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