Words. I love everything about them. I love how they look on the page, how they
sound to the ear, how they create worlds.
Letter combinations fascinate me. Ck has its own identity (cluck and smack and clack
and brick) as do Ch (church, chat, charm, chisel, approach) and Bl (blood, blue,
blind, bland, bloom) and Sk (sky, risk, skillet). There are so many that appeal.
I like words with x in them. Saxon. Saxophone. Axe. Some letter combinations
are of the workhorse variety; others are mysterious and alluring when we read them.
I enjoy letters and words so much that I play games with them. Someone speaks, and
I instantly spell the words in my head. Yet never a traditional spelling—I put the
letters in alphabetical order. Interstate is aeinrst, house is ehosu, property is
eoprty. I've done this since I was a child. I didn't tell anyone (would you?) until
I saw someone else who did it. He was featured on The Tonight Show, of all places.
I discovered that night that many of us spell in alphabetical order. Something about
over-learning the alphabet.
I think in words. Do others see words instead of pictures? When the computing world
switched from DOS to graphics, I was distressed. What do all those icons mean?
Do they mean anything? What's wrong with words?
And you know that mental trick, the one about telling someone that whatever they
do, they shouldn't think about a pink elephant? No, no pink elephants. Don't think
about pink elephants.
Well, I think about pink elephants. Just like everybody else. But instead of picturing
the huge animal with the long trunk and baggy skin wearing a lovely shade of little-girl
pink, I think pink elephant. Honest. That's exactly what I see. No caps. The
letters are Times New Roman font or something like it. The e is perfectly formed,
the way I could never print it as a child.
Tell me that's not odd. Please.
And the sounds. Aren't there words that simply appeal to the ear? Purple. Evocative.
Whisper. Buzzer. Sensual.
It's more than onomatopoeia, though that's part of the fascination. Some words attract
the eye and ear because of their sound or the combination of letters. But other
words appeal because of the emotion they evoke. A husband's name, a birthplace,
a child's first word.
Words are my building blocks as well as my toy blocks. I work with them and I play
with them. They never break, though like any toy, an ill-favored word may find itself
on the shelf for a time. But I pull it back out eventually. I like my blocks.
I refuse to let one languish, unused and forgotten.
Words are unique. We know thousands of them. Use fewer in everyday speech and writing
than we could, but most of us can pull out quite a number when prodded. And each
word stands for something concrete. All the squiggles and lines and loops have meaning.
They frame arguments or passionate declarations or jokes that make us laugh. Words
can frighten us, build us up, tear us down. They can excite or incite. They soothe
or agitate or reveal. They can be harsh or melodic or mean or tender or juicy or
evocative or comical. Words produce emotions and spur incentives, and with even
bigger impact, they make universes.
I'm thrilled at the worlds I can build with words. I lose myself in the worlds others
create. I may not be able to point on a map to a book's place or setting, and maybe
I don't have a stamp in my passport to prove I was there, but after two or three
hours living in a fictional world, I can say I've truly walked in a different locale.
And I'll be happy to tell you about the people I met and the surroundings and all
the events I experienced.
I have lived in that world, if only for a short time. I have experienced the creation
of a country. Been present for the birth of a child who grew up to save his kingdom.
Watched helplessly as an innocent was murdered. Cheered with thousands as the battered
hero returned to claim his birthright. Shared the lovers' first kiss. Tasted the
sweet juice of just-picked berries and the bitter tang of betrayal. Caressed the
hand of a dying mother.
I have been there. I have done that. And I've lived thousands of adventures crafted
from squiggles and lines and loops.
I'm attracted to these letter creations. The construction of them. Their appearance
on a page. The life they create.
I love words.†
© 2007 E. A. Hill