Jumbo Steps: Word Up

2/7/16 – Medford/Somerville, MA – CAPTION poses for a headshot on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. (Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily)

The English dictionary is rad, but its organization is a bit archaic.

For convenience’s sake, alphabetical order does the job for a quick and dirty search. The English dictionary is rather successful in denotatively capturing the essence of every word ever coined, created and carried from century to century, from continent to continent. Which, in my opinion, is pretty cool.

But really, who cares about alphabetical order? It’s uniform but arbitrary. Language isn’t supposed to be orderly. It’s full of exceptions and changes with time. It’s an art form. Period.

A dictionary is just that: a collection of scribbles, combined in sequence, that attempts to describe much grander ideas. As a result, it can only allow for so much verbal expression.

Why have I even chosen (by my own volition) to write about this? Because I like words, and I like sharing what I love. So buckle up.

Do you not find it utterly amazing that we’ve both learned to understand the same thing — the English language — but through different experiences?

What I mean is, we’ve both probably come to learn the initial meaning of many words by looking them up in the dictionary. But our mutual knowledge of these denotations is probably the most common-ground I’ll ever share with you on the meaning of a given word.

In other words, the dictionaries in our heads contain words whose definitions are connotatively experienced, not denotatively outlined.

Think about it: the function of each letter in any given word creates a connotation so apt for your verbal or mental thought that you’ve decided to use that, and only that, word above all others. Which, I wholeheartedly believe, is also pretty cool.

But what’s the point to all this? Why am I so infatuated with words? Because life would be pretty bland if I weren’t.

People often hear my voice before seeing my face; I love to talk, to explain, to write, to elaborate and to inquire. But I can’t do any of that if I don’t have my toolbox of words. And I can’t use that toolbox effectively if the words in them carry no emotional weight.

I like words simply because words mean things. They’re more than just a value, like a number is. They’re more than just a quality, like a shape is. No. They’re an opportunity. To do what? To say what’s on your mind. To confide in others. To congratulate. To console. To celebrate. And above all, to convey an emotional attachment to anything and everything you desire, abhor, idolize, observe and feel.

Words are powerful. What I say and what you hear may (not) be the same things. And that’s understandable, for we both have many more words in our toolboxes. To this end, I invoke the words of the great Dr. Seuss: “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”


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