The Meaning of Words

Lately I have been pondering the meaning of words. I have been chewing on them, trying to extract all the flavor they can give me and dissecting my options for pairing them with equally delicious beverages. It is said in food magazines, cook books and by chefs all around the globe that red meat is best paired with red wine. In this way so are words. I mean that we use language flippantly. It was recently pointed out to me by a wise woman (my grandma) that we will use words that we do not truly understand. We grow up using them in ways our family used them, only to get to adult life and school or whatever and realize we have been misusing the word for a long time. We do this by pairing it with other words where they do not make sense or they may taste bitter to the tongue or both.

I do this. And sometimes I end up communicating something I didn’t wish to communicate because I didn’t fully understand a word used. I misrepresent myself in this way.

As I write this, I am picking apart every word the way a child picks out the food it doesn’t like. Have you seen this? A child can be quite meticulous when it comes to his or her food. I think, perhaps, kids have the best pallet for tasting. My daughter once found the only onion of a supposedly onion-less veggie pizza. She could taste it. She said it was there. I told her she was imagining things. Then, she found the one and only lonely, chopped piece of onion on the pizza.

She had nothing to do with the pizza afterwards.

Similarly, badly paired words and using words that shouldn’t be there because we don’t fully understand their meaning, hold hostage a reader from continuing a paragraph. The reader may press the ‘X’ button, close the book cover or press “OFF”.

I am learning through my own bad writing that humor, sarcasm and even some nice points are not enough to carry you forward as a writer.

Have you ever read an article that made some witty points and produced a giggle? So, it’s enough to hook you, the reader. You come back the next day and find the same witty type of comment. It’s funny but not nearly as funny, yet you are hopeful. So your third try brings you disappointment because you were hoping after seeing potential and enjoying some of the article that you would find something more each day. But instead you find the same tired sarcasm. Like watching a comic who has run out of jokes and who re-tells the same ones in a slightly different way over and over again, you are bored.

The Classics are THE Classics for a reason. Shakespeare is a Classic because of his gift at interweaving humorous and macabre tales of love, jealousy, desire, mishaps, murder, revenge and life. His words have stayed with us since the mid 1500’s. Perhaps the most famous of his lines is “Romeo, Oh Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” I needn’t say from what play this came. His words have echoed for about 500 hundred years. Other examples of how much they have become apart of our everyday language or references are for instance, if you think someone is being shady, then you might say, “”Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. This is from Hamlet. Another well quoted line from Hamlet is, “Though this is madness, there is a method in it” You may have heard it as ” There is a method in the madness”.

If these were poor words, they would not be with us today. He had humor and horror and romance but without the words the boat wouldn’t have set sail. Nobody re-reads a book or re-watches a movie for the two parts that were funny or moving, they revisit these things because as a whole it moved them, it became memorable. What makes it stand out and so worthy of remembering is it all fit together and it operated as a whole.

So again I chew and chew and chew, separating the meat from the fat. There will be mistakes and misuse of words but in time with practice and a focused mind I might be a successful writer. I will continue to pick apart the words on my “pizza”, deciding if a word should be there or not.

One thing I know for sure is, “Waiter, I’ll have no onions!”

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