Sorry, I was away yesterday thus no post.
Words! What is in a word? My kingdom for a word! A horse it may be but a horse is only a word that by any other name is still a word. Words declare wars, they garner peace. Words can be hurtful, they can be playful. Words describe words as in spiteful words, hurtful words, insightful words. We can have a war of words, crosswords or them’s fightin words. Words can be theatrical: we can have a play on words. Word is law. It is the word. Words are prophetic. Words can be the gospel truth. So sayeth the word of the Lord. Words inspire, they transpire. Words transcribe: you have my word on that. Failing that, can I have a word with you? But words are not enough. That’s why we have lawyers. Words can also be despotic, or chaotic. A single word can inspire poetry, lyricism.
We can combine words to make quotable quotes: some profound, some sublime, some simplistic, some stupidly clear:
“To be or not to be – that is the question.” That may be but on Jeopardy it is the answer!
“If things are good in moderation then they must be great in excess.” My favourite.
Yet words are not enough when communicating. Context and understanding are crucial. Without context confusion arises to the point of ridiculousness. Let me try to illustrate this by something that I learned in school:
Take the word “nit.” The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines “nit” as a stupid person, a louse. Then add the letter “k” before the “n” and you have “knit.” Yet the word “nit” from the word “knit” is a whole different kettle of fish. And what is that anyway: a kettle of fish?
Now, let’s take the word “wit:” defined as someone with a sharp sense of humour, a player of words perhaps. As in “that man possesses wit. He has a sharp mind.” But then add the letter “t” before the “w” and you have “twit.” Or, combine the word “nit” with the word “wit” and you have a “nitwit.” But “nit” and “twit” together does not sound quite right – “nit-twit?”
Nonetheless, given that a “nit” is already defined as a stupid person, and “wit” is someone who has a sharp mind, then “nitwit” defiles all logic in a descriptive sense except perhaps to define someone who possesses a stupid “wit” – which in itself is oxymoronic. But “dimwit” already has that locked up. Yet what is really frustrating about the undercurrent of this word is that “dimwit” is the opposite of someone who has a sharp “wit.” So, that being the case, let’s call him or her a “blunt-sharp” person!
To make matters worse a “twit” could be someone who has a sharp “wit,” and is still a “nitwit” or a “dimwit.” So why can’t we call him or her a nit-twit? Or a “dim-twit”? The bottom line is that “nitwit” or “dimwit” sounds better. The other bottom line is that English words are just downright confusing without context and a shared understanding of the contextual environment we are communicating in.
Words can mean different things to many different people. It is how we shape them, construct them, and construe them that are key to our success in using them. Timing may be one thing but context is everything. Take my word for it. You’ll be surprised at how much fun words can be. You’ll be truly amazed at your wordiness.
Oh yeah, and I remember my Italian uncle declaring to his Italian spouse: Hey Flora. Let’s go to the big city and have some fauna – hey? Groan
You have my word on it.
* Excerpt from my book: “I Thought I’d Died and Gone to Heaven” $9.95, includes shipping and handling