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August 11, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Reading Pet Peeves: How Do You “Mouth” Words??

When a book starts to get on my nerves, my tendency is to stop reading. As I’ve said, why should I waste that time? Well, sometimes it’s such a train wreck you can’t stop (New Moon!!!) or sometimes you don’t realize how bad it is until you’re almost done, and by then you’re in for the long haul. Sometimes you really like 95% of the book, there’s just that one thing that makes you super batty… And sometimes you’ve got to read it for a review, and you’ve got to finish it no matter how much of your brain you’re sure has turned into an overcooked marshmallow. In any case, you start to notice things, they start to bother you, and suddenly you have a new pet peeve about books that will pitch you into a rage every time you see it.

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I’m not going to call out the specific book on this one, partly because I know I’ve seen other books do this, this one just had a particular problem with it. When characters mouth words. This is, as far as i can understand, when you move your mouth as if you are speaking, but you purposely don’t make any sound. Okay. Sure. I’ve seen this, I’ve done it myself in real life. But here, I’m not talking about mouthing “Hello!” to someone when you’re on the phone, or “Oh no!” when you’re expressing fear or empathy to a person across the room. I’m talking about characters mouthing full, entire sentences. I won’t quote anything specific, but it’s somewhere along these lines:

“Oh, hi, I’ll be done here in just a minute, grab a sandwich and wait over there, thanks.”

I feel like it should be obvious why this is ridiculous, but I’m going to break it down just in case.

Firstly. When I picture someone “mouthing” words, I imagine exaggerated mouth movements to make what you’re saying obvious. After a couple of words, it’s just going to look ridiculous.

Secondly. I feel like this requires some skill in lip reading from the recipient of the silent message. How many people can do this well? I honestly don’t know, I just know that I can’t figure that stuff out.

Thirdly. The character tends to “mouth” words when they don’t want other characters to know what they’re doing/saying. But when they do it with such long sentences, aren’t they just drawing attention to themselves? Aren’t the other characters going to be wondering what the heck this person is doing? And how on earth are they paying attention to what else is going on?

So, yup. There’s something that bothers me way more than it should! What about you all — what’s bugging you in your books?

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