What’s in a Word?
words that I like
words that sound like what they are
words that sound like they taste
words that roll off the tongue
words that are a feast, in and of themselves
if you’re a writer of any kind
you know the power of words
not just their meanings
but their structure
how long they are or short they are
or easily comprehended
or hard to digest
M’s bring your voice down like the mumbled murmurs of a murderous mob
S’s are sssslinky and sssslithery and they sssslide down your gullet
gullet – now that’s a good word
Z’s are more zingy and zippy and even a bit zesty
they’re zealous and so full of zeal
V’s are so very very vivacious!
why are so many words I like creepy
how is it that a few simple words can
brighten my mood or make me feel good
or make me feel better about myself
some words are fun to say
and some are fun to mean
words are flexible and versatile
and interpretive and so powerful
even though they’re just words
I love this–your words made me smile.
One of my favorite books, even though it is technically a kid’s book, is The Phantom Tollbooth. One of the characters in the book is a Spelling Bee w-h-o s-p-e-l-l-s e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g h-e s-a-y-s! The characters also visit a bizarre where they can buy words–some are more expensive than others, and of course is it cheaper to just buy the letters and make your own. At the grand feast, the characters must eat their words. The new arrivals are lost as odd words are piling onto their plates, but the initiated to the process are saying things like hot fudge sundae. Words are so fun!
Sorry – for some reason your comment was sent to spam and I just found it!
That sounds like my kind of book, actually – I love kid’s books. They seem to say so much in a such a small space. Of course, that happens on blogs, too! I think it’s hilarious that they had to eat their words! How many times have I had to eat my own words? And it sometimes feels like I never do learn to say the right things, so it happens again.
I love it! What a great way of summing up the mystery of words, the paradox of their arbitrary nature (after all, the words themselves are our inventions, even if the thoughts and emotions they signify are not–but even this is up for debate. Plenty of scientists and philosophers suggest that thought as we know it can’t exist without language. This question always seems to reduce to a “chicken and egg” dilemma. Which came first: thought or language?) and their power to move us… The word “move” itself implies that words and language interact physically with the world. They make things happen. They’re actions, even though they’re immaterial. Nietzsche called poets liars, in the sense that language applies a structure to the world that may be false. So it’s like words lie and tell truth at the same time. We could throw some Wittgenstein and Hume and others in here for fun, too :).
Well, the main point is that I love your poem. Thank you.
Haha, I thought, “If anyone comments on this, it will be Nick.”
I was actually thinking about how you said you liked the word sublime – which is an awesome word. I was driving to work, and of course I had my recorder, so I just meant to leave myself a note. When I started transcribing, I realized it wanted to go on the page just like that. Funny how that happens, huh?
I disagree about thought not being able to exist without words, though. There are times when my thoughts and feelings transcend words. I don’t believe that is feeling, alone. There are definitely thoughts and ideas there, but they take the form of pictures sometimes. Sometimes they take the form of conclusions, if that makes sense – I can’t explain it. I know what I’m thinking, without thinking – I have no need for words at certain moments.
That makes perfect sense, and I agree with you. I’m positive that pre-lingual children have thoughts (in the form of images, sounds, etc.) and that many animals do, too. Also, language doesn’t have to be words as we think of them. I do think that a certain type of thought (what we like to call “rational” thought, I guess) requires language. And I definitely think language influences and either limits or expands the range of thoughts we’re capable of having. A while ago I read this fantastic piece in Scientific American that teased out how the language you speak influences how you perceive the world, how you think, how you behave. As a language teacher, I love to explore the relationships among language, thought, perception, behavior, etc.
Random thought: there’s some famous guy in England who can perform really complicated mathematical operations in seconds. Most people would need an eternity to do what he does in so little time. Actually, most people wouldn’t be able to do it at all. I’m sure I’m one of them. This guy has pii memorized out to some ridiculous number of decimal points… like tens of thousands, and it takes him days to recite it. Anyway, he can’t explain perfectly how he does any of these things, but he can say that to him numbers appear in his mind as shapes with various colors… He’s not thinking, “2+2=4” as we do, he’s seeing the whole equation and the solution as colored shapes. That’s absolutely thought. It’s non-lingual, and in a way it’s even primitive, but I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. It’s like he’s plugged directly into something that most of us only apprehend at a distance. It’s like for him the boundary between himself and some essential feature of reality doesn’t exist. For us (or me) it’s like a brick wall. I know there’s something beyond the wall, but I don’t know what it is. I have these tools (language, procedures I was taught in school) that allow me to interact in a superficial way with what’s beyond the wall, but I just cannot see what it is I’m interacting with. I wield all of this heavy paraphernalia while this Englishman sees what’s there directly and can even touch it with his mind, feel its texture, admire the skill of the sculptor.
I certainly believe that a one-year-old has thougths, though they can’t express them yet. My dog has thoughts – sometimes you can see him thinking. I often wish I knew what was going through his mind. I’ll have to look up that article, it sounds pretty interesting (but I love that kind of stuff).
I saw a video on that guy, he was challenged to learn a really hard language (Finnish?) in a week – and he did. It was pretty fascinating about how he viewed the world. I’ve sometimes had tiny glimpses of that – seeing a color when I meet someone, or when I hear a name or a word. I sometimes associate things with shapes, even people occassionally. It’s a strange thing, and the older I get, the less it happens. But it’s nothing to how he sees things.
Also funny that you bring up brick walls. Next Monday’s post was inspired by you, and I referenced brick walls in the very beginning. I know what you mean – or at least I know what you mean for me. I miss your internet.
I often look at Allison, and wonder what she thinks – how can she think without knowing words yet. I know she dreams, perhaps pictures are enough. Steve thinks in pictures, and I do in words. Sometimes when we are picking up thoughts from one another, he sends a picture and I receive words and vice versa I send words and he gets a picture. Anyway intersting comments.
It’s very interesting to me, too. I noticed that Allison was dreaming when I babysat her and I wondered the same thing. I was thinking, “she’s a month old, what on earth does she have to dream about? And what on earth does a baby’s dream look like?”