Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Logophile's Lament

I am a logophile. I love words. I love the look of words. I love the sound of words and the feel of them rolling off my tongue. (Try saying “squish” quickly a few times while letting yourself gently drag out the “sh” at the end. Total fun.) If I had synesthesia and words evoked a smell or taste when I heard them, I’d love that. I feel that words are to be treasured. They are the basis of all societies, whether they be spoken, signed or written (by letters or pictograph). Unlike a dragon hoarding his gold and jewels, words are a treasure that must be shared to be truly appreciated.

Words have their own appeal, whether it be visual or aural - both evocative of emotions. I hate (not just dislike) the spelling “gray” but love “grey”. I don’t know why it just seems so much better to me. I’m an American, so I get funny looks when I spell the word the British way, but that doesn’t stop me. Look at the word “hope”. Really look at it. Doesn’t it look funny? It’s only the emotion behind the word that makes it at all appealing. It has an extra letter it doesn't need and it's only that extra letter away from "hop" - a totally undignified action if I've ever seen one. Now say it. The ugly spelling goes away when you say it, but the emotion is there - an uplifting of your soul; a feeling that no matter what happens, we can be happy in this world. How about the old standard - “knife"? Kuh-niff-uh? Nope. You know, we really could just drop the “k” and the “e” and the meaning behind the word would be fine. It would also be extremely boring. The funky spelling makes this word. Just like kuh-nig-it. Wouldn’t Lancelot be proud? There is also the ever-popular expletive. These are usually extremely idiotic-looking words; but oh, so nice to have around when that one person you just can’t stand, but have to work with every day, does something to really annoy you.

I use "big" words in normal conversation. I can’t help it. I actually enjoy reading the dictionary (you nerd!) and have absorbed far too many words for them not to show up in my everyday speech. I was chastised (What a kind word for publicly humiliated.) today by my co-workers for yet again using the word “facetious”, which basically means using a word or phrase in a way meant to be funny. I was told to use English. Normal English. Idiot English, I guess. Am I supposed to break down my speech into one syllable increments to please people (Adults, no less!) who can’t be bothered to learn anything now that they are out of school? It frustrates me that I can’t even use what I consider normal speech in my everyday life. I don’t think learning a new word every once in a while will kill a person. I don’t think it’s that difficult to figure out what a person is saying by actually listening to the context of their speech.

All I really do know is that words and the concepts behind words are the only way for us to really communicate in everyday life. Body language alone (barring Sign Language - a true thing of beauty) is not sufficient for asking the price of the toaster you want to buy Aunt Mabel for her birthday. Mathematics are great for determining the nature of the cosmos, but binary number sequences and algebraic equations can’t be used efficiently to ask that gorgeous guy you just met out on a date. Can you imagine a newspaper article that was nothing but a long binary sequence zipping past your eyes? Ugh! Although, there is one concept that symbols spell out the best: #@*&!!!

Again, I love words. They encapsulate all that we are and can be in their sheer descriptiveness. They help a person teach. They can make a person cry or laugh. Words can make you angry like nothing else. It's untrue that "words can never hurt me". Words can hurt far more than any stick or stone ever can. Physical bruises fade; emotional scars never do. Yet, words can heal almost anything or at least make the wounds less painful. They can make enemies of lifelong friends and friends of lifelong enemies. Words can be used to tell a person what the weather is like, such a simple thing. Words can be used to tell the truth, lies and those little things in-between. Words are precious. Words tell people how precious they are to others. They say "please", "thank you" and "you're welcome"; the cornerstones of politeness we all learned at our parents' knees. Words are used to tell stories: stories of our lives, our dreams, our disappointments, our pains and pleasures. We are made up of words - words like cranium, epidermis, heart, foot. Soul. Without words, humanity is nothing.

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