Erin Roan MacDonald

Taken to task for my Creative Prose

Placed a personal ad that went like this: Organic Bella for Handsome Cohort 

This is one of the responses I got.

Anonymous emailer: 

FYI — A “cohort” is a group of associated individuals; you mean “consort”, as in Prince Albert, Royal Consort (to England’s Queen Victoria).  Literally it’s a companion, someone who accompanies you (or the Queen).


See number 2 and number 5.

Anonymous emailer: 

Hi Bella — Thanks for the link, which I followed to numbers two and five, as directed.

Having edited books for UC Press and other serious publishers for many years, I remain a purist with regard to definition. Mongrel usage is inevitable, if regrettable: for such practice dilutes specificity, and weakens language in the process. The OED (Oxford English Dictionary) contains only two senses for cohort; the first, a tenth of a Roman legion, originally derived from the enclosure it occupied; and the second, as I said, referring to company kept.

Since “consort” exists for the use you intend, blurring lines with “cohort”…might even get you caught up in some possibly unwelcome group activities.


Alas, I pulled out my hard copy of Websters circa 1960 and you are right. In fact I may be calling the attention of the Roman Army. I must respectfully disagree about weakening the language though, we would rather be without the works of Allan Ginsberg or Jay-Z?

Anonymous emailer:

Allen Ginsburg spoke at my college; after which I joined him and perhaps a dozen others in a fraternity house [sic] for a long discussion; and I remain an admirer of his life and work. But what he did: what James Joyce pioneered with Ulysses; and took over the top in Finnegan’s Wake: is not the same as misusing, or confusing, language. Creativity requires precision: Joyce often took a day to polish a paragraph to perfection.

Jay-Z is off the radar, as my musical interest falls off sharply, after 1911, when Mahler dies. For me, it’s the likes of Buxtehude (a guy Bach walked five days in the snow to hear play the organ) Beethoven, Haydn, Wagner, Mozart…dead ole’ white guys.

Anywhich, it’s been lovely chatting with you; but I’d written initially only to offer the correction, and not to suggest connection: I’m two decades your senior, alas!

Be excellent,


3 replies to “Taken to task for my Creative Prose

  1. I love that you shared this, Erin!

    Also — how does he know that you weren’t looking for a cohort, and had placed the ad seeking a gorgeous group of folks. 🙂 IMO, it’s always wise to check in when offering a correction/suggestion. Just because he thought he had information to bestow upon you doesn’t mean you needed it!


  2. It looks like I have to leave a comment to sign up for your post notifications…or am I missing something. Anyway, I enjoyed the back and forth. I get what the guy is saying, but the meaning of words change and that is why dictionaries change too.

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