Thursday, February 6, 2014

Thirty-One Thoughts About Words This Thursday

 1.)  I am a lover of words.  I collect quotes, memorize poems, am fascinated by language, and hang favorite verses and thoughts on my fridge and walls.

2.)  My favorite words, mostly for the way they sound, are "love," "luscious," "voluptuous," "pumpkin," "Papa," "Mama," and "kiddo."  Sweet, plump, kind words, those.  

3.)  My ninth-grade English teacher told our class early in the school year that Japanese people were once surveyed and asked which English word sounded the prettiest to them.  The word that was deemed prettiest-sounding when all the responses had been tallied was "diarrhea." 

4.)  It delights me that in the last segment of every interview for "Inside the Actors Studio," host James Lipton asks his guests to say their favorite and least-favorite words.

5.)  On my amazon wish list is the book Favorite Words of Famous People

6.)  I loved learning--probably in middle school when I took my first foreign language class, unless a Reader's Digest article or similar reading taught me this even before that--that words exist in one language that don't exist in others.  Age-otori:  looking worse after a haircut [Japanese].  Meraki:  Putting your heart and soul into what you're doing [Greek].  

7.)  In a college Spanish class, I learned this:  "Murió" means "He died," stated matter-of-factly.  "Se me murió" captures the feeling of "He went and died on me, I didn't see it coming."  It's more personal and more heartfelt.  I love that and loved Spanish all the more for it. 

8.)  Babies' language acquisition fascinates me.  I have told my brothers and sisters-in-law so many times how interesting it is to see their little ones learn words and sentences.  None of us can remember exactly how my now-almost-ten-year-old nephew used to string the words together, but when he was just learning to talk, he would ask for what he needed by saying something like "You will get me something this?"  It was funny and enchanting.  The entire process amazes me.

9.)   When I read blog posts or other online pieces that have been written particularly well or memorably, I save them.  At any time, I have a number of posts bookmarked and copied into my email folders.

10.)  Janine over at "writing as jo(e)" recently described the sparkles in snow as looking "like sugar tossed on the crust of a homemade apple pie."  That was from January 23rd's post.  Lovely. 

11.)  "Lovely" is another word I love.  If I've left you a comment before, you likely know that and you know that I mean it most sincerely when I say it.

12.)  And yes, if I had to choose a true favorite word, I probably would go with "love."  Love implies respect and enthusiasm and kindness and true feeling.  It's not a wishy-washy word.  When people talk about what they love, whether it be a song or a season or a movie or a person, they're telling you something about themselves at least as much as they're telling you about the object of their affection. 

13.)  That President Roosevelt's "fireside chats" are part of his legacy impresses me.  It is no small thing to buoy a person's spirits merely with one's words, and to do that for an entire nation, and in such trying times. . .!

14.)  I don't watch awards shows but like reading the day-after recaps in the news to learn what the winners said in their speeches.  Few people ever have the opportunity to have that One Big Moment to thank publicly those who helped them reach that moment and to offer thoughts on it in such a grand way, so to hear what is said can be interesting. 

15.)  One of my favorite Oscar speeches is Dustin Hoffman's after he won Best Actor for his work in Kramer vs. Kramer:  ". . . I refuse to believe that I beat Jack Lemmon, that I beat Al Pacino, that I beat Peter Sellers.  I refuse to believe that Robert Duvall lost.  We are part of an artistic family.  There are sixty-thousand actors in the. . .Screen Actors Guild. . . .And most actors don't work.  And a few of us are so lucky to have a chance to work. . .Beacuse when you're a broke actor, you can't write, you can't paint, you have to practice accents while you're driving a taxi cab.  And to that artistic family that strives for excellence, none of you have ever lost, and I'm proud to share this with you."  The power of well-chosen words!  To be one of his fellow nominees and hear that speech moments after one's own name wasn't called, had to have taken some of the sting out.  Just beautiful,  this generosity of both words and gesture.  

16.)  When Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Prize, he concluded his acceptance speech by stating that, "No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of night.  We know that every moment is a moment of grace, every hour an offering; not to share them would mean to betray them.  Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately."  Ah!

17.)  In the wise little book The Four Agreements, author Miguel Ruiz shares many worthwhile thoughts on the power of words and sums up the chapter on it with the tagline "be impeccable with your word."  Especially in a world in which people increasingly communicate online, the advice to choose words that will cause the least melodrama, is advice to remember.  I myself didn't think before "speaking" while leaving a comment on dear Sandra's blog last year and still feel sick when I think about.  It was a good reminder of the necessity to take the time to find a clear way to express myself before speaking or hitting "publish comment." 

18.)  There are words I often read and never remember how to say.  Is brother-and-sister actors Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal's last name pronounced Jill-en-hall or Gill-en-hall, for example?  I am told and then forget again, so when I do mention one of them, I end up saying things like "[Maggie/Jake] Jill-en-hall-or-Gill-en-hall is in it."  

19.)  In the fifth grade, I almost qualified for a regional spelling bee but lost because my word was "capitol" and I was too shy to speak up and ask the judge which form of the word--"capitol-with-an-O" or "capital-with-an-A"--she meant.  I didn't want all my eyes on me (any more than they already were?! so silly of me), so I didn't ask and instead just decided on one and spelled it.  It was the "wrong" one, and I was thus forced out.  Looking back, everything about that is bizarre to me.  Why wouldn't the judge have specified one or the other in the first place?  And since she hadn't, why was "my" spelling deemed incorrect?  And why if I was already spelling and speaking in front of however-many people did I not have the courage to speak up to ask such a simple and appropriate question?!  I was ten years old, and maybe that's explanation enough.  Just goofy all-around.  I ended up having to attend the next round/event at the local college campus as an alternate or something like that.  I wasn't heartbroken--just annoyed with myself and my (lack of) actions--but every time the subjects of spelling bees or homonyms come up, this is what I immediately remember. 

