As I’m currently travelling, you have to be treated to an excess of my words instead of my pictures. I already have a perfect sketch for this post but alas, serendipity is not my thing so my post-its remain safely cocooned at home while I travel. Instead you have to make do with a clumsily drawn image of a not so clever allusion to the title.
Since we are on words, I’ll come out and say it : I love words. For people who know me, this is no newsflash but the love I have for words is more than just an intellectual love, it’s an experience which excites me. Clearly, this has in no way translated into a skilled use of them but I’ve often felt I wish I could properly articulate the pleasure I receive from listening or reading certain words or phrases.
The pleasure is more than just intellectual pleasure. Certain words or phrases translate that intellectual experience into one of a sensuous experience while others magnify the intellectual experience such that it translates into a visceral pleasurable reaction.
When I like a word, it’s because it’s not only pleasing to hear but because it is pleasing to say. The words in the above picture are words I love to hear and say, because of the way it feels when I say it, the sound I hear when I say it and the taste of it. Oh yes, my friends, words have a taste, a flavour which is meant to be savoured and lingered over.
You can taste a word in one of those moments when you are reading something and you gloss over that word and you pause, conscious you have to return to it so as to savour the sound and feel of it in your mouth as you pronounce it. It makes you stop and smell its roses! Each syllable demands that you linger on it; that you roll it about it your mouth so you can enjoy the fullness of each sound the syllable makes. It transforms the sentence because of its mere existence just as it transforms the intellectual pleasure into a visceral one.
These words do it for me : rollicking, ambulatory, chortle, mellifluous, sesquipedlian and Edward Lear’s made up word – “runcible”, glide, je suis, cliché, chocolat and grah1.
(You may wish to check out the BBC’s attempt to discover Britain’s favourite word here. The range of words are simply flabbergasting but have a sense of adventure, my friend, all those words have a lovely taste to them!)
And then to layer onto this pleasure , is a discovery of a phrase that seems to have been crafted so beautifully, it is just perfect in trying to say what it needs to say. It almost seems like magic the way the words just glide and lock together to form a phrase that is just lovely to say, hear and intellectually teasing. You can almost hear the faint *click* when you finish reading that sentence.
Mark Twain said it best when he said
“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
But, sometimes, what magnifies this pleasure is when you hear wordsmiths like John Rives and Taylor Mali2 who don’t only deftly juggle words, tumbling them about to form a beautific sentence but also dole out unexpected turns of phrases and sentences, messing with the conventional perception of how words should be placed. And when that final word is locked into that phrase, a wondrous concept has just been created by a mere sleight of the mouth3, which just makes you sigh with the beauty that is contained in that phrase. Not only because the words slip and slide to fit but because the words create a beauty of an idea so novel, it results in this pleasant bewilderment one gets when encountering a new perspective. Rives perfectly exemplifies this in his poem “Glaucoma”
So maybe I am waxing a wee too lyrical and over dramatising the taste of words but what is love and pleasure without some drama eh?!
Till my next sort-of-pictureless post, au revoir!
1. One of my absolute favourite words to say because it is so onomatopoeic- grah is a careful expression of frustration and exasperation.
2. Two of my most beloved slam poets around – you should check them out. Rives has done two phenomenal performances on TED while Taylor Mali’s famous “ What Teachers Make” is a joy unto itself.
3. A complete digression on my part – Typing this phrase out reminded me of Ingrid Bergman’s cheeky quote – “A kiss is a lovely trick, designed by nature, to stop speech when words become superfluous.” Le sigh.