Hmmm? Great minds think alike.

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I wonder about that! Memories are made of this:

When I first heard the words “plethora” and “paucity” I thought, “What on earth! Speak clearly man.” It brought my mind back to my elementary school days, grade eight to be exact, where a classmate of mine by the name of Big Maxx loved to show off his literary skills with those flowery descriptive essays that we had to write from time to time and read to the entire class. He didn’t realize just how funny he could be ranting off to the class; so proud of his literary skills with words of art that reflected anything but those big flowery descriptive texts for his words were always in the wrong context or with the wrong meaning. He would write: “I had a flora of jobs when I was young but with not a fauna of ambition or get up and go.” Big Maxx wasn’t too smart back then but he did try very, very hard. And those were the days when one could fail a grade. I think Big Max had to repeat Grade 9 a plethora of times.

The writing of those words, flora and fauna, plethora and paucity, Romulus and Remus got me to thinking and brought me to the following train of thought with respect to words:

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 the 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.

And when a few words are taken together, we have a phrase. And when a couple of phrases are linked together we have, in a word, a “sentence.” And when a group of sentences are grouped together we have, in another word, a “paragraph.” And to describe or summarize a paragraph we can go right back to the beginning of this word-train of thought – to “paraphrase!”

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.

“If something is worth doing, then it is worth overdoing.” My other favourite.

“Baseball is 100% physical. The rest is mental.” (Adapted from Berra).

“A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do. A woman does what she wants.”

“A consultant is someone who is adept at making the simple… complex.”

“The problem with theory is that it’s just not practical enough!”

“A wise fool is an oxy moron.”

“Those lefties are so darn righteous!”

“Militancy is great…for pacifists”

“She was at a loss for words.” a paradox for sure.

or paradoxically:

“Words cannot describe what she said.” Huh?

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.

I remember my Italian uncle declaring to his wife: Hey Flora, let’s go to the big city and have some fauna – hey?….Groan

(c) Excerpt for my book: I Thought I’d Died and Gone to Heaven

Song of the day: The Word!