“The young writer will be drawn at every turn toward eccentricities in language. He will hear the beat of new vocabularies, the exciting rhythms of special segments of his society, each speaking a language of its own. All of us come under the spell of these unsettling drums; the problem, for the beginner, is to listen to them, learn the words, feel the excitement, and not be carried away.” – – An E.B. White Reader
Have you heard the beat of new vocabularies? Nouns turned into verbs are used all over. We google subjects and we tweet, though we aren’t birds. We text and snapchat each other, but our communication is often abbreviated to words without vowels; we have a new shorthand to meet the needs of a fly by friendship.
I am familiar with several special segments of society that have a language specific to its members. One of these is the field of education, a world full of acronyms and oft used terms. Overuse certainly kills the charm of some words. I can think of some that need to be retired, or at least put on the back burner. Some of these would be: partner (as in ‘partner with’, not ‘Howdy, Partner!’), relationships, ownership, mission statement, intentional, and unpack. Contemporary religion also has its share of overused expressions, such as authentic, relevant, passionate.
The best point White made is to “not be carried away.” Words are wonderful and repetition has its place. But like a parent who threatens “if I have to tell you one more time”, frequently repeated words lose their appeal and begin to fall on deaf ears.
“I loved photography for the same reason I loved baseball. Because Dad did.” – Lassoing the Sun by Mark Woods
This made me think, are there things I love because Dad did? I suppose there are things I like and things I do and choices I’ve made along the way because of him. I was born in Athens, Georgia and into this family that has perpetually rooted for the Georgia Bulldogs. So, I’ve always considered myself a fan, though it’s laughable to call me a fan of any football team. Dad loved music and so do I, though I can’t say he influenced my choices of musical styles.
Dad’s work ethic was an example to me and I think it had a lot to do with my educational goals when I first went off to college. I majored in marketing with an eye on fashion merchandising. Dad didn’t ever push me into it, but he was clear with his desire for me to get a college education, something he never had. He explained to me the changes in the workplace and how, in his later years, he couldn’t hire anyone without a degree. How I wish he had been there when I finally graduated with a degree in Elementary Education.
Dad was also a wordsmith of sorts. He loved to use big words. He admitted to having poor handwriting and spelling skills; he said that’s what secretaries were for. He also loved to make up words, specifically names for us kids and then the grandkids. Maybe I somehow absorbed his love of words.
Like Woods, I love photography and I like baseball. I don’t know where exactly my love of taking pictures came from, but it has evolved greatly in recent years. My enjoyment of baseball totally came from my husband.
All this brings me to say, I’m glad for the glimpses of Dad that show up in me on occasion. The wordplay, the sense of honesty, the sense of humor. Thanks, Dad.
So, the last day of PAD arrived with a prompt of “The _________” . I went with the theme of the whole month. I love this poetic marathon every year; I just hope to keep at it. I hope to polish up a few poems and submit some for publication. Perhaps THIS will be the year!
she breathes the air of yesterday infused with memories sweet and clear outside her window, falling rain transports her to childhood afternoons or to the coast of Ireland or to a washed out hope
she dreams of possibilities and regrets possibilities give her words that soar regrets form melancholic stanzas and so she writes into the night on tear-stained paper
she walks through days alone gathering images and syllables saving them in her pocket hiding them in her heart until they spill out unrestrained and satisfying
This is a second installment of Word Pictures – a collection of lovely and descriptive passages.
“Her laughter catches him off guard. As if it’s carbonated and someone has poured it too fast and it’s bubbling over in all directions.” – from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Do you know anyone who laughs like that?
“… at eight o’clock the last of the cool was burning off. The State Farm thermometer out the window over the sink was slowly percolating to the top.” – from Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor
I love the phrase “….slowly percolating to the top.” When I was a kid, I made coffee for my dad using a percolator that went on the stovetop. I loved the smell, but I didn’t drink it until I was way into my thirties – after some of my kids were already coffee drinkers.
