You might remember checking out the glossary section in your English coursebook as a kid. Everytime you didn’t know the meaning of a word in a poem or a story or an essay, you relied on ‘granny glossary’ to satiate your curiosity. Sometimes you would figure out the meaning of a word from the way it’s used.
Words are the clincher
Ultimately words aroused your curiosity. Be it slangs, mundane vocabulary or civil language, words make up conversations.
We use words without giving much thought to what we say. Do we actually mean it ? Or just blurting it all out ? Who cares ? That’s the approach.
The reason I love poets is because they make every word count. Every word matter. Every word has a steady purpose. It doesn’t get dissolved in your sight while you read in vain.
The first few lines of a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson made me understand the feeling of a woman who has lost her husband in a war but is unable to lament out of disbelief.
It goes like..
‘Home they brought her warrior dead,
Nor she swooned nor she cried, All the maidens watching said, “She must weep or she shall die “.
The words are interwoven in such a way that they bring out the anguish of a widow during wartime. They also create an atmosphere of a funeral and how people react to the death of a loved one. No one cries initially out of shock, tears come welling in your eyes out of sheer pain.
Hook-up with the right word
Robert Penn Warren compares the motion of a flying hawk in one of poems to a honed steel-edge. Very carefully chosen phrase. No idea what he had in mind while crafting such a description yet it sounds apt.
Words can create your world and also allow you to transcend some misunderstandings.
Lutwig Wittgeinstein observed that we live in a world where we partake in a conventionally accepted language game. Whichever linguistic community that we are a part of accepts, we use those specific words to convey our thoughts and communicate our needs to each other.
Words have meaning only within a context. Nevertheless we all have a habit of using words just for sake and least care about their use. The meaning of a word is in its use. It ain’t what you say all the time that matters, it’s the way you say it and the context in which you say it to be precise.
Words become how you use them.
The roaring of two adult lions challenging each other for taking leadership of a pride is good enough as language gaming activity. If banter of two human rivals, attempting to outdo one another through wordplay is qualified as language, then why not lions asserting themselves ?
God is a word. People use ‘God’ in different ways. To some, even a sunrise could mean God. While others could just use the word to indicate fidelity to a way of life. The word ‘google’, has become a verb. It is synonymous with searching information on internet.
Entry-ticket into dictionary
There are three criteria for a word making it into the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Widespread usage of a word, “sustained use” and “meaningful use” serve as the pre-conditions for any word that is deemed suitable to be included in one’s vocabulary.
A Chicago teen by name Kayla Newman invented a phrase ‘on fleek’ which means ‘on point’. The term has been added to the urban dictionary.
Many of our decisions are arbitrary rather than well-thought out especially at the last moment. But the word arbitrary is hardly used by some out of the fear it might mean something too mathematical, like an arbitrary integer. People hesitate to use certain words out of assumption that they might be mistaken as being a verbal show-off.
Churn out the magic
Did you know that history drips in darkness like a leaking pipe in a cellar ? Well sounds really bizarre when you read or hear it for the first time but what an imagination and usage of words ? But it means that problems lie unfixed many a time while they plague you beneath all the ongoings of daily life. The past catches upto you while you’re trying to get a night of sound sleep.
The poet Robert Warren indeed knows how to nail this concept by comparing history to an untended dripping pipe in the basement.