Words, Words, Words
Words empty as the wind are best unsaid. Homer You will never find me wailing Eliza Doolittle’s lament, “Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words.” I love words, maybe too much. I’m one of those writers who has to reel herself in during the word selection process. Like a florist surrounded with so many wonderful blossoms to choose from, I sometimes want to use all of the words that pop into my head. One of my biggest challenges has been killing my darlings. By creating a clipboard where I save rather than discard them, I manage to move on. But it’s not just while writing that I can be distracted by words. I discovered I’m faintly word-obsessed during a conversation with my husband during which we were trying to figure out why my kindle didn’t hold a charge as long as his, the suggestion being that I was doing something technologically incorrect. Wrong. It turned out I am simply fixated by the feature that allows you to look up the meaning and roots of words as you are reading, causing a power drain. So much easier than in the days when I had to carry a notebook with me so I could look up words later rather than lug a dictionary around. I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth George, not simply because I admire her writing, adore being transplanted to England, and would run away with Thomas Lynley (let this be our secret), but because in every book she has ever written she has sent me on multiple side excursions to the dictionary. Good writers, like George, know how to use interesting words without distracting the reader from the story. Bad writers who are trying to impress with weighty words annoy and alienate their readers. I find words that fascinate me everywhere. I struggled for years to describe myself as a person who loves rain. I now know I am a pluviophile, a lover of rain; someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days. I noticed when I typed pluviophile it was underlined in red, so I just looked it up in the “Word” dictionary and found it isn’t listed. More investigation on Google revealed it is “pending investigation.” Do you see what I mean? One word and I’m off like a detective on a noble search. I notice my writing friends are similarly afflicted. Blog mate, Susan Breen, last week posted on Facebook, “I used the word crenellated yesterday, and I think I used it properly. Though I’m not sure I should have.” Susan had me diving for the dictionary wondering if my guess about the meaning of the word was correct and feeling an odd combination of pride and relief when I was. I wanted to know why she wondered if she should have used the word. Just yesterday, Facebook friend and MWA New England colleague, Lee McIntyre posted, “My amygdala is exhausted.” A quick check told me Lee was referring to a part of the brain, which sounded vaguely familiar from my days as a student nurse. But of course I wanted to know which part of the brain and why Lee’s was exhausted. Amygdala is the integrative center for emotions, emotional behavior, and motivation. Further scholarly research on Google showed Amygdala is associated mostly with fear. Maybe you can see why I stay away from crossword puzzles. I fear I would be lost forever under a mountain of words, trying to tunnel out, but distracted by each word I tried to burrow through. What do words mean in your reading or writing life? How do react to new words you encounter?