April 26, 2012

The Wonderful World of Words

I love to write--letters, stories, blog posts. And I love to read--novels, magazines, blog posts. I love the written word and the beauty of language. I started doing crossword puzzles for the challenge and kept with it because I realized that doing them was expanding my vocabulary. The first app I downloaded to my iPhone? It wasn't Facebook, Pandora, or YouTube. It was Dictionary.com which, to my utter joy, features a Thesaurus link. I realize this isn't the most popular hobby, and it only cements my status as Geek Extraordinaire, but there it is. I love words. I love being able to come up with 4 or 5 different ways to say the same thing. I love trying to figure out the meaning of a word based on its root. I love the endless options in communicating.

For some reason, whether it's cultural influences or personal preference or just plain ignorance, using more descriptive, less slang-y words is not generally accepted. I look at a sunset and see the red, orange and pink hues blazing across the sky, and it stirs something deep in my soul that recognizes the handiwork of my Creator. It's as if I've been given a glimpse into the awe inspiring beauty of Heaven, and I am humbled to be in the presence of such power. But instead of attempting to convey all this in such terms, my outward response will be, "Oh, it's so pretty!" It sort of leaves the whole experience...flat.

The written word is where I can find license to paint a detailed, vivid picture of life as I see and experience it. As an aspiring writer, I keep an ever growing list of words close by. It's a list of words that have stood out to me, words that make me go back and read them again just so I can savor them on my tongue, words that inspire me to grab my "brush" and create art on an empty canvas. Words like visceral, eloquent, fathomless, horrific, unassailable, dank, languid, and excruciating. In my writing, I don't have to settle for being merely happy. Instead I can be euphoric, ecstatic, exhilarated. I am no longer stubborn, now I am tenacious and fierce. If I have to be sad, I want to be in despair, filled with anguish. Every emotion, every experience becomes fuller, richer, and far more captivating when I take the time to choose just. the. right. word.

Some of these words are just ingrained in me after years of constant reading, and they spill over into my daily speech. I find myself having to define words I've spoken to my family.
"I love the fresh smell of bluebonnets, while roses smell like a cloying perfume."
"You don't swing your arms when you walk, and you hunch your shoulders in. You don't walk, you skulk."
"Can you please speak to me without being snarky? What is snarky? It's the official language of teenagers."

Sprinkling your speech with new, interesting words can be done wrong, however. In one novel I read, it became apparent the the author's Word of the Day calendar was stuck on turgid. She must have used it at least 6 different times throughout her book. The first time I saw it, I was intrigued. By the fourth use of the same word, I had pegged her as lazy. For words like said, from, thought, and felt, for example, frequent use is normal. But colorful adjectives are meant to add flavor to the writing without overpowering and should be treated as a strong, exotic spice--a little goes a long way and they should be sprinkled in in carefully controlled portions.

Words can be used to make us laugh or make us cry, unite us or divide us, transport us to worlds unknown or return us to beloved childhood homes. Sometimes a single word can convey exactly what is on our hearts, and sometimes we can't find enough words. With the power that comes along with words, doesn't it seem almost negligent to limit our vocabulary?

Whether or not any of my children discover and share my love of language remains to be seen, but in them I have nurtured a love of reading. I can only hope it grows into an appreciation of all Webster has to offer and maybe, just maybe, a desire to paint pictures through words.

1 comment:

  1. Hey! I am a non teenager who likes the word snarky. :-P