Saturday, October 17, 2009

Word of the Day

I didn't have a particular subject in mind when I started my writing day this morning, so I tend to get time-sucked by the Internet on such occasions. I do actively look for something though. I try Stumble, or the random page on Wikipedia. Sometimes I actually turn to the English homework I'm supposed to be doing to see if anything catches my fancy there.

Today, good old English came to my rescue. I love words. I like to collect them and pin them up on my office cork board in pretty fonts because to me, words are art. I also like being the smart aleck I was born to be by learning any kind of new and/or hard words that I can actually sneak into daily conversation.

My favorite word is obstreperous. It means being a pain in the a**, basically. I identify with that word. Today though, I was reading an essay about Poe and stumbled across two words that I had heard before, but they somehow struck me in a different way. You know how you can pick a word, say it over and over until suddenly, it doesn't mean anything anymore? Did you ever do that when you were a kid? Well, if you did, then you may have some understanding of why "indefinitiveness" struck me funny today. Not haha funny, funny strange. Both that word and "suggestiveness" were used in the same sentence describing Poe's writing.

Sometimes I love Poe, and sometimes I think he's a weird dude. I love The Raven, but The Tell-Tale Heart is messed up. So for this literary reviewer to say that his writing has "suggestiveness" and "indefinitiveness" in the same sentence gave me the giggles. Why can't we just say it's weird? Why do we go to the big words and use them in such a way that no one knows what we are talking about? I mean, of course, the collective "we."

I like scholarly essays as much as the next girl (which is not that much), and sometimes I get a lot out of them. But for this one, I wanted to yell at her after fourteen pages of using language this way (snooze worthy), and implore her to "just say he's weird and we don't know what he meant half the time!"

Which brings me to my current thought - what if I do this sometimes? What if, because I like words and enjoy showing off that I love them, I write stuff that makes readers want to yell at me? I certainly hope that is not the case. In fact, I would say that my style of prose is rather spare and simple. I like to move the reader with the idea, the thought behind the words, and not necessarily the powerful words themselves.

It is an odd realization about myself, that my current style belies my vocabulary. I think this is a good thing. I can learn to weave a fabric of language that is more precise, more intense. I'm not sure anyone can learn to have the intent of writing. Once I know what it is I want to say, the entire language is at my disposal to convey it. If I have nothing to say in the first place, no thought, or stance, or invocation unique to me, then all the words in the language could not fill that void.

Funny how far you can go from finding a word of the day, to realizing something about yourself you never thought of before. Thought, language. I'm very glad to have both.


Jo Taylor

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