20.)  Screenplay writers impress me more and more the older I get.  I've been working on the same screenplay off and on since 2010.  It is hard going.  Every time I watch what I consider a good movie, I find myself thinking about the fact that someone wrote that.  Every scene in every movie that's ever made you laugh, every moment that's made you cry, every line you and your loved ones quote back to each other all the time, every moment that so perfectly captures a time or an experience or a feeling:  Someone wrote that.  It was once part of a first draft, then part of another rough draft, words were added to it, words were taken out of it, the actors added their own input, it was completely scrapped, it was saved from the trash, it was rewritten again. . . .Someone wrote it.  Your favorite movies are someone's words

21.)  Along those lines, when Sofia Coppola won the Oscar for her screenplay for Lost in Translation, she included a "Thank you to my brother Roman and all my friends who were there for me when I was stuck at twelves pages and encouraged me to keep writing."  I love that.

22.)  My mom, aunt, and mother-in-law all tend to give me quotation books as gifts.  

23.)  I would bet artist Susan Branch's home studio is much the same, since she's clearly a quote-collector too, but I remember a photo of artist Mary Englebreit's painting desk and studio in one of her old magazines, and there were big books of quotes alongside the art supplies.  Both artists' appreciation of quotes charms me.  

24.)  One of my favorite things to do in the late 1980s was to transcribe the lyrics to my favorite songs as they played on either my cassette tapes or the radio.  Do kids still do this, or do they just look up the lyrics online these days?  Sometimes an album came with the lyrics printed inside the cassette's fold-out sleeve, saving me the "trouble."  I can't explain why this was fun, but writing out the words to the songs was something I spent a good bit of time enjoying as a twelve-and-thirteen-year-old.  I had notebooks of transcribed song lyrics.  Many kids in my generation surely did.  When Billy Joel's mile-a-minute "We Didn't Start the Fire" came out a couple weeks after I started the seventh grade, I had my hands full.  :)

25.)  I think it would be nice if at the end of every year, the media would report on "Greatest Uses of Words This Year," the way they create lists for best albums, top movies, and biggest news stories. 

26.)  If you read Alicia Paulson's beautiful blog, "Posie Gets Cozy," you probably saw the sweet piece she wrote Tuesday in which she describes what reading to her little girl is like lately.  Alicia's daughter is going through that toddler stage of being more interested in turning a book's pages than in hearing the words printed on them, so "I read out loud like an auctioneer," Alicia reports.  "Here's a little baby onetwothree standsinhiscribwhatdoesheseeee?  Quick, before she turns the page."  Brilliantly descriptive writing, that. 

27.)  Alison at Brocante Home begins a recent smart little piece ("Other Peoples' Marriages" from January 25th) with words that made me laugh when I first read them:  "I could stare at the spectacle that is other peoples' marriages all day long."  Her observations are so funny, and her website is so dear.  We've probably all had moments of being the "spectacle," which makes it even easier to laugh.  

28.)   "Letters of Note" is one of my favorite websites.  Its editor has also published a book of the best letters he's discovered.  They have been written by everyone from Amelia Earhart to Leonardo da Vinci to Charles Dickens to Katherine Hepburn.

29.)  Peoples' last words fascinate me.  What is not interesting about learning what people say as they leave this life (and transition into the next realm, if you believe as much)? 

30.)  Inventor and Apple (computer) CEO Steve Jobs died in 2011 after a long illness.  His sister, wife, and children were around him.  His sister shared in her eulogy his last words:  "OH WOW.  OH WOW.  OH WOW." 

31.)  One of my favorite poems is Leigh Hunt's sweet "Jenny Kissed Me."  Pure joy captured in fifty words. 


Marie said...

Like you, I am in love with words Val. I love poetry and read and write it often. I love quotes. I collect them like people collect salt and pepper shakers, writing them into a special book where I keep them and refer to them often. I love journal keeping. I love reading, novels and other books. I just love words. Kindred souls we are, kindred souls. Or as Anne Shirley would put it Kindred Spirits! xxoo

gillyflower said...

What an incredible post Val - so much to read, enjoy and take in, and so many fascinating insights and snippets that I never knew!
I love the sound of words too,and a well-written sentence is poetry and pure joy. Reading some of Patrick Leigh-Fermor's early travel books (A Time of Gifts was one)last year had me spellbound: the sentences just flowed and you could see through his words what he was seeing with his eyes.
I used to write out the lyrics to pop songs too in the early 70s!!!!!
Thanks for a fascinating post Val!
Gill xx

Amy said...

I love Posie Gets Cozy! What a great blog...
...and I completely identify with how you feel about words. When Hubs and I get into a disagreement and he comes home with flowers, I appreciate the sentiment, but I tell him I need the words more than I need the flowers. :) Words matter.

Val said...

". . .I collect them like people collect salt and pepper shakers" made me smile, Marie. You're quotable too! ;)

I'll have to look into those books, Gill--Thank you. :) Funny about the lyrics. :)

Amy, yes. Words not flowers. (Or ideally both, right!) :) ♥

Lisa said...

#3 - beyond funny. :O :D
#8 - a family I know was able to communicate with their baby before she could speak, with a basic sign language - they got a book about it from the library
#24 - I would always play each song several times, memorizing and internalizing the lyrics so I could sing along with thinking about it. It would usually take six plays
#26 - Alicia Paulson has a wonderful way of expressing herself, for sure!
#30 - incredible! and interesting.

An interesting post, Val!

Val said...

Thnk you, Lisa. I've heard of families who communicate with their little ones that way. Interesting, indeed!

Your #24: :)

'Off to work.