Updated: Apr 10, 2020
Words in papers, words in books Words on TV, words for crooks Words of comfort, words of peace Words to make the fighting cease Words to tell you what to do Words are working hard for you Eat your words but don't go hungry Words have always nearly hung me
(The Tom Tom Club)
How many millions of words are there on my bookshelf? Words. Meaning. Interpretation. Inspiration. Damage limitation. Rejoicing. Rejection. Name. Shame. Blame. Words have great power. Words can bring joy. We had a few optimistic words from Ian a week ago, asking our help to turn this:
I instantly pictured myself as the lady kneeling down. I see Katrina as Wednesday Adams and a hen as the hen. But who is the blue lady? Not Isabelle. Not Ian. Julie Andrews?
We went up to Applecross at the weekend and we went to see this croft land with Ian. Looking out to the south west to the Cuillins, then Raasay, Rona and further north to the Hebrides, you can just about imagine the lupins and the roses if you close your eyes... It is an exciting project. I just want to get digging but there is much for Ian to consider first. Is there to be a drive and where? Can we dig the drainage system by spade ourselves or does he need a digger? Could pigs churn up the ground if he borrowed them? Or should we plant potatoes to do that job? Fencing. Needs done. But which bit ? It is shared land. Ian has been rereading John Seymour's Book Of Self Sufficiency. Can we sponsor a cow and call it Daisy? (Katrina played Daisy the Cow on stage in primary three to critical acclaim.) Why is no-one else just wanting to DIG???
I have spent a short while not writing my blog, as something I wrote with a great deal of love, actually, was taken, by someone who does not know me at all well, as a rather unkind piece of writing. It is not the first time that my writing has got me into trouble and so I want to talk a little about that. You run the risk every time you put words OUT THERE, of them finding their way onto lips which are not moving in the same way you intended them to move. Take the words 'well done' for example. Say them out loud with a smile and an exclamation to a two year old who has fitted the right piece of puzzle into the right place. And then compare your lips and your face and your eyes and the sound and the meaning of the words, as you say them to your teenager who has nail varnished the bedsheets. Well done! Not the same at all.
Throw into the mix the other words and thoughts in the heads that are not your own. I have an almost acute need to argue my case when someone takes my words or deeds the wrong way. Trollope's Dr Whortle reminds Ian of me a little bit. Doctor Whortle reminds me of me a little bit. He cannot help himself when others do not see his point and 'sits down and writes an indignant self-justifying letter to the Bishop. He can’t resist it and it’s a good letter.' I understand, I once wrote essay length replies back and forth to someone who wilfully misunderstood my meaning and accused me of being a liar when I dissected my own sentences to explain their meaning. How do you put someone right when their argument is based on the fact that if they had written the words they would mean something else? And, Dr Whortle, why do I even care?
Words are a tricky business. In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. That wasn't me actually. That was Martin Luther King Junior. Silence is better than unmeaning words. I am with you Mr Pythagoras. False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil. Steady on Mr Socrates. Words don't come easy to the likes of FR David. Quite. Tom Waits always weaves poetry with his words. Well, my time went so quickly, I went lickety-splickly, Out to my old '55. The singers I like the best are all quite wordy. Lisa Hannigann says I do, like sugar, tend toward the brittle and sticky when spun / And I know my demeanor has gone the way of a photo left out in the sun. Leonard Cohen, with his words, wrote a song about me... Suzanne wears rags and feathers from Salvation Army counters. And the sun pours down like honey on our lady of the harbour.
Words can score points. In conversation, in arguments, in love. The highest point words in scrabble, including the 50 point bonus for using all tiles, include jezebel (75 points); squeeze (75 points) and quixotic (76 points). Unexpected scrabble scorers include eh, xu and sh. Yes really. There is a big list of how to use up your last tiles.
Words can change the feel of a place. Applecross itself is not a bad sounding word but its Gaelic name A'Chomraich means The Sanctuary. This dates back to 673AD, when Maelrubha, an Irish monk, built a monastry there and established the surrounding area as a sanctuary. This Gaelic appellation suits it better. It has, without doubt, a haven-ish quality to it.
Lera Boroditsky does a TED talk about those words that might be used in one language and which are not used in another, and how this affects thought and behaviour. She gives examples of the aboriginal Kuuk Thaayorre people who, because they use directional language all the time in their daily language, have a very good sense of direction. There are also examples of people's language of number, time and colour affecting how they perceive the world around them. There is also grammatical gender - that too affects a nation's thoughts. In German, the word 'bridge' is grammatically feminine, but masculine in Spanish. Consequently, Germans are more likely to refer to a bridge as 'beautiful' or 'elegant', compared to the more typically Spanish description of 'long' or 'strong'. She goes on to say that obviously the words we use affect how we view everything, including, worryingly, how we would fair as an eyewitness to a crime; how we would blame; and how we punish.
In the beginning was the word. Sorry is the hardest word. Words don't come easily. Word up.
A single word can do much damage. I try to be careful with words. I feel strongly that once they are out there, they can't be undone easily. Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will hurt me more. The word IS mightier than the sword. So when my words are taken the wrong way I find it a bit of a problem. But I am going to suppress the urge to critique, and try and learn instead when things should matter and when things should not. A wise friend said of my words that 'Artistic/creative intent and subsequent interpretation by others/an audience can lead in many directions. Individual interpretation beyond what the originator intended is a valuable process and one that makes our experiences our own.' I see most of my blog content as a series of love letters or love notes to people and places and things I care for. That others might interpret them differently is partly what makes them uniquely them. How someone interprets words ultimately says more about the reader / listener than the writer. I am going to have to accept that if I want to continue with my words.
I need to continue working on my skin. It has necessarily thickened over the last few years. Not quite wafer thin anymore, it is far from rhino hide. I am not ready yet, when wanting to give you my dissertation on how far from my truth you have ventured, to walk away and entirely leave it. But I am instead going to repeat the enlightened words of The Police. De da da da de do do do is all I want to say to you.