Tuesday, April 11, 2006

More Fun With Words

Last week, when I wrote about how blogging has changed the way I write, some folks were probably wondering how someone could write to no one for more than three decades. Hard to say… I’ve always been a decent writer. A few wonderful teachers in high school recognized my talent and nurtured it. But I wasn’t used to being recognized or nurtured; ultimately, my life didn’t go in a direction where my literary talent was going to get a whole lot of exercise. Even so, I never outgrew feeling that it was easier for me to write what I meant than to say it. I got quite a rep as a note-scribbler. At my little bakery, my crew used to roll their eyes and sigh every time a two-page hand-written missive was posted on the bulletin board. It wasn’t a terribly effective means of business communication, but at least it was communication. Let’s just say, it met with mixed results.

As I said, though, blogging has been a whole different experience. It has been challenging, exhilarating, intimidating and liberating all at the same time. And what a stretching exercise! I’m sure I’m learning things about writing that I would have learned way back when, had I taken my talent to the next level of education. Here I am, fifty years old, discovering by trial and error things that a twenty-year-old college student got out of a textbook in Writing 101. So I’m a bit of a late bloomer…. What can I say?

But my writing isn’t the only thing that has been undergoing a metamorphosis. I have found that my increased attention to words, and how to put them together, has changed the way I talk. I’ll be having an intense discussion with my husband or one of my sisters, and something so creatively metaphorical will burst out of my mouth that I almost turn around to see who said it. Have you ever been watching your favorite TV drama, and a character will come out with some eloquent soliloquy, very emotive, very poetic…and you screw up your face and say, "Oh, come on…people don’t really talk like that!"

I don’t know…maybe they do. At least, maybe the guys who write the scripts do, so they think everybody else must, too. Because that fascination with language doesn’t seem to be something you can turn on and off at will. It just becomes part of you. Time was, I despaired that my vocabulary had dwindled to about a dozen favorite words. If someone told me a sad story, I was more than likely to emote, "Wow! That sucks!" or something equally juvenile. The other day, my sister was venting about her husband, and how he had dredged up some old wound in a fight they were having; and I said to her, I kid you not, "You live with someone long enough, and you learn a lot about them. You can either use that information to cherish them, or you can use it to push their buttons. Unfortunately, some people choose the latter." Now, that’s not particularly eloquent or literarily significant, but it is about two dozen more words than my response would have been, say, three years ago. Earlier that same day, I was having a discussion with my husband, trying to describe the unbreakable connection I seem to have with my dysfunctional family. I blurted, "Sometimes it feels like a safety belt, and sometimes, like a garrote." I actually said that. It came out of my mouth, I swear to God. Whoa.

Who knows where this will lead? Either I will soar to new heights of improved communication with my fellow human beings, or I’ll be branded a hopeless snob, intentionally unintelligible to the unwashed masses. I may find that my days of gloriously eloquent utterances are numbered; because in a very short time, no one will be speaking to me anymore. This should be an interesting ride…


  1. I may not be speaking to you but I will be reading you, as long as you choose to write.  Eloquence of speach is from a bye-gone era (and please, understand that I know I am a terrifically terrible speller) pretty much, I think, and I can learn a thought or two from you!  Please, continue to write, share and well, educate me!

  2. What a perfect description of almost any family, dysfunctional or not. There are times when having even the most loving family member around can feel like a noose. Not often. In the meantime to quote mom, "Springs sprung a leak down here."

    Re: English comp. I took it. All three terms. Mainly good for writing research papers and not much else. In my humble opinion.


  3. What a fascinating entry.   I have always been more articulate on paper and terse of spoken word because