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Tom Laurie

A lot of atop

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"A lot" was my high school and college students' favorite phrase. The only thing is that most of them thought it was one word.

 

I don't think I have ever used the word "atop" in a conversation in my life. I can't remember ever using it in any of my writings in high school or college. Over the last ten years I have noticed that the authors of almost every fictional work I read are enamored with the word "atop". Is there some secret writing society that requires you to use the word "atop" to join?

 

I lay atop the grassy knoll atop the windswept hill atop the highest peak atop the wide mountain atop mother earth.

 

There, I should be good for a couple of years!

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I don't believe I've ever written a sentence with "atop" in it either. Maybe we should be the ones forming a club!

 

But what really irks me is the way people have crammed "all" and "right" together for so long, "alright" is becoming a legitimate word. Now, that feels alwrong...

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I will venture a guess. When I need to shorten a book or article to fit within guidelines for length, one of my techniques is to replace phrases with single word constructions. "On top of" is three words. "Atop" is one. There are many other such words that can take the place of a whole phrase.

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"Above" is less specific. My journalism professor maintained tha there was only one correct word for any stituation. "On top of Old Smokey ..." or "... the winds at the peak of Mt. Washington..." or "...above the horizon." Since he actually paid me for my can opener essay ( he was a contributing editor for Yankee Magazine, but they never ran it) I always kept this in mind.

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