“She knew God tore down the old world every evening and built a new one by sun-up.” – from Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Vilano Beah, FL
“… a hardware store was your practical Uncle Walter, wearing bib overalls and carrying a hammer, asking you in a hearty sausage-and-egg voice to point him in the direction of what needed to be done.” – from The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg
In the first few months after we moved to BIrmingham, I noticed several times a man in overalls shopping in Publix. It was a sight I’d never seen in Jacksonville, and it brought to mind the short time we spent in south Georgia. There it was very common to see men in overalls. Sadly, I connect this memory of the overalled man to the racism that was alive and well. It was the late 80s, but it often felt like the 1960s. But, that’s a story for another day.
“…with cornsilk hair and delphinium eyes…” from Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck.
This is a perfect description of my daughter when she was a little girl. But, now I’d have to say “…with Merlot curls…”
“You pierce my soul” – Captain Wentworth to Anne in Persuasion by Jane Austen.
Today I’m going to share some lovely sentences – just for your enjoyment.
“The slightly porky man on the other side of the Plexiglas has back-combed hair and arms covered in tattoos…Is that something an adult person in a healthy state of mind would consent to? Going about with his arms looking like a pair of pajamas?” from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
“She expects fustiness, an elder funk, but the room smells mildly of soap and books and dried seaweed.” from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
“It is because people are mostly layers of violence and tenderness…” from One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty
“I mourn for the loss of dreams and the presence of nightmare.” from The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle
“It’s the things we don’t expect that just rip the scab off,” – said Grandpa from Stand Tall by Joan Bauer
“Every lavish home contains people who have seen disease. Every lawn that must be maintained is attached to a marriage that also must be maintained.” from God of the Mundane by Matt Redmond
“…soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees…” from Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
“He was a mean little runt. The two of them together benasties the mind.” from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer
“… I could see how quickly I might become a woman gnawing on a chicken leg over the kitchen sink for her dinner,…” from The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg
“She’s wearing a green cardigan with a neat zigzag pattern and dusty blue mom-jeans…” from Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
“… shriveled like a chickpea with the cold.” from Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck
“…that’ll be about as profitable as trying to pick feathers out of molasses.” – Madame Manec – All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
We southerners have our quaint sayings for sure, Stuff about having a hissy fit or being in high cotton or fixin’ to do something.
pic – the movie db
But, I digress. Back to the quote above. I just love it. It reminds me of O’ Brother Where Art Thou? where the language was a big part of the charm of the movie. Especially the words of Ulysses Everett McGill, such as, “Say, any of you boys smithies? Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin’?” or “Well, ain’t this place a geographical oddity. Two weeks from everywhere!” Then there is the oft quoted line that my family has taken to use on numerous occasions – “You two are just dumber than a bag of hammers!”
I guess I’ll always love words and wordplay. Maybe that’s why I play Words with Friends on my phone and I love the hashtag games on Twitter.
Just remember, our words are like those feathers. Once spoken, taking them back is like trying to pick them out of molasses.
“You just find something you’re passionate about and share it creatively and enthusiastically” – Rick Steves
Rick Steves is well known for his travel shows on PBS. I don’t get to see him often, but I enjoy his shows when I do. He loves to travel and it shows. He also loves people – this comes through as you watch him interact with those he meets along the way. He is truly interested and keeps his viewers interested. He writes about travel and he comes across the same way in his writings.
“I just like writing, you know? I guess I’m a word person or something. It’s the spirit of third-grade show and tell.” – Rick Steves
I love this – it’s exactly how I feel! I, too, am a word person, although I wish I knew more words. I, in truth, do need to improve my vocabulary.
Writing not only helps me express myself, but it helps me to think things through when I write about them. And it helps me to learn more about the world and myself along the way. As writers, if we don’t care about what we are writing it will show. And if we DO care, that, too, will come through in our enthusiasm and knowledge of our topic. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, if you don’t care, I doubt your readers will, either.
So, find your passion and share it with the world. There is someone out there who will benefit from your knowledge