Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Say What?

As someone who loves words, the oddest things can catch my ear…or eye. I remember learning the definition of “cacophony” and marveling how well it fit the word. Or the day I finally learned the perfect word to describe the musculature of my tall, lean great Uncle Claude the construction worker…sinewy. Words don’t just effect the here and now. They follow you.

Now granted, in a presidential election year, it’s harder to find words I actually want to hear. But an interesting turn of phrase always captures my attention. This morning a comedian on the radio was huffing that Presidential candidate Barack Obama wasn’t black or white, he was “Half-frican American”.

I like running across sentences that can help me truly appreciate the archaic act of swooning. From poet George Moore we have: ”Other men it is said have seen angels, but I have seen thee and thou art enough.” Wow...makes you feel good to be a girl. Then again the simple, [and anonymous], works too: “My favorite color? The color of a good woman’s eyes.”

Words and phrases can stick with you for the oddest reasons. Soap operas are not well known for their scintillating dialogue but Mom watched them and if we remained quiet, we could too. This was a nice reprieve during southern summers when the temperature made playing outside unbearable. I was about 12 when an older male character, trying to win the love of a woman who distrusted him, was asked if he had a message for her. The man replied, “Tell her I dreamt of the nape of her neck.” At the time I wasn’t sure why that made my heart beat a little faster but as I grew older, I got it. To this day if someone uses the word “nape”, which happens rarely, a ghost of a smile tugs at my lips. Words are powerful.

But the words I like best are those which bring to mind a mental picture that makes me smile. Granted, with my vivid imagination perhaps those pictures are um…different. I tend to see funny sometimes when the words are suppose to invoke serious. Maybe it’s why I like comedians like Steven Wright who wrote, “When I woke up this morning my girlfriend asked me, ‘Did you sleep good?’. I said, ‘No, I made a few mistakes.’”

Then there is the occasional jewel you stumble across and it makes you smile for no reason other than those mental pictures. From the man who brought you “Peter Pan” [and I don’t mean the peanut butter] J. M. Barrie: “There are few more impressive sights in the world than a Scotsman on the make.”

What a picture.

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