Archive for the words Category

Words Tell IT All

Posted in Arts, Bird of Time, Culture, Education, Humor, nuance, nuance, Philosophy, poets, poets, The Arts, words on July 20, 2014 by bird of time

England. The English. English. A tiny island stuck on Winston Churchill’s back.

It shouldn’t be odd to me that the scrappy Churchill with his wonderful words should be the savior of this scrappy England. What a great pair, a great icon.

I’m a poet, a writer and I love words.It doesn’t matter what they say; it’s what they are. It’s the secrets they hold.The treasures they reveal. My high school English teacher, Jane Pavey later Stephans, gave me one of  my greatest gifts when she told us to look at the root of our words. Each word is a history book. Each word can tell stories of long boats and horned helmets, of the good ship Bounty (or not so good). and even ragtime and Beatles. It can tell if the old village was Saxon or Norman, tell its age by knowing that. It can sing and boast and weep:

“And Crispin Chrispian shall ne’er go by
But we in it shall be remembered
From this day to the ending of the world,
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;”
(Shakespeare, of course. Henry V)

We band of brothers. It isn’t quite what Shakespeare meant, but the tiny island is a brotherhood of men created by the Phoenicians, by old Greek gods, Caesar, the Picts and Franks and Saxons. They, like the Happy Few have left their mark on the language and the people.  England and English itself – a happy brand of brothers. A kinship of words.

They say the language is so difficult to learn because of all the nuances, because the same word can have entirely different meanings like junk, ship, and junk, trash. There are all those ghosts in the language. But It has a wealth of expression that is perhaps unmatched.

Even the sounds of the words are like a picnic in the United Nations. Harsh sounds, or soft, sometimes lilting sounds.  Good Night. I’d guess that is German from the gutteral sound of it. Actually, the dictionary said Anglo Saxon, Germanic, of course.  gòd niht. The German is Gute Nacht. I don’t know for sure as I don’t often hear them, but I think I hear a softer gutteral sound in Polish and the Balkan states.  In England I love to listen to the accents and try to figure out where in England they are from. Some of it sounds a bit like a foreign language.

The soft, gliding sounds: sibilant, a Latin hiss. That delights me: a Latin hiss. What a picture! In spite of how much I like English I think Italian is the most musical of all the languages – it rolls and spits and kisses and even laughs. If I had to give up English I’d go dancing in that wonderful Italian  barrel of grapes marked for the finest wines.

And then there is the meaning, the nuance that makes a Shakespeare, a Browning or an Emily Dickenson. Look at the sloop, a barge, a clipper and, of all things a junk. England, the land of The Navy. Almost all of English  history can be seen in its ships. The most beautiful,  the heart-stopping clipper ship: clip – race fast, Old Norse – who better with those wonderful long boats? What a vision.  Junk, the ugliest of the ship words (not helped by its twin, junk for trash.)  It is still the most romantic:  Malay – adjong. You never hear it any more, I suppose it is not PC, but when I was young every concert singer sang On The Road to Mandalay, where the flying fishes play. Where the dawn comes up like thunder out of China ‘cross the bay.  Strangely, the beautiful song came from a definitely un-PC poem by Kipling.

Everyone jokes about reading the dictionary as the most boring pastime in the world. But I love the words, I love to see where they are from, what they can tell me what is new or remind me of the old, the romantic. They are the tag lines of history. I think if there were a University of Words, we’d have a very educated, civilized society.

 

NUANCE

Posted in Bird of Time, Culture, Humor, Opinion, Philosophy, Politics, The Arts, wordpress, words with tags , , , , on May 18, 2014 by bird of time

Words can be like little gifts that arrive unexpectedly, and if we are lucky, hang around for a while for us to enjoy.

Lilacs. That one could keep me smiling for hours. It brings in its train, home, May, blue skies and a scent even lovelier than roses..

I’m a dyed- in-the-wool romantic who believed in fairy tales and happily ever after, as a kid. While happily-ever-after days seem to be gone for a while, hope is the one thing that never fled Pandora’s box.

But this is all a bit of a tangent (one of those words that keeps on giving, you can fly off on a tangent and land anywhere).

The other day I was kind enough or cruel enough, to suggest to a friendly poet that a certain word, therefore phrase, was weak. Cry, for instance. Not that there is anything wrong with crying – we couldn’t be sane without it, but this particular image came across as whimpering, crying  like a baby. I suggested he try the thesaurus for a better word, like weep which shows the situation is serious, sad and worth crying over.

There are some who make it a point of pride not to use the thesaurus. Well, McGee, you’re a better man than I am! (You must remember Fibber McGee and Molly, the old radio program? The one with the closet where everything fell on your head, once you opened it? If you don’t, Google it and give it a try). Now that is a lovely tangent, isn’t it?

But all those words in a thesaurus! What a treasure of emotions, of life. The poet was writing about a coming storm. The picture it brings to mind is of thunder and pelting rain But that kind of storm usually passes quickly and normally a grown man doesn’t cry because of it. He said he wanted to say it was not only a physical but an emotional storm.

Ah! Then, take that word “coming”. Not very exciting, is it? So we go to the thesaurus to see if there is a word, just one, that expresses our fears, our terror, dread, perhaps only annoyance, or a meaning close to coming. a nuance like stalking, pursuing, that gives us a more emotional picture.

It puts a whole new spin on things, doesn’t it?

There is another, beckoning tangent if I ever saw one.

Our whole world is being led to disaster by nuances. The word has a new definition : a  White House spin, a place where  we are led down a garden path. A laundry enhancer which bleaches the spots to make the truth less ugly.

We don’t have to think about a war on terror. All we have is a man-caused disaster! When you think about that, there is a delicious irony in the phrase. Man certainly is making disaster. He is a disaster. And calling the Ft. Hood massacre, “workplace violence” is trying to make it sound as though someone threw a book or swore. Or perhaps one of the soldiers slept through his duty time and didn’t cut the grass around the big flag pole.

When global cooling turned into global warming, which included an ice-cold winter of discontent, the blushing faces of those in the white-house came up with climate disruption, as though climate were a mild, controllable wench who suddenly lost her cool. She forgot to take her tranquilizer!

A nuance is a fanciful partner in our life of words. You know, those things that allow us to communicate with, to charm or, sadly, to harm our neighbors? A nuance can spread the wealth (make every one rich?)  or take from the rich and give to the poor so we can all be equally poor. It can turn a coming storm into a spot of trouble or a cataclysm.

Or it can be a gigantic lie.

Perhaps, instead of nuances, I should opt for the bald truth!

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