Words are a writer’s ingredients. We love words – obscure words, descriptive or emotional words, those sets that make up the language of a specialty. Creating a passage of the perfect words hits the poetic, emotional and dramatic sweet spot — it’s more satisfying than a perfectly risen soufflé. Those words are not always based on literal meaning; otherwise Oscar Wilde would never have written: “The curves of your lips rewrite history.”
I have always been taken with the vocabulary of cooking. This is probably because I can’t cook. Maybe I think if I learn that vocabulary I can wield it like an incantation and my split pea soup will magically look less frightening, smell inviting and even taste good. It hasn’t worked but culinary terms, as a set of words, continue to surprise me — they’re just so aggressive.
Macerate, whip, beat, truss, pulverize, grind, batter, beat, scald. Whoa! All this to get something beautiful, delicious and nutritious? It works for most cooks. No matter how I slice or dice, shred, mince or mash, it seldom works for me. Must be in how you understand the terms and in nuance of use. Culinary terms work just as well to describe a cage fight as they do with a recipe for Angel Food cake.
Jared didn’t blanch facing the mountain that was Killdeer Kilze. He’d whip this fight up – he had to – the kids hadn’t eaten in two days. Time to mince this guy and reduce his essence. Zest infused Jared’s system, juicing his blood as he minced the mountain’s nose with one lethal chop, shred his kneecap with another. Scalded by the roar of the drunken crowd he beat at the massive chest, macerating the ribs. Sliced, diced and filleted to perfection, Killdeer Kilze lay trussed like the appetizer he was. The kids would dine well tonight.
Cooking is a gentle, homey pursuit – though some of those chef shows can be down right bloody so maybe it’s the competitive aspect that accounts for the aggressive feel. These words aren’t really homonyms. They sound alike and are spelled alike but they don’t have different meanings. The difference is in the sense of the meaning.
Linguists and other learned folk call this fine distinction, Polysemy. It’s the distinction that good writers always make. It’s part of why poetry can rock your world. Seeking just the right words with just the right nuance can make a love scene monumental rather than simply sweet, or enfold the reader in the sight, smell and sound of a setting. It’s the choice and use of the right words that makes a story linger in the reader’s heart — something every writer wants.
I do wonder how our language developed to make this particular set of words work for such opposing concepts. Is there a conflicted warrior inside every woman? I don’t know but if I dig far enough I’m sure theories abound. And while I ponder this conundrum I do it…again. I fritter my time away on obscure concepts and my carefully mixed cornbread hits the cooling rack and bounces. It sounds like a hollow rock. Clearly, it takes more than knowing the right language to make a great cook. But it is knowing the right nuanced words that makes a great book.
Hispanola, which means the “Spanish island,” became the first Spanish settlement in America. It is my mother’s native country and today we know the eastern section of the island as the Dominican Republic; a fertile land abundant in mines and minerals and rich in a great variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and flowers, where the sun shines brightly year round.
The merengue, the country’s traditional music, embraces you throughout the island for dancing is an entirely social activity independent of holidays or festivals. Any gathering includes dancing because Dominican’s don’t just listen to music, they live it. Emotionally, the merengue celebrates life wherein you partake of the rhythms of love, family and friendship. The most skilled dancer moves in unity with their partner, as one.
My mother, Celina Antonia Luna de Jorge, (isn’t that lovely? Like a song in itself), left her beautiful, beloved island, and part of her heart, when she came to America at the age of seventeen. Like most of our ancestors, her family traveled to America in the hope of a better future. I’m happy to say that she found it. (She had me!).
Mom is most fully herself, most fully alive when she is surrounded by her family and cooking us all of the traditional delicious foods of her country. She fills and satisfies us with her peace and joy. And like the savory aromas that waft through the air, she makes our hearts swirl to the rhythms of her warmth and love.
And that’s what I want my writing to be like; a dance of words wherein writer and reader move in sync and taste the flavors of love, friendship, loss and new found purpose, joy and laughter. Writing that, in spite of sorrowful events or hardships, celebrates life and fills the reader with hope that today is indeed worth living.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I love you!
See you next time on June 22nd.
The painter stares at the canvas waiting for an image to appear. Patiently, he waits until a faint imprint of a landscape or a face emerges. He then grabs a brush and dabs it into the paint on his palette, making haste to reach the canvas with his brush to capture the image. The artist contrasts shade and light. He tightens or increases space. His brush moves rhythmically or scratches across the linen to make the colors and texture warm or cool. The work he renders leaves the viewer feeling airy or heavy.
That’s how I feel when I write. I stare at a blank page as though something secret lay hidden deep within the fibers and emptiness, that by patiently waiting will reveal itself to me. So I wait…until a word, a phrase, or a picture appears.
Could it be that the blank screen or journal page is a powerful mirror able to enlighten my own ideas and thoughts? Is it I who write on the paper; or does the paper draw out what is inside of me?
My words pour out and my hand races across the page. My mind tries to keep up with both for they seem to move of their own volition depicting moments dark and light. Paragraphs heavy laden with emotion yield and give way to joy and humor, while spacing slows or hurries the reader along.
Finished, I sit back exhausted and, ignoring my headache, I read what I wrote. Awestruck, I ask, “Where did this come from?”
My trembling fingers turn the leaf to uncover a new blank page and my sweaty palm smooths the journal sheet flat. Pen in hand, I sit ready to capture another treasure. My eyes dilate seeking and waiting for new wonders to behold.
