Lately I have gotten addicted to this little Etymology tool.
I’m doing a final edit of a final draft, scrubbing through every sentence and questioning every word choice, and just now have spent at least 10 minutes mulling over this little fragment:
“the tumult of their dying outcries”
It didn’t sound right. Tumult? Yes, it’s a commotion, an uproar, but it’s more of a disturbance than a noise. Okay, I tried another combination:
“the gibber of their dying outcries”
Again, something is wrong. Yes, “gibber” means to speak rapidly and inarticulately, but it’s somehow not sounding right in this combination of words. Not because of its meaning, but because of the syllables. They are too small. I needed a bigger sound, something you say with an open mouth. So I finally settled on this:
“the garble of their dying outcries”
“Garble” is a word with a long history. It originally meant to "inspect and remove the dirt and dross from (spices)," from Anglo-French garbeler "to sift" (late 14c.). But about 200 years later it changed to "removal of what is objectionable," then to "distort for some devious purpose or to give false impression,” and finally to "mix up, confuse or distort language" (1680s). This bit of history let me visualize the word, and it was perfect for my context and for the sound of the sentence as a whole. Which is this:
"The moans of the badlings, the garble of their dying outcries made Bells shudder."