Word Treasure, Word Pleasure


 I am proud and committed word collector. I listen, I acquire and I use particular words quite mindfully. I am a logophile. I recall as a child frequently delving into dictionaries in search of new words. My parents frequently provoked my thinking with new words. I remain most grateful for their word conscious efforts during my formative years.

I find beauty in old words. Beautifully exact words. Words rarely used. Words from English and other languages that ring in my ears and beg to be slotted into conversations, jotted down for safe keeping in my various notebooks in the hope that I might find a place for them among forthcoming words.

Occasionally, I recall or hear a word or phrase that has fallen out of use and I attempt to revive it by sprinkling into my conversations, my writing. I recently heard the word skedaddle and felt compelled to use it. As a child, we frequently skedaddled from the scene. Particularly when something nefarious had happened. I loved words like scallywag, and rascal and how those words were ascribed to us when we were kids.

I had a thing about the word piffle a while back. So much so, I felt compelled to write a poem about piffle. That’s how compulsive, my word collecting can become. 

I love the word hullabaloo. It’s a word that makes me ponder. Just how loud is a hullabaloo? Is it louder than a commotion? It sounds louder than a kerfuffle or a ruckus, to me anyway. 

Then there is that wonderful word, squabbleSquabble rhymes with wobble and suggests disquiet and disruption. ‘They’re having a bit of a squabble, it seems.’

I often wonder where such words began. The etymology of the word. For instance, the word clodhopper is used when referring to someone who is wearing unusually large shoes or boots. The word clod makes me think of clods of dirt, so I tend to think of clodhopper as having country, or rural origins. Boots big enough to step over clods of dirt. I am a person who wears big clodhoppers, owing to the size of my feet. As a boy my father frequently reminded me –‘Watch where you put your big clodhoppers!'

I am curious about spurious. It has a sound to it that appeals. Spurious claims sound so much better than false claims. Spurious has power.

I love the Italian word, segue. The spelling and the sound are fascinating. 

One morning before the day began in earnesr, I came across the word calamitous while randomly browsing through Annie Dillard’s ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.’ I was in search of some words I wish I’d written. I immediately felt the need to use it –surround it with words of my own.  

I have been gathering words and ideas for a piece about nearby Fisherman’s Beach and so I added this sentence to my notebook entries.

‘The piercing squeals of children chasing each other spread along the beach. Armed with clumps of seaward they streak about with calamitous wailing.’

Behind our house there is a reserve that was once a creek. It gently curves  between the backs of houses all the way to nearby, Fisherman's Beach. I am aware of some wonderful old English words for this type of topographical feature. The reserve could easily be referred to as -the snicket, a wonderful word commonly used in parts of the UK. It's a word I enjoy hearing more than the rather pedestrian word, reserve. 

My wife and I were recently watching the movie, 'The Banshees of Inisherin' and the word-row (rhymes with cow) was repeatedly used. Row, as in a quarrel or disagreement. We both recalled hearing that word used during our respective childhoods.'Oh, it sounds like they're having a bit of a row.' the word has its origins in 1700s England and may have come from the word rousel, meaning a bout of drinking, an activity often resulting in a quarrel or a row. 

Words have an allure; a charm. They are the wonderful creation of the exquisite and seemingly infinite use of those magical twenty six letters we have at our disposal. For me it remains part of being joyfully literate. 

I collect unusual and interesting words and collect them in a box. It evokes memories of reading 'The Dictionary of Lost Words' by Pip Williams. If you are not familiar with this book, I urge you to curiously seek it out...

As educators, we must value this special gift and mindfully share it with curious learners. Unless we speak these words, they will fade from sight, subsumed by universal standardized word use and glib abbreviation, totally lacking in light and colour.

I’ll leave it there. You get the picture. Right now though, I have to skedaddle

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