See you next time on May 22nd.
I love quotes, phrases, and how words are used to communicate. It’s fitting that at dictionary.com, the verb ‘word’ is defined as: to choose and use particular words in order to say or write something.
I’m always amazed at how people put together their words the way they do. Many times, in my head I find I articulate well. But when I write the words down, they don’t always sound the same way they did in my head. Does anyone else struggle with this? I’m thinking I’m not the only one. Or so I hope. But, I digress.
Definitions. Synonyms. Words by themselves. Words strung together. I love words. Go figure that Words of Affirmation is my love language (if you don’t know what that means — check out the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Interesting insight into why and how people show love differently) and that I got my BA in Communications.
Words are a curious thing. How you say them, spell them, and use them can change what they mean. We have rules for these words and we take classes our entire school career to learn what those rules are. And yet, there’s still a variety of ways people string words together.
I don’t think it’s a new phenomenon. Diary’s and journals have been around since the beginning of time. But most of those private musings never saw the light of day. However, with the internet explosion and the plethora of blogs out there, not to mention the ease of self-publishing, anyone can express themselves however they want and post it for others to read.
Some writers use big words that I have to mull over and think about before I can continue on, while others write in a way young kids can follow. Some use clever prose, others are straightforward. Some write very long sentences, while others write less. All. The. Time. I find I enjoy reading it all.
One book series titled, Short & Sweet, is a compilation of one page poems and stories all written in one syllable words. Each book has had a different theme. I thought it interesting, so I gave it a try and submitted a piece titled “When God Calls” to the third compilation, which is titled The Short & Sweet of It. When the Right Word is a Short Word. The focus of these submissions were things that matter deeply to the authors and my piece is based on the Bible verse Matthew 11:28-30 —“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” I wrote a short poem from my heart and I couldn’t be more excited as it’s my first published work.
The book is launching this month and my piece is on page 77. It’s being sold on Amazon and Barnes & Nobles. (See links below.)
Besides one syllable word books, there are more specialized books on words. If you are anything like me, you own more than one dictionary and thesaurus. At used book stores I like to look for unique and different types of dictionaries to use for references. Recently I learned about a new word. You may have heard it before, but it’s new to me. It’s called ‘Etymology’. At first I thought it was about body parts or an animal species. It’s not!
Isn’t that awesome?!
Apparently, this has been a thing for quite some time. I looked on Amazon and there are numerous books on the subject (some of which are now on my wish list). As I researched further on the internet, I found a website dedicated to the topic, https://www.etymonline.com/.
For those of us who write historical, this might give us an entire new source of understanding how or why a character would use a word. My favorite part in the few words I tried out, is the listing of slang words.
For instance, I looked up the word farm. Besides an overview on the definition it lists two slang phrases:
Fetch the farm: prisoner slang for “get sent to the infirmary”
Buy the farm: world war II slang for “die in battle”.
Now, if I was writing a World War II piece or a Civil War piece, I might use one of these. But alas, I’m not. But, the next time I’m looking for a something more on a word, I’ll use this as a resource and see where it leads.
Especially when we use them to communicate to others. Whether it’s in a private letter, an article, a novel or a blog post, words are put together to read and enjoy.
Just like you read and enjoyed this post, right?
I was recently at a get together where there were guests of all ages in attendance. We were engaged in a lively discussion about the latest techniques for sewing a baby quilt and I was trying to remember the name of a particular tool I’ve used. Needless to say, I was stumbling around for the correct word.
I said, ‘You know what it’s called. Help me out. It’s um a …thingamajig…you know..’
And so it began…
“Oh, I know what you’re talking about. You mean a whatchamacallit?”
“No, she wants a thingamajiggery”
“Or do you mean a thingamabob?”
“We call those a thingerdoodle.”
“You’re all making it too difficult. Just call it a whatsit.”
“A thingermabobble is what my mom always called it.”
“Maybe a doodad?”
“You mean a oojamaflip?”
Wait – hold on a minute.
Now not only couldn’t I remember the original word I’d been searching for, now I had a second one to worry about. What the heck was a oojamaflip?
I was just trying to remember the name for an Interchangeable Dual Feed sewing machine foot. How did we get so far off track? And who knew there were so many substitute words for thingamajig. By the time I remembered the name I was originally searching for, it no longer seemed important. I was plagued with a new need-to-know word. What did oojamaflip mean and was it the same as thingamajig?
I never did get to talk about this incredible sewing tool as everyone was caught up in their stories of why they use the term they used. In the meantime, I grabbed my phone and typed in oojamaflip. Apparently it’s slang for a thing whose name is temporarily forgotten and used more in Britain than the U.S. It can also be spelled whojamaflip or hoojamaflip.
Next time I forget the name of something I’m going to need to remember to say oojamaflip…that is if I can remember it.
A Slice of Orange is an affiliate with some of the booksellers listed on this website, including Barnes & Nobel, Books A Million, iBooks, Kobo, and Smashwords. This means A Slice of Orange may earn a small advertising fee from sales made through the links used on this website. There are reminders of these affiliate links on the pages for individual books.
If you love Regency romance, you’ll simply adore the Townsbridges…More info →
Can Jasmine untangle her life and reclaim her identity, her life—her soul?More info →
“If you ever say anything to anyone, they all die.”More info →