Once more I’ve been asking questions on Facebook. Unscientific research based on anecdotal experiences, hearsay, and empirical evidence. Totally unscientific, but quite entertaining.
This time the question was:
What are the pointy parts of a fork called? Teeth?
The correct answer appears to be tine, but a few people also claimed they were called prongs. To me, a prong is a small space between things, and it feels like the prongs would be the spaces between the pointy bits – the tines.
Prong is a word I’ve heard before. I’m cool with it. Me and prong, we’re pals.
Tine is a word I can’t remember ever having encountered in the past. I might have, but I don’t know when that would have been. It felt strange and unfamiliar. Weird.
I could have used it in my sentence in my story, but I didn’t. Unfamiliar words like that are strange and I didn’t know if I’d get it right. Sure, I now knew what it meant, but I didn’t know how to use it.
Is it a common word? Will my readers be familiar with it? Is it formal? Is it informal? Does it carry any kind of hidden connotations I’m not aware of?
Also, this is probably a good time to mention that English isn’t my first language.
As a non-native English speaker I don’t have the same intuitive feel for the language as native speakers have. I can’t just discover a new word and fit it into my story right away. I don’t have the confidence.
When I write, I try to only use words that come naturally to me. I try to avoid words that aren’t part of my everyday vocabulary. I feel like doing that will make the text easier to read. If I’m confident in my writing, it will shine through to the reader.
If I use words I’m not comfortable with, it will shine through. It will affect the mode and the rhythm of the prose and it will negatively effect the reader’s enjoyment of the reading.
I really want to avoid that. So I don’t use words I’m not friends with.
EDIT: Turns out I was wrong about the meaning of prong.
I was thinking of a Swedish word that’s pronounced the same way: prång. It roughly translates into “small, narrow space” and would be the correct word for the space between the prongs in Swedish.