Language — the words we use to express ourselves can be concise or overly confusing. Everyone is basically familiar with the idea of marriage vows. We all know they are interpreted to mean that we will stick with that other person come hell or high water, through good times and bad, and be faithful to them. At one ceremony I had, I always think I might have been jinxing myself from the get-go. Turned out he didn’t honor any of them. In this ceremony, though, the words used, in part, were, “Cleave ye only to each other as long as you both shall live.”
Language. Cleave not only means to cling to one another but also to cut apart. Funny how they don’t use that phrase anymore
But it goes a long way to exemplify the importance of using the right words when attempting to communicate.
According to Robin Marantz Henig, “The English language has 112 words for deception, according to one count, each with a different shade of meaning: collusion, fakery, malingering, self-deception, confabulation, prevarication, exaggeration, denial. Some languages have innumerable The Inuit have 47 words for snow. Tamil is an official language of the sovereign nations of Sri Lanka and Singapore. They have fifty-plus words for love. English has love, like, adore, infatuated all more or less defined by words like ‘a lot’ or ‘unconditionally.’
Language is full of descriptive words. Beyond the ‘making story,’ we have a wealth of ways to bring actions and locale alive — it is one of the best parts about being a writer. We get to play with words. Best sandbox ever! Above, I asked about your least favorite words. My least favorite word is VERY. Mark Twain once said, “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
Why say ‘very bad’ when you can say atrocious? Don’t say ‘very poor’ — say destitute. Very is a very, very, very poor word to use!
As writers, our job is to communicate. Regardless of the type of writing, if we fail to impart the concept we are trying to describe or explain, then we fail. Given the vast number of cultures, religions, and lifestyles that may or may not perceive any scenario as you or I might, language becomes even more important.
So what got me on this latest ‘wordy’ kick? I’m two-thirds of the way through a book named The Dictionary of Lost Words: A Novel
by Pip Williams. This is following mid-step my reading History in English Words by Owen Barfield. I’ve always had a love of words: where they came from, how we use them, why use one and not another. My grandmother once said I’d grow up to be a lexicologist or an etymologist. I told her I wanted to be a writer. (and I thought bugs were creepy.) Not an entomologist, she had explained before saying that good writers were both. Two days later, she handed me a notebook and a dictionary.
Over the years she’d ask me what my latest favorite words were. She’d also ask me about words I thought were ‘important’ words or boring words or over-used words. She taught me how words spelled the same and pronounced the same but had different meanings were called homonyms. Book (to read) or book (a reservation) for example. Then she threw heteronyms my way. Just because (at the time) I was invalid, my excuse not to learn was invalid. She didn’t believe for one minute that such a minute issue should ever stop me from learning. She wasn’t finished. Then there were homophones.
These, it turned out were the tricky ones. These are the words people often mix up and use the wrong version. Your, you’re, and yore. Their, they’re and there. Rein, reign and rain. Two, to, and too.
I was hooked. My grandmother bought me many notebooks over the next few months. Then she said I needed to buy them. I was crestfallen. I had no money. “You’ll buy them with words,” she’d told me. “Lists of words. When you need a notebook, I’ll give you a list I want for the last page of the old notebook.” Colors beyond red, green, blue, etc.. Synonyms for hot or set or school. Later on, she’d have me write a description of something without saying what it was. Or having to describe a color/place/activity to someone who was blind. (As I spent almost a year unable to see, I always enjoyed those.)
She’d have me describe something. Once I spent over six months describing a simple wooden rocking chair. Then she’d tell me to write it again, but differently. Next, I’d have to write it from the perspective of a cat or a mouse or a mother holding a baby. Once, I had to write it from the perspective of that area on the crossbar I always seemed to miss when I dusted. Then from the chair itself. Over the months, that blasted chair grew a history. It developed a personality, had dreams, temper tantrums, and felt loss, grief. hunger and joy. [side note: I still have that rocking chair!]
Some of my favorite words? Myriad for sure – so many – like a meadow full of butterflies dancing to the song of the breeze. (That, and I love how it sounds!) Another is the word and because it links and keeps things/people/places and words together. And, due to my grandmother, in part, the word grand. So many meanings on multiple levels. That, and the fact that my children’s children call me simply, Grand. No Grandma or Nana for me. How do I love being a grandmother, indeed, a great grandmother? It’s grand, simply grand!
My grandmother seeded my mind with a love of words. It’s still blooming.
I’m Fyndorian and Robin Moyer. I’m also Great-grams, Grand, Mom, and Hubby’s other half. Beyond these, there is a space, a fathomless well of unsprung thoughts that exists inside me. I write to pull forth the words; grasp and yank them screaming or dancing, from deep within, and set them free upon the page. Cut me: I bleed ink. This, this is why I write, for if I didn’t, then I shouldn’t be alive at all. Writer, poet, author of seven books with four more in progress. My company, Wynwidyn Press, hits the ten-year mark later this spring.