Yes, It Is Something You Said.
Me and the words, we get along alright. Better when there’s more of them, less so when there’s not. There’s no consistent relationship between word count and my mood, but as a general rule, if I have a surplus of words, I have a surplus of happiness. More words means I’ve done something. More words means I’ve marked up a page with ink or a screen with pixels and there’s some record of the effort. Right now, less than a hundred words in, I feel better now than I did when I started. This is the healing power of words for me. Your results may vary. Not everyone likes the words. I can relate to this. The words are not to be trusted, really. More on that later.
Some words I like just for their wordiness, like truculent. I will probably never use it, but it’s good to know it’s there. Truculent is something that could only be a word. It’s comforting. Molybdenum is excellent, and though I know it’s a metal, I have no idea what it looks like or what its chemical properties are. Molybdenum not only looks neat, it sounds neat. I could say molybdenum aloud all day long. It’s got a lovely inherent rhythm, like that tongue twister “Unique New York,” but easier to say. Lean I like as well, for the way it looks and sounds and for its meaning. I like lean things, non-fatty things, things stripped of extraneous bits. (Extraneous is a good one too.)
So yes, I like the words, the sounds of them. Sometimes their meanings disappoint me. (Ingratiating is nicer than it should be, for example.) Sometimes their meanings are unimportant, like dude or umm. Some words stick together regardless of their substance, the sounds alone making them greater than the components. (Gestalt, another good one, and German too.) The band Godspeed You! Black Emperor (which is a joyful phrase that inspires me, no matter where you put the exclamation mark) has a song called “Motherfucker=Redeemer”, and I have no idea what the title is intended to mean, but it makes me very happy. And not just because of the profanity, though I’m a big fan of cussing. The title hints at a little-known idiosyncratic mythology full of stories that illuminate humanity’s understanding of the universe, most likely from the perspective of one lonely wack-job. The “=” helps too. Let’s get some math in there, if it’ll fit, they seem to say. And it does fit! Math and profanity are a great team. Ask any algebra student.
But the words are fickle, with their shifty connotations and suspect denotations, with their metaphors and their contexts and their poetry. They are tools that can change shape while you use them, and they often do, even in highly trained hands. We got along fine for thousands of years with grunts and crude gestures, but now we have the words and they’re here to say. They like to make more of themselves, and every time there’s confusion over meaning, the solution is more words. And there are jerks like me who make more of the words for the heck of it, and then can’t find the ones they need when they need them. Like a messy desk. Too many of the words, just lying around, meaning things. Designating things. Describing things.
Sometimes I think the words have it in for me. Maybe they have it in for all of us. But how can I warn anyone? The words will know. The words will be the warning.
(Ominous instrumental music swells.)
Wait. Is music conspiring with the words?
(Even more ominous silence.)