Tag Archives: words

What Can I Say?

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Words. Our language is full of them. Some are short and ordinary, creating no certain visual, like sad, great, like, and nice. Some are larger than life whose meanings are known by few, thus creating no visual at all for those left in the dark. Quockerwodger, sphallolalia, and effutiation have recently shown up in my news feed on Facebook from the folks at Grandiloquent Word of the Day. (If you’re dying to know the meanings of these crazy words, see the key at the end of the post.) They are amusing to learn, but I don’t think I’d ever use them.

The ability to choose the right words can be a gift. For some, an obsession. And for others, sadly, not a concern at all. Some of us have vast, complicated vocabularies, which can either impress others, or leave them baffled. Some of us have a solid command of the language, all the standards with some fairly advanced vocabulary sprinkled in on a regular basis. And some of us stick to just the basics, saying only what needs to be said, in the simplest way possible.

We’ve all known folks who latch onto a few key words or phrases and then use them so often they lose all meaning. And if you are around them enough, you start to do the eye roll as soon as you hear those words. And you always associate those words with that person, no matter who else might use them. And you want to scream every time you hear those words, no matter WHO says them. And one day you realize that these folks who throw these words around ad infinitum aren’t even making sense any more. Do they think these words will make them seem more knowledgable or intelligent? Or do they just love these words so much that they can’t let them go?

Finding the right words is key and we are often judged by the words we use. We use words to express our feelings, or get what we want; to persuade, praise or hurt others. But finding just the right words can become challenging in certain situations: when expressing love, grief or anger, during a job interview, giving a presentation to the board, during a political debate, or explaining to your toddler where babies come from. I’ve written before about the people who use the wrong words, or make up entirely new words. Sometimes that makes me chuckle, but sometimes it’s just downright sad. All the sudden they become flustrated, and start aksing questions that are supposably correct. Right. And sometimes you just can’t think of the word you need. Fortunately, we have words like thingamajig, doohickey and whatchamacallit for those moments.

Just remember…words, no matter which you use, cannot be unheard or unsaid.

*Quockerwodger: a politician who is controlled or bought off by corporations

*Sphallolalia: flirtatious talk that leads nowhere

*Effutiation: spoken or written words that have no meaning or make no sense

Sometimes I Get Words In My Ice

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It happens when I least expect it. I’ll be getting some ice for a nice, cool drink, and I see a flash of black in the ice tray. I dig to the bottom, and discover a word. Sometimes I take it as some sort of sign. Sometimes it’s just a pain in the butt to fish it out of the ice tray. You see, I have poetry magnets covering the front of my fridge, and a bottom freezer. Occasionally, a shift in gravity allows a word magnet to fall into the ice tray when it’s open, usually unnoticed at the time it happens.

I became fascinated with the concept of poetry magnets when they first became the craze, back in the 90’s. First of all, I love magnets of any kind. Second, I love words. So these little gems, which combine magnets and words could hardly disappoint this girl. I remember getting my first set, and how I couldn’t wait to break them apart and distribute them on the fridge. I would fiddle with them, making obtuse streams of words. I started adding sets of magnets as I found them, and people started giving me sets as gifts. Soon the fridge was covered with words.

When I lived in Maryland, my husband and I had a big party on Memorial Day every year. We started to keep a composition notebook near the fridge, with instructions to our guests to make poems with the magnets, and then we’d record their creations. It was quite funny! Especially since there was alcohol involved.

Soon, my fridge full of magnets was not enough. As with all crazes I latch onto, I was obsessed. I was teaching middle school language arts at the time, and I found that they made all sorts of magnetic poetry sets with various themes, many of them lending themselves nicely to my poetry unit. I started to purchase sets for my classroom. I brought some of mine from home. I was fortunate to be teaching in a room in which all of the walls, floor to ceiling, were made of metallic chalkboard surface! I set up poetry spots all around the room, and let the kids go nuts. I was in word heaven!

I realized that it wasn’t only fun, and satisfying my own magnetic poetry obsession, but it was actually helping my students write poetry. When you ask a middle schooler to take a blank piece of paper and come up with a poem, it usually creates a block, and brings on much frustration. Who can decide which words, out of all the zillions of words we use, need to be on that page? And in what order? And to say what? I have the same problem sometimes.

But with the magnets, the words were right in front of them. All they had to do was move them around for a while, and soon they had a poem. Before I knew it, they were filling their notebooks with poems they’d created at the wall. And the best part is that they were having fun, and begged to work on poetry! If you’ve ever taught middle school, you know that any time your students love something, you have success. So when I find that occasional word in my ice, I have to chuckle at the thought of what poem it might complete.