Essay: Rapturous Word Smithery

If I use the word rapture, what do you think?

Is it a feeling of intense pleasure or joy, or something religious? I recently used it, but reconsidered because of the second coming link. That’s not where I wanted my reader’s mind to go.

I’m not paranoid about selecting words, but many good words have been hijacked into meaning other things. I just saw click bait titled, “100 common slang phrases no longer used.” It included terms such as passion pit, talk to the hand, booyah, pad, or cat. Things change with words, phrases, and language in general. But I’m no linguist.

Admittedly, all words are subject to being absorbed into contemporary slang. Even lexicographers surrender to words morphing from misnomer to intentional slang to first or second-level meanings in dictionaries.

For example, gay as an adjective is often now defined first as homosexual (especially a man). As a noun, it means homosexual. Queer is another one that has waffled from meaning something odd, then to disparaging slang (homosexual), then back to acceptable, as in LGBTQ. I confess my confusion.

I try to keep up. I can say that’s cool and not be referring to a temperature, but I may be. Same with cold (as in cruel) in various uses. When my son started using the word bad to mean exceptionally good, I failed in making the sarcastic adjustment. Can we just stick with bad ass for that? Of course, that may also mean a tough or rough person.

I like it better when we make up new words rather than creating slang from old words that have established meanings. As it is, even when used correctly and in context, some words have so many meanings. For example, “the word set has 126 meanings as a verb, 58 as a noun, and 10 as a participial adjective,” and those do not include new jargonistic aberrations.

I just counted seven specialized dictionaries on my bookshelves. I like to read them because words fascinate me as much as spelling them frustrates me. Additionally, I use several on-line regular dictionaries, thesauruses, and encyclopedias (wiki’s) every day.

I got A’s in spelling in elementary school, “A” for atrocious. Now there’s a word nobody has screwed with (yet).

The nuns in my grade school taught me the word atrocious. I heard it often and haven’t forgotten. If only my spelling was better. It’s embarrassing to call myself a writer and spell so poorly.

However, Bill Bryson helps reduce my guilt feelings in his book “Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words” by telling of the physicist Richard Feynman’s intended retort to other professors who complained about their students’ failure to correctly spell particular words. It was, “Then there must be something wrong with the way you spell it.”

In the same book, Bryson (who I love to read) goes on to say of our language,

“One of the abiding glories of English is that it has no governing authority, no group of august worthies empowered to decree how words may be spelled and deployed. We are a messy democracy, and all the more delightful for it. We spell eight as we do not because that makes sense, but because that is the way we like to spell it. When we tire of a meaning or usage or spelling – when we decide, for example, that masque would be niftier as mask – we change it, not by fiat but by consensus. The result is a language that is wonderfully fluid and accommodating, but also complex, undirected and often puzzling – in a word, troublesome.”

I find that rapturing, as in when rapture means ecstasy, bliss, exaltation, euphoria, elation, joy, enchantment, delight, happiness, and pleasure. My feet are planted firmly on the ground and shall remain so, no matter who’s coming or how often.

Look both ways when wordsmithing or researching meaning and spelling.
Mind the gaps in dictionaries, they often mean something.
With your merciful pardon and leave, I shall write on, seeking
the dispensation and assistance of good spellers.
My eternal envy and gratitude are theirs.

A-to-Z Reveal (2017): Poetry of Words

I like dictionaries. Did you ever look for dirty words in a dictionary? I am not sure kids still do that. Everything is on line. I still use some of those words; but not today, not in my blog. At least, not those words. I plan to find new (to me) words for this challenge. You may find them interesting. I need one per day. Toss some my way, if ya be so inclined.

Words are the bits, pieces, and colors writers use to craft the art. When we tell it as the writer, we use words. We may enhance words with pictures or sounds, but we write with words.

During April, I want to immerse myself in poetry. I want to read more poetry, learn about writing poems, and discover my inner (wannabe) poet. I want to do that by writing them – to piffle out one poem each day for the month. I’m not (yet) a poet. I’ve never finished a poem that I considered ready for others to read or hear.

