I don’t know if there ever was such a thing as a “said book” listing innumerable substitutes for the simple and useful verb “said,” but that concept is the basis of the term “said-bookism,” known to most professional writers as something to avoid as a sure sign of amateurism. You can get examples and explanations many places, e.g. here and (in inimitable TV Tropes style) here; google the term for more. I’m posting about them because I’ve finally gotten irritated beyond endurance by an (otherwise excellent) book I’m reading, Soviet Baby Boomers: An Oral History of Russia’s Cold War Generation by Donald J. Raleigh. Raleigh has interviewed a bunch of Russians who graduated from high school in 1967 (a year before me)—specifically, from the well-known Moscow School #20 (now 1239) and Saratov School #42, both elite institutions focused on teaching English and full of nomenklatura kids—and the information presented is riveting, to me at least; I’m getting a real sense of what it was like to grow up and go to school for my coevals in a country I’ve always been fascinated with.
But the writing! Raleigh has the expected academic sins of plodding prose enlivened by occasional attempts at slang or wit, but what really gets my goat are the said-bookisms; I’ve never seen so many collected in one place before, and they’re almost all wretchedly misused. I wouldn’t mind an occasional “exclaimed” or “complained,” but these are so awful you wonder whether he understands the meaning of the verbs. Let’s take “quipped”: “As Soﬁya Vinogradova quipped, ‘Children with grandparents had a better childhood than those without.'” “Repeating a popular saying, Father Valentin quipped, ‘There are no atheists in the trenches.'” “The majority of members of the B class (BESHnik/beshniki), however, called attention to the distinction between the two groups [children of the Party elite and others]. As Irina Tsurkan quipped, ‘It’s probably the children of the Party officials who claim there was no difference.'” “‘It was never interesting there,’ quipped Tatyana Artyomova, ‘because the other kids were strangers.'” The mind boggles. Of course, there are normal, merely awkward and pointless said-bookisms like “‘If I see in a store evaporated milk made in Verkhovie, I buy it,’ stated Starik.” But the verb that infuriated me enough to post comes at the end of this paragraph:
But the elite schools did not prepare the interviewees for the oppressive politicization of college-level instruction that Anna Lyovina called “awful.” Going against the current [most students wanted to switch from night to day classes], she switched from the daytime to the evening division of Moscow’s IFL. “I did so after my freshman year. I thought I’d go out of my mind, because of the History of the CPSU [Communist Party of the Soviet Union], History of the CPSU, and History of the CPSU. It was torture. I couldn’t stand it. Then there was Military Science. There was far less of it in the evening division,” she said. Yet even there, “they constantly tried to indoctrinate us, ‘You are translators on the ideological front. You will interact with foreigners and you have to be careful, you have to be grounded.’” An old Bolshevik who taught Party history regaled her charges about how she carried out collectivization. As a child, however, Lyovina had been exposed to a counternarrative: “My dear nanny would tell me that all of her relatives from Tambov province, hard-working peasants who fed Russia, were exiled to Siberia. I couldn’t happily reply, Hoorah! Collectivization!” rationalized Anna.
“Rationalized Anna”?! All I can say is: what