Friday, 17 January 2014

Words Words Words

Words are amazing things.

I love the way one word can mean many different things. I love the way many words can mean the same thing. I love the way just the tone in which a word is said can change its meaning. I love the way a word can change its meaning over time. Words are amazing things.
a Richard Goodwin sculpture
on exhibition at BRAG

How many ways can the word “really” be used? It’s really warm today. It’s really Friday today, although I thought it was Wednesday. Really? Really!

I also love the way words can be put together in a way that makes them more than the sum of the parts. By this I mean where the group of words when put together in a particular way mean something totally unrelated to what they mean at face value.

This topic came into my head a short time ago when I was thinking about cryptic crosswords. Some people can solve them easily (my father was such a person). Some people are totally bewildered by them. But fundamentally they work on a principle that most people use every day – interpreting words that have been grouped together, trying out meanings until the one that fits best is found.

jenny wren on our dwarf peach
she is now a mother!
When I was growing up, my father often had a weird response to the question of “why?”. It was “because Y is a crooked letter and you can’t straighten it”. I have absolutely no idea what those words “really” mean (they make no sense to me anyway). But I knew exactly what it meant coming from Dad – “stop! I’m either sick of you hassling me with these constant questions, or I don’t know the answer but I’m not going to admit it, so you had better stop now whilst you are still capable of sitting down!”.

Dad had others, too. Like “it’s a wigwam for a goose’s bridle” – that was in response to “what is it?” or “what are you making?”, and is absolute nonsense, but I knew it meant that he wasn’t going to tell me.

some results of my experiment with felting
Dad isn’t the only person I know who said nonsensical things, the meaning of which was clear. I had a boss who would say “when a man’s got rabbit in his blood…(pause)…”. I now know this was probably a mis-quote from “Cool Hand Luke”. At the time I had no idea what it “really” meant (still don’t), but I did understand that it meant my boss was momentarily stumped (that didn’t happen very often) and needed to pause for a bit, and I either had to offer suggestions, or just sit there and shut up until he worked it out.

All of this has absolutely nothing to do with retirement, except perhaps that I have enough time on my hands now that I can ponder things like this. My point from all of this is that words are amazing.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Joy, i hope that you & Les had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. I get into lots of "trouble" with some of my "grown" up children.esp when asked "why" and I answer because "y" has a tail. or when i DIL is having a fight with 1 of my sons, and he ends it by saying to here "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all"plus all the other sayings, but like you, esp, when I'm not "brian fuddled" I enjoy "words'


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