To that end, and in typical self-abusive fashion, I’ll write as many poems in April as I’m able. I will then post them for all to see. My goal is one a day for the month. To further ensure my personal embarrassment and pain, I am asking you for feedback – “Don’t quit your day job.” This may backfire, but I want (by example) to encourage others to put their work out there, to take the risk, to allow us to share in their efforts.

For each letter of the alphabet, I’ll attempt to use a word within a poem, or make it the subject of a poem, or I will somehow engage the word with the poem. I’ll create a piece that involves my chosen word (maybe more than one), and then proceed in alphabetical order, beginning on April 1st (Oh dear me, the fool’s day).

I will post every day. I plan to piggyback this A-to-Z challenge with the National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo) challenge. NaPo requires posting all 30 days. I welcome your suggestions. For both challenges, a poem will be posted to my blog and linked to the challenges.

I tend to have logophilia, an emotional attachment to words. My vocabulary is no larger than average, but it should be. My spelling should also be better. I’m not much of an orthographer, but some of my readers are correctors of spelling and grammar, especially mine. Feel free to pile on with them to highlight my blunders so that we learn (my poetic license is up to date).

I want to use this opportunity to learn more about poetry. Will you help me? If you provide feedback comments, other readers see your comments, and thereby grow poetically. I’m willing to hang it out there. You can tell me about it, and we can all learn from the experience — if you share your poetic wisdom with us in the blogosphere.

“A poem should not mean/But be.” ~ Archibald MacLeish

Words: Synchronicity

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I like words – some more than others, but I enjoy all words. I may not use some words often because we communicate with other people using words. When someone doesn’t know the meaning, or has a misunderstanding, stuff can get weird. I also wouldn’t want to be thought of as being too hoity-toity.

I confess to owning and reading dictionaries while hidden in the closet. Books about troublesome words written by Bill Bryson entertain my curiosity, as has everything else he’s written.

I blame my aunt Lorry for the freaky word-love thing. She’d send me the word of the day from the Washington, D.C. newspaper, along with cutouts of Dennis The Menace cartoons. When I was nine or ten, I didn’t care as much as I do now. Thanks, Lorry.

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Synchronicity is polite. While I much prefer saying shit happens or it is what it is, those are not accurate definitions or even quite synonymous. My online dictionary says it’s “a simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.” We can use the word like that, but it’s an even deeper theory proposed by Carl Jung in the 1920s. One of Jung’s definitions was “the simultaneous occurrence of two meaningfully but not causally connected events.” Over the years, his definition moved around a bit. I suppose his theory clarified with time.

synchronicity-2Sue’s excellent blog (An Artist’s Path) on this topic back in April can be seen here. She gives a good personal example similar to the experience of having someone calling you just as you are thinking about them. “That’s weird, I was just thinking about you.” It’s not weird, it’s synchronicity. It happens and always has. Sue tied synchronicity to a conspiracy of the universe. That works for me.

 

Serendipity is a similar and related word: it refers to events happening by chance in a happy or beneficial way. The key word that we would often use in casual conversation is coincidence. That works okay with serendipity, but not as well with synchronicity because the latter invokes elements of spirituality.

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Jung seemed to think there was a relationship to ESP, while others associate synchronicity with deities, universal forces, or some other intelligent spiritual forces or entities.

Remember, there must be no identifiable earthly cause to the event. I don’t assign human events to spiritual entities, but I’m willing to listen to reasonable, albeit unfounded, theories. The two events must also be meaningfully related, or at least appear to be. If there is a cause or reason for something to happen, it also will not fit the definition.

Synchronicity happens often enough so that many of us have experienced several such events. Usually, we charge it to coincidence, then we move on with our lives. But many of us, especially spiritual searchers and people who enjoy unexplained magical events, will focus on the event and may label it synchronicity.

One article I read that discusses both synchronicity and serendipity, posted by Dr. Joe Dispenze, can be found here. I neither agree nor disagree with anything that he said in that piece, but it is longer than what I write.

I’m grateful for the words we have available to define our human experiences and our nature, what we have in common, and how we differ. They enable us to share everything about our brief existence, to understand each other, and to make our lives better.

As things happen in life, we must pay attention,
learn, look both ways, and mind the gaps.