Charmed, I’m sure.

Try thinking of how many people you know who are truly charming.

There is the sort of illusionary charm created by the observer and refracted onto a person who is a vacuum. These people are sociopathically charismatic for as long as it takes one to realize that their best attributes are not, in fact, theirs at all. This is why there are ciphers in fiction, those carefully constructed empty vessels into which you can pour your own favorite attributes in order to make the character what you want him to be. They’re important in crafting a hero or a villain meant to appeal to an audience whose members’ definitions of both vary wildly; all you need to do is build a beautiful frame so as not to get in the way of the audience’s imagination and expectations. This is most easily observable in film, I think. Neo, from THE MATRIX, was a cipher. Shadow from American Gods was a cipher. Most of Disney’s Princes are ciphers.

I generally dislike this kind of character, both the fictional and real varieties. They’re useful, as a placeholder, I guess, but their charm is a brittle coating which only shines when light comes from somewhere else. Their appeal is not sustainable without your determined blindness to the fact that you are the one providing their appeal. I would argue that this is not really charm, the way lust isn’t really love. I just don’t think there’s a word for this sort of gradation, so people will refer to hucksters as charming when really, they’re the lust version of charm. Chlust. They’re chlusty. Chust? They are chusting?

I could really use a coffee. I’m making some tea, but you know those mornings when you’re just like, ugh, tea is not going to do the trick unless I drink a gallon of it?

Anyway, real charm is self-sustaining. It requires nothing from an outsider to exist. It’s a glow, not a shine, because it’s an internal light, and not a reflection. It’s not a veneer. It doesn’t rub off after prolonged exposure. The secondary characters (both in fiction and in life) are often the most charming. The one who imparts his self onto his character and by extension, the audience, instead of allowing the audience to do the work of creation, those are the people I love.

I think it’s pretty rare, and pretty wonderful. So I guess that I’ve officially added “charming” as an adjective to the list of things that make my skin crawl when used incorrectly.

Also on the list:


regardless (often contorted into “irregardless,” which is not a word)

since (relates to time, not cause and effect)

objective case pronouns used as nominative case pronouns (and vice versa, although that’s rarer)






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