blog, Writing

Word of the Day: What

You ever noticed that when dictionary-type sites do the word-of-the-day, it’s always a really interesting, uncommonly used word? Why not use common words, words that are a part of our everyday?

I was thinking of a word-of-the-day when I decided to read a few news articles to try and get some inspiration, and the only word that came to mind was, “what.” I kept saying it after each article: “what?”

Sometimes I said, “what the hell?”

Other times I ¬†said, “what the [insert word here]?”

It’s such a useful word that allowed me to express my full range of emotions from confusion to incredulity, from cynicism to excitement.

It is a pronoun (What we need is love.), a determiner (He lost what little common sense he had left.), or an adverb (What does it matter if you had one pumpkin muffin already; eat another!).

Further, when successfully deployed, it is one of the few words that lends itself to non-verbal communication; facial expressions can do an excellent job at conveying the “what-ness” of a situation.

For example, you remember that time your co-worker said something so stupid that words simply failed? Or what about that time a loved one said they had a surprise for you, and you were left speechless? Both scenarios can be addressed with a well-placed verbal or non-verbal “what.”

In either case, let’s give it up for the common words too. I mean, really, every day can’t be an ‘anfractuous’ kind of day. Sometimes you just need to say, “what,” and let it go.

-K

 

Writing

The Wisdom of Words

These are some trying times. Things are difficult for me personally, and they are also hard and stressful for a lot of people. It seems like things have turned upside down and inside out. Soren Kierkegaard has a quote that captures this feeling perfectly. He writes,

What if everything in the word were a misunderstanding, what if laughter were really tears?

What if indeed! We have all experienced this kind of pain. More importantly, we perform it every day. So, to expand on Kierkegaard, what if the misunderstanding was really just an inability to see, hear, or understand?

I’ve been thinking about the word melancholy and its poetic nature. Susan Sontag once wrote that “Depression is melancholy minus its charm.” I wonder what it is about the word, melancholy, that makes it charming. Certainly, sadness is probably the furthest from charming one can be.

Perhaps children maintain charm in the face of sadness. Maybe we think that way because we don’t take the sadness of children seriously, much to the detriment of the children.

Poets and philosophers speak of melancholia as if it is a bridge beyond sadness or as Eli Cioran notes, it is “an appetite no misery satisfies.”

Fundamentally, to be sad and to be melancholy are the same. However, one of those words feels more despairing. This is the wonderful thing about words: they can demonstrate degrees of a feeling just by the feelings generated by the word.

But all is not lost. Herman Hesse has this to say about melancholy:

I began to understand that suffering and disappointment and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us.

Well, if I am going to be transfigured, I wonder what I will become?

In any case, are there any good poems out there that can assuage the intensity of your melancholy feelings? Leave the titles in the comments below.