Words

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Such a simple construction… a few sounds, the associated letters, an agreed-upon meaning… suddenly, you’re in the business of communicating! People use so much of who they are to work with such a simple thing: they hear it, they speak it, they understand and remember it, occasionally they write it, they use it sometimes every day. If they don’t know the word, they may still understand it from the context and children learn full languages from scratch to perfection in just a few short years.

Truly words are amazing, and people use them in so many situations that I am not even going to attempt describing it. Originally, ancient people who have coined names for the naming may have meant something else, but for the Latin and the Slavs the meaning is that of understanding, meeting, gathering. Maybe the unity formed by the sound and sense is what brought the actual word into being.

For me, words are both slaves and masters. I can gather them, and use them, and play with them as time goes and I read more, talk more, write more. There are maybe for you a few people with whom you talk differently, who manage to kick-start your language ability in ways you never use at work or in the family. It is exhilarating to banter and quip with those people, and sometimes I feel as if a wall is coming down. Most of the time I “translate” words, not from my native language to English, but from solemn English to practical English. Translation is, however, by definition measured, reasoned, slow. When that wall is coming down, words flow fast, spontaneous, almost withought thought, like champagne overflowing the cup in sparkling abandon.

But the words as slaves multiply and rebel. When too many are crammed into the little time I have for reflection, they lay siege to the very fortresses of thought and these revolutionaries demand to be heard, to be written, to be spoken. Guerillas of words, organized and efficient, come out in poems and metaphor. There is no resistance that I can mount, all I can do sometimes is delay the inevitable grabbing of paper and pen. They are assuaged then for a while, and tensions that I was never aware of dissipate as if a pressure valve has been opened.

So if I have no powers over the words then they are masters, are they not? I do not feel as if I have much choice, and especially when it comes to writing. And yet they will submit to the sentences I craft, they obediently line up in the verse I mutilate in the modern fashion. Then they are slaves? Or just demanding pets?

Eh, humanizing words (aren’t they human? Stories are ambivalent on this subject) doesn’t seem to work. What to do? Much as I sometimes feel like rebellion, the easiest way for me is adjusting, giving and taking as seems appropriate at that time. There will be times when I speak them and times when I will write them, times when they hold sway and times when I ignore them, times when they help and times when I hinder their flow.

There is a story in my language where all the sounds and words utered by humans go to a land beyond mortality, where they live forever. Someone journeyed there to find a spell and was almost crushed under the weight of memories those words were carrying.

Should we not make sure that the words we utter are worth being crushed under?

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