Writing Wednesday: Words are more than just a collection of letters

Words truly are more than just a collection of letters. Ancient humans used them to help them identify things especially when talking to another human – words for animals and plants for instance. They created words to express their feelings as well.

As communication became more advanced, such as the invention of writing, words evolved and became much more than simply names for things. They began to mean things and do things. They helped record history, record important things for business, to teach a great many important things, and to entertain.

With the advent of story telling, words developed more deeper meaning, and they took on yet another dimension especially when combinations began to form. Phrases, idioms, even descriptive passages began to shape people’s thoughts and feelings, drew them in or shut them out. Words began to paint pictures and create ephemeral experiences.

Words still do this even today in our sophisticated world. We know the difference between truth and fiction, most of us do at any rate, and the majority of us are willing to suspend this knowledge in order to fully enjoy the experiences words give us.

Words are still developing as people learn to use them, manipulate them, in order to create even more vivid ideas and thoughts. Words have become “delicious”, “sexy”, “scary” even “disgusting” depending on how they are used. Words have always been evocative, very little in the beginning, but more and more as humans reacted to them and learned from this reaction.

Phrases from Martha Grimes’ Rainbow’s End:

“…coruscating flash of lightning..”

“…varnished with light…”

“…fire…throwing shadowy beckoning fingers up…”

and from Tami Hoag’s Night Sins:

“A sense of anger and disapproval tainted the moment like a layer of soot on her skin.”

“…thick shroud of gray…dimmer than twilight…”

“…world turned into a hazy place of smoke and mirrors…”

“Their innocence marred like a clean white page streaked by dirty fingers.”

These call up imagery not spelled out in their words, they don’t need to be. They are invoked, created by their collaboration with the reader’s mind and life experiences.

It this interplay and interdependence that drew me into the world of reading when I was not even in school. My late grandfather used to tell the story of how, when I came home from my very first day of school, I was upset and a bit angry. When he asked me what was wrong, I told him I hadn’t been taught how to read. My grandmother, bless her, gave me a chapter book for my 5th birthday. This was a book with no pictures in it, hardly fit for a 5 year old only she knew, like my grandfather did, I was no ordinary 5 year old. Once I learned to read, my reading level shot up and by the time I was 7, I was reading that book by myself from cover to cover. It was Bomba the Jungle Boy, and it was written by Stratemeyer Syndicate under the name Roy Rockwood around 1926. This is the same group who wrote and published Nancy Drew, which I later read as well. It was 1975 when I got my copy of Bomba the Jungle Boy, and I wish I still had the book. It disappeared somewhere along my life’s road, but I plan to replace it now that I know where I can get a copy.

What do you think of the words you read? What words and phrases catch your attention and linger in your mind long after you’ve finished reading?

Do you agree words are more than just a collection of letters?

See you on the flipside and don’t forget your towel and sonic screwdriver!

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