Author Topic: "Borrowing" phrases and descriptions  (Read 2307 times)


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"Borrowing" phrases and descriptions
« on: December 21, 2008, 04:40:34 AM »
Ok this may seem like plagarism, but have you ever used certain phrases and descriptions from another book?   I am doing a lot of reading recently and sometimes through the reading I've thought I would like "borrow" a word or two in my book.   Maybe its a word I have been searching for and someone else has written it and its what I want to say.  I know everyday words are not "owned" by authors, but paragraphs and phrases may be. 

Some descriptions are interesting as well. I've often been tempted to "borrow" a few words here and there, but I keep telling myself this is about what I can do with my own achievements. Maybe to steal an interesting word  might be tempting - I bet I'm not the first person to think in this way.  I bet a lot of authors do it?  I dont know, just asking.  When do you draw the line between "borrowing" and plagarism.  I have to say I have seen a few sentences that were unusual and  they were repeated again in another book.  Who is to say that great minds don't think alike?

Lin x

Offline PretzelGirl

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Re: "Borrowing" phrases and descriptions
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2008, 05:09:47 AM »
Well, you're not thinking alike if you 'borrow', are you, because you didn't think of it yourself. And no matter how extraordinary a phrase is elsewhere, I won't take it because I get no satisfaction from this at all...I rather think of something on my own.
As for words, why not? They're everyone's words and finding unusual or interesting words is a part of the writing process anyway.
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Offline Hugh

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Re: "Borrowing" phrases and descriptions
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2008, 06:21:38 AM »
You’ve posed a fascinating question, Lin, and one that will need cleverer minds than mine to answer.  Copyright is a matter for lawyers to argue, e.g. how many words do you have to copy from someone else to qualify as plagiarism?

There is no copyright on words, only the way they are put together.  Today’s brilliant word picture is tomorrow’s cliché.  Shakespeare is full of them, but how many did he actually make up himself?  After all, he pinched the plot of Hamlet from an existing story about a prince of Denmark.  But then, there’s no copyright on ideas, and he made it into a play.

Of course, when you read a lot, you are subconsciously absorbing language from different authors, and you can quite easily find a description popping into your head, delighted that you have thought of it, without realising that you are “borrowing” it.  That is different from deliberately copying it.

But I suspect you are not so much concerned with the copyright aspect of your question, but with the morality of passing off someone else’s words as your own.  And only you can answer that.


Offline stargenesis

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Re: "Borrowing" phrases and descriptions
« Reply #3 on: December 24, 2008, 08:15:33 AM »
My sincere comment on this is that, well, if you 'borrowed' certain phrases, and not the idea or meanings of the author, why not?!  Certain phrases or words, to me, should not cause any problem so long as you did not copy the author's ideas/meaning/works.




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Re: "Borrowing" phrases and descriptions
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2009, 01:41:02 PM »
Borrowed, borrowed without permission but with every intention of giving it back ~CJS~ POTC1

My best friend and I  do this all the time. She takes my ideas and I take hers but we always give credit. In fact, My best friend has a quote of hers that is in a real author's book. He wrote her and asked if he could use it and she said yes. He sent her the book's that had her quote in it and signed it as well. I thought that was pretty cool.

Also, My bf loves Holly Black, there is a character in HB's novles called Thistle. It's a good name for a brownie and my BF put it into her book, but she wrote HB and asked if she could use it. HB actually wroter her back and said that she could.

So, I suppose if it's a well known aurthor, you should write them and ask. If they say nay, respect them on that, but otherwise, I don't see why not.

Me, I do words. I was reading a Jane Austen Mystery and the word 'pernicious' popped up. I had to look it  up, but it is  now part of my lexicon and I  like to use it whenever I  can. *lol*

I say that if it is a word, than you can use it. If it's a phrase...well, that also depends.

"I have a bad feeling about this...." for  those of us  who have seen or read the extended universe of Star Wars, we will always think of Han Solo trying to get his bucket of bolts that is called a star ship to fly when they are being pulled in by the Empire.

But, I have seen that in other readings, not the same phrase, mind you, but something along those lines.