Reader Stuart Semmel sent along a link to a Washington Post article and wondered whether the use of sweets rather than candy in the reference to “the kind of neighbors who can afford a $5 bag of sweets to give to others” was a NOOB.
After reading the relatively short article, I was ready with an answer: no. In the piece, the word “candy” is used nine times, including twice in the phrase “bag of candy.” Thus I cannot escape the conclusion that the one “bag of sweets” is less a NOOB than a case of elegant variation: H.W. Fowler’s term for writers’ efforts to avoid word repetition by coming up with a variant for the
word term in question.
Elegant variation is a fixture of the sports pages, where home runs become “circuit clouts” and a second baseman becomes “a fleet-footed second sacker,” but you see it an all sorts of writing, and to my mind, “bag of sweets” is definitely it.