January 11, 2008


As used in an NYT blog today, the word emote has more to do with expressing emotion than hamming it up. The American Heritage Dictionary gives this definition: "To express emotion, especially in an excessive or theatrical manner." As in “The more she emotes, the less he listens, and the less he listens, the more strident and emotive she becomes” (Maggie Scarf).

The thesaurus entry on the same page says "To make an emotional display: emotionalize, gush."

So, how come crossword clues for the word usually stress a theatrical overacting aspect? From the Cruciverb.com clue database, we see that EMOTE has 172 uses in the indexed crosswords over the past decade or so. Of the 75 or 80 different clues, three have been used again and again: [Ham it up], [Chew the scenery], and [Overact]. These and other theatrical/dramatic/acting/ham clues account for about 85% of the EMOTE clues.

Far less frequently, EMOTE gets a non-theatrical clue, such as [Show feelings]. Some of the non-theatrical clues are pejorative—[Get all histrionic], for example, or [Shed crocodile tears].

Do theater/acting types use EMOTE the way crosswords do? I'm curious.