May I have a word?
The TALE: Tehachapi Art, Literature and Entertainment
May 22, 2021
Do you have a special collection of treasured items, set on display or wrapped carefully and put away safely in some dark corner of your home?
It has become popular to collect items both beautiful and quirky, from teacups to character Funko figures. We enjoy heralding antiques to merely old items, unique and hard to find pieces, sometimes saving them from oblivion like lunch boxes from the ‘50s that would otherwise rust away if not rescued and given safe haven. I especially like the ones that portray iconic television shows such as “The Lone Ranger,” “Bozo” and “Howdy Doody.”
Some find ownership rewarding but to others, it is the search. Who doesn’t enjoy a good treasure hunt? Digging for semi-precious stones in desert canyons, entering collapsing barns and old houses and digging around for discarded glass bottles (I found one once, embossed on the front with the words “embalming fluid”) and stopping at every antique store while on vacation, to walk precariously through a mass of one man’s junk, another man’s treasure.
Though I do have a variety of collections myself, the one that I treasure the most is the collection of words. Words are much like a mixture of seeds. They can sit benignly on a dark dusty shelf for years. But when lifted and dusted off, the words collected on a page can result in a wonderful adventure, a devastating occasion, an epiphany of ideas. It is like words are planted within the covers of a book just waiting to sprout into the imaginations of a million minds.
A unique quality of words is that they are not confined to a book. We carry words around with us every day and exchange them with others, mull them over in our heads, move them around in different order to be perceived in the clearest sense possible. Or dastardly used in ways to deceive and misconstrue. The power of words is both gentle and explosive, combustible at their worst, soothing at their best. We are truly fortunate that as civilization evolved, so did our ability to collect and gather all the words of the world to be preserved for posterity. To be preserved for all time. Well, almost all of them.
In “The Dictionary of Lost Words” by Pip Williams, not all words, for various reasons, were sacrosanct enough to be saved. It is a true story with historical renderings of how Professor James Murray, with the support of Oxford University in England, processed words from multiple sources that were sent and eventually placed in the Oxford English Dictionary. In “The Dictionary of Lost Words” a fictional story was woven around and within the true life process. The young child Esme, along with her father and staff members, gathered in an old shed in the back corner of the Murray garden, aptly named the Scriptorium. Words found their way on slips of paper from around the world, to be perused, discussed and debated until finding their place in alphabetical order and filed in walls of cubicles, preserved until compiled into the dictionary.
Esme collected lost words, the words rejected in the process. She worried about those words and the world without them. Words like bondsmaid. She wondered why knockered wasn’t used in the definition of listless. Didn’t it describe more fully the tiredness a servant felt at the end of the day after serving their household from first light until their deep snores late at night, the last person in the house to rest, enduring travail day after day? Yes, totally knockered! This story brings the reader through times of war, loss and love, using all the best words as Esme and the dictionary grow simultaneously. I invite you to take the journey.
I also invite you to think upon the words in your own life. I have favorite words, like dichotomy and pentimento. I constantly look up words I don’t know and roll well known words on my tongue to feel their richness, crisp words like salt and its fun companion pepper. I stumble over speaking the word rural aloud. It does not come easy to me. Then there are the one word titles to a treasure trove of books…. “Beloved,” “Emma,” “It,” “Corduroy,” “Madeline,” “Jamberry” and “Pinkalicious.” Words! All precious, priceless, enduring. Keeping us company on dark lonely nights, taking us on journeys, both within and without, readily on the tip of our tongues to express a bevy of ideas and emotions. Words are my life. How about you?
*Midge Lyn’dee is a fictional character used for the purpose of entertainment though the reviews are real and sincere.