I enjoy words. There are some words that I love to say simply for their sound, Manitoba. There are words that I enjoy for the beauty of their meaning, free. There are words whose sound I dislike (being polite, I won’t list them here). Words that I find amusing to say, balaclava. I enjoy words that sound like their meaning, knock, and words I enjoy saying in a funny way, moose! There are words I find uplifting and purifying, dharma, and words that make me fearful, torture.
I find it fascinating that the word “hole” means “an empty space” yet the word “whole” means “complete”. These two opposing concepts separated only by a silent “w”.
I believe words heal, hurt, empower, distort, confuse, enlighten and illuminate. I also believe in using the most descriptive words possible. I envy people whose vocabulary is extensive and I continuously work on broadening mine. The magic is that as your vocabulary grows, your ability to accurately express yourself grows. This is why many of us feel sadness when we hear the rapid decline of language in our films, music, and other media sources. Instead of encouraging all of us to learn more words, the mass-media culture seems relentless in their pursuit of limiting our expression to stuff like whatever. Of course, double-speak is another persistent problem that all of us who love words should resist. Used cars become pre-owned. Or do they?
Alas, I raise my glass to words!
A few of my favorite “word” books:
Dog Days and Dandelions: a Lively Guide to the Animal Meanings Behind Everyday Words by Martha Barnette. This is a fun read for anyone who enjoys the origins of words. It is a fascinating romp through the animal kingdom’s influence on language. Located on our shelves at 422 BAR.
The Original Roget’s International Thesaurus. When you first begin using a thesaurus, it can look like a foreign language. But once you unlock its key, you’ll find it to be a wealth of information to fine-tune what you are trying to communicate and/or to reduce the duplication of duplicate words… err, I mean, the duplication of repititious words in a sentence. Available on our shelves at 423.1 ROG
Merriam-Webster Third International Dictionary Unabridged (online). I highly recommend the online version of this fine dictionary because it can be particularly useful when you are unsure of the spelling. The online version allows you to search by “starts with”, “ends with”, and a “wild card” search. You will need your OWL library card to access the online version. To get there, visit the website then click on Online Research.
Ann Marie is the Library Director of the Oliver Wolcott Library.