Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Way With Words

One of the nerdier things about me is that I love words. A series of examples:

I remember the day I learned that "chaos" spelled chaos. Of course, at 10, I'd heard the word, but I'd never seen it written down. And there it was. What an odd little word. But it made sense.

Sonovabitch. I remember seeing it written that way in one of my Mom's Mary Higgins Clark novels. With vivid detail, I remember stopping, letting the book rest in my lap, and saying it over and over in my head, amazed it had been one word all this time, rather than the four I thought it was. I see now that there are many spellings, but at the time it was a revelation. To this day, whenever it strikes me to write the phrase "son of a bitch" (which is rare, I assure you), I recall that day with utter clarity.

Later in life I was known to privately recite monologues from Toni Morrison novels, in-character, as an aged former slave. Partly because I'm a diva! but mostly because I love the sound of words, particularly ones so beautifully crafted. To this day I often grab my copy of Song of Solomon off the shelf, flip to the dog-eared pages and go off on a hot biblical-infused soliloquy. It makes me who I am, what can I say.

I was always a reader, always good with punctuation. I loved Phonics class and considered those activity books you could practice your letters in a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I still say "A friend is a friend 'til the end", and my mind whirls as I type along. Even now, my brain isn't so much focused on the words or the physical act of keyboarding, but instead flipping through the tactics taught to 3rd grade spelling students. I consider punctuation and structure above most everything. The words are flowing, because that's how my brain works, but I'm building, I like how the words look. If there are too many letters with ascenders, it sort of bothers me. Like "little"; always bothered me, but not in a serious way, rather in the way that peanut butter on brown bread worried me as a child, because the browns clashed terribly. I'll sometimes change a word, (a perfectly suitable, lovely word) because the letters, within the confines of the specific sentence, look like a lava lamp sitting in the middle of a Victorian home. Somehow inappropriate.

I'll end with a transcript from a late-night conversation with Sophia:

Sophia: "Affidavit". That word sits uncomfortably with me for many reasons.
Jason: Absolutely. A lot of ascenders, for one thing.
Sophia: And the "davit" part . . . I don't like that one bit.
Jason: I know! A word with no diction. Like post-dentist numbness. No.



3 comments:

  1. "I'll sometimes change a word, (a perfectly suitable, lovely word) because the letters, within the confines of the specific sentence, look like a lava lamp sitting in the middle of a Victorian home. Somehow inappropriate."

    Brill!

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  2. AUGHHH! Exactly. I feel about "cake" the same way you do about "-davit!" It's an awkward voiceless velar plosive sandwich.

    There are certain words that strike me as very fragile, too -- like, if you say them too many times they immediately fall apart and lose all meaning, and you're suddenly like "Hang on, am I saying this right? Is that even a word?"

    Goat, both and ultra are a few example that immediately spring to mind.

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  3. I always thought I was a true lover of words. I've just discovered that I was a mere impostor. Wow.

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