Thursday, April 30, 2015

Words to the Wayside

Words - they are a writer's tool chosen and used with thought or as sloppily put as a badly placed nail beneath an inexperienced or careless hand. I've done plenty of the latter and some of the former. Regardless, my response to elegant or clever or wry or profound word usage is much the same as being in a museum filled with brilliant works of art. Except that the intangibility of words means they can only touch within one's being. 

Maybe that's why books still appeal more than electronic devices; making words slightly more touchable. Or maybe not, but articles touting statistics are showing that books, real books made of paper and glue, are making a comeback. 

photo credit: Shutterstock
"I know I’m not the only one who discovered that the downside of moving from a dedicated Kindle eReader to a Kindle Fire tablet is I now can be constantly tempted, and pulled away from losing myself in the book, by notifications of incoming email, status updates, direct messages and Words With Friends moves." Frank Catalano

Of course, those wavering statistics have been written about pretty much ever since electronic readers were invented, lo those many relative minutes ago on the book timeline. So let me say, maybe that's why books appeal to me more. I use the electronic kind, finally bending to the ease of having something to read on the ferry, even if I forgot a book at home. 

I have read electronically in bed (gasp!) as well, and the reality is, it is just not the same, that pause in the reading where a book is laid down for a moment or even many moments. If a book slips off your chest onto the floor, no harm done, except finding your place - rather than finding the pieces.

What started this train of thought though, was an article from Orion magazine about words, their very selves, being replaced. In dictionaries no less stellar than the Oxford Junior Dictionary, for the purpose of the article; though the OJD is far from alone. 

It is the sort of words being replaced that hit hard. True but hard.

"A sharp-eyed reader noticed that there had been a culling of words concerning nature. Under pressure, Oxford University Press revealed a list of the entries it no longer felt to be relevant to a modern-day childhood. The deletions included acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture, and willow. The words introduced to the new edition included attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player, and voice-mail."

If that doesn't distress even the geekiest of geeks - and I know a few - it should.

The whole article is filled with lovely words, both dismissed and newly minted, so I hope you take the time to read it. 

"Consider ammil, a Devon term meaning “the sparkle of morning sunlight through hoar-frost,” a beautifully exact word for a fugitive phenomenon I have several times seen but never before been able to name."

An old reading nook without a Nook
For me, the writer, Robert Macfarlane has been discovered, reminding me of one of my first electronic interactions with a human (almost 25 years ago now), a Brit living in Finland who wowed me daily with words and wordplay, often sending me to the dictionary like the out of school student I was and still am. No longer challenged much in word usage, since I can't even grasp the language of my own chosen home, Mr. Macfarlane brought back a spark for me, to dive deeper into the word pool before it is drained of too much beautiful. 

Have a transformational Thursday. Do something trustingly treasured.


  1. Author Jim Harrison, my favorite writer of the last few years, sends me to the dictionary often. Which I love. I was given a Kindle Fire, which I put away because of the distractions you mention. I now use a Kindle Paperwhite which I love, a true book without paper. Our living room is filled, wall to wall, floor to ceiling with hardcover books on shelves. There are boxes of paperbacks stored away somewhere in this house. Books I have read and hauled coast to coast to coast again. I resisted e-books, like I resisted cd's over vinyl, for too long. I now love both, less clutter, less trees destroyed, available at a click from somewhere in a cloud.

  2. You have put the words together in an informative and thought provoking manner. Such talent, glad it is not wasted here. Thanks, Bill

  3. I have books by my bed, on every table in my house, in my car, at work....They are my escape...the touch of a book alone brings me instant repose...