PLAYING FAVOURITES

Conventioned this weekend and had a blast at Em-Con. Met up with people I’d met last year and it was great to get myself immersed in the experience of being an author at a convention. And as with all conventions, there are times when there are lulls in the activity so my mind started running around on all kind of things. I was in an ice rink so the scorching weather wasn’t affecting me but everyone else no doubt had a different day.

If I were to say the word MOIST to you, what do you feel? Is MOIST a word that you never really consider? Is it a real favourite of yours? Do you hate the very thought of the word and would rather never hear it ever again?

How is it that a single word could be able to elicit such a response on its own?

As an author, I recognise the power that words can have. An effective use of words can draw out any and all emotional responses you could care to consider but words are seemingly at their best when they play as a team rather than as singles.

“Love”. On it’s own, nice enough but add in the “I” and the “you” and the full effect is clear to see.

“Dream”. Again, a pretty decent word. Has some oomph. Now add “I” and “have” and “a” to the mix and the punch is enhanced.

So how could a single word have anything like that kind of effect? There’s no context to drive the feelings to a single word so that means that you need to look around at the surrounding players to try and glean what’s taking place, again proving the team idea. So we get back to MOIST.

Practically everyone I’ve asked about this has said that they hate the word MOIST. I can picture all of the turned up noses and hear all of the groans as I consider the word but why is it that so many of us find that one word so repulsive?

Maybe it’s actually the reality of what being MOIST means to each of us?

It’s been a blazing hot bank holiday weekend in the UK and I can just imagine the sensation a great many of us would have experienced in the sun. The many beads of perspiration that would be breaking out the second that feel the heat. The moisture seeping into the fabric of your clothes. Those clothes then sticking to you in ways that no-one would ever enjoy. That’s what it feels to be MOIST so could it be that the word just takes us to that most uncomfortable of times and we simply cringe.

Though that isn’t the only example of being MOIST so maybe not?

Whatever the reasoning, the word MOIST shows us that a single word, can have as devastating effect as a whole paragraph so we all need to make sure that we’re paying full attention to every word we say.

So are there any others I should be wary of?

A friend from work suggested that VALVE should be considered as well.

Any ideas?

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SOUNDS FAMILIAR

The English language is a very peculiar thing.

Aside for the delightful thoughts concerning who was the genius who came up with the idea of making abbreviation such a long word?, and why is it dyslexia is such a difficult word to spell?, it occurred to me that in so many ways, the number of words needed has clearly outstripped the imagination of those making them up.

When I write anything, when we all do, there’s always the opportunity to stumble across words which sound the same but are spelled very differently. We always have to remain vigilant to the risk that the homophone represents.

The classic that pops up at the back end of the year is slay and sleigh. Two words which are so utterly apart from each others meanings yet happily become interchangeable when you just consider the sound. I would have loved to have been in the room when the decision was made that those two very different things should effectively be called the same thing.

Navel gazing is very different from naval gazing. Talking about the profit rather than the prophet of a religion changes the tone just a bit and a slow gin would be an exercise in frustration over the sloe gin.

But each and every language isn’t a closed system which remains the same regardless of any external contact. New words enter our vocabulary all of the time and have done so all the way through history in exactly the same way some of our words will have been picked up by others. It’s more than possible that a word for one thing comes from one language and the same word could mean something different in another. Put them together as we all melt together in the linguistic pot and you find yourself where we are now.

Words are a massive way that we as a species are able to communicate. Having the same words crop up in different languages just means that we all ultimately have a very similar way of creating sounds to get our point across. As societies continue to blend and mix it’s only likely that more and more words and phrases take up shared residence with different meanings.

It’s going to be interesting seeing things evolve.

‘Ewe reap watt ewe so.’

‘Eye knead ewe.’

‘Weigh two go.’

Should be fun!

NO SENSE

Something I’ve been made acutely aware of on my writing travels is that the English language is utter nonsense.

I’ve spent years using the language to varying degrees of success. I, as we all did at some point, studied other languages at school and they proved to be a real struggle. I’m not really blessed in terms of learning languages. I’m sure that all of the teachers who were stuck with the chore of attempting to impart wisdom to me would agree with this statement readily.

The more I worked on whatever my French and Spanish classes had me doing, the more it became clear that even though they were beating me up, the English language was worse and, indeed, a tangled mess of pitfalls and contradictions.

Why the ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ rule? It applies all of the time except when it doesn’t.

If a teacher taught, would a preacher praught?

Why is abbreviation such a long word?

Why is dyslexia such a difficult word to spell?

All of these things add up to just make the use of words become a minefield. Are you always confident that everything in the English language follows the rules?

Even the pronunciation of letters varies wildly.

Do you know what this spells?

‘GHOTI’

Yup, it says FISH.

You take the highlighted letters from these words and using just the sounds they’re used for to give a new word.

enou-GH        –        The ‘F’ sound

w-O-men        –        The ‘I’ sound

informa-TI-on –         The ‘SH’ sound

This is an oldy but a goldy but it shows clearly that we’re dealing with hazardous material when we start using language as youngsters and that we have to always keep our wits about us.

Just give me a little leeway when I write. I’m doing my best but these words things are slippery little monsters and getting them to line up in the right way is pretty tough.