Friday, November 18, 2011

Confessions of a Word Wrangler

     I love words. Not for their own sake, but for how they can be used. We can communicate in terse one word sentences, compose epic, never ending love poems or make up silly tongue twisting puzzles. We describe our world as it is, how we wish it were or any variation in between.

      I've always been fascinated by language, our ability to communicate. I studied it in school, both big L and little l, language as a form of communicating an idea as opposed to French, Latin or Hindi. I've explored the different components, grammar, syntax and morphology and how we acquire our skills. We are hard wired to express ourselves, with a sound, a look, a word.

     When I first started writing for my blog I was doing a lot of background reading. I'm sure many of you have read some of the articles I did about how to write a successful post. I've got to say, I was a little surprised at what some of them had to say. I did some more reading and was even more surprised at what I found out.

     Fully one third of Canadians are reading at a grade 7 level or below. Below? Eighteen percent of the population doesn't read well enough to use printed material. Our friends to the south are even worse. Most printed material is published at a 6th grade reading level. In this age of information, literacy is still an issue for a lot of people.

     That certainly explains the recipe for success. Use contractions when ever possible. Avoid poly-syllabic (big) words. Keep posts brief.

     Is this really success? I get what they are saying, lowest common denominator for largest possible audience. Keep it simple, keep it short.

     Why? Life isn't simple or short. Time stands still for a kiss, an embarrassing moment stretches for days, decades fly by as children grow up. Writing about all of these things, do we really want to dumb it down?

     Here is an example, of why I love words and why I don't like to dumb it down.

Lovely loquacious Lily languidly lounged lakeside
Pretty Lily sat on the beach chatting

Alliteration aside, both sentences mean pretty much the same but evoke completely different images. Lovely Lily became Ravishing Ruby in my head as I was writing this because riparian popped up for lakeside and of course I mentally re composed the sentence, but I digress.

     I like to play with the images words create in your mind. There is a huge difference between, "Defend yourself" and "I'm gonna bust a cap in yo' ass", even though both are in essence talking about the same thing, fighting.

     I was reading this over at Just Jennifer. The word "stabby" popped up describing a state of being. What an image. A verbal riposte, a cutting remark, staring daggers at someone, stabby works and works well.

     Wordsmith conjures up images of hammering words together, bending them into new shapes to make something greater or more beautiful.

     Personally I'm a little more partial to Word Wrangler. First, who didn't want to be a cowboy (or cowgirl)? Secondly, it describes how I write. Trying to grab those elusive words and wrestle something out of them. It's usually a struggle with no sure winner.

     Language by definition is a system used to effectively communicate an idea from one person to another. There is no right or wrong, no proper. It is about getting your point across to some one else, spelling and grammar be damned.

   Our words set the stage and paint our world. They are what we use to try and make sense of the things that happen to us and to others. How we share memories and experiences.Yes, it can be done keeping it simple and short but why limit yourself?

     When you write, do you consciously edit, trying to keep things simple? Do you agree it's a recipe for a successful post?

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