Words, Words, Words

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius asks Hamlet what he is reading. Hamlet answers, “’Words, words, words.” My most recent blog about books brought that scene to mind. Hamlet’s answer could have been to the question, “what do you find in books?”

As a writer and linguist, words are arguably more important to me than to other people. In English, each word contains a world of meaning beyond its accepted definition. Ours is a polyglot tongue, rooted in Anglo-Saxon, a Germanic language, but influenced by Greek, Latin, and French. So each of our words has intrinsic meanings that may differ from the dictionary definition. Many words have implications that hover beneath the level of consciousness for us speakers. And most words have multiple dictionary meanings.

Words are the tools we use to communicate with one another. They are what I, as a writer, use to do my work. And I love them. They’re erratic, deceptive, inscrutable. Their spelling and pronunciation are wildly inconsistent. Their meaning varies over decades. But they’re my work materials. It’s as though they’re part of my family. I see their flaws and failures. But they belong to me, and I belong to them. I accept them and cherish them, warts and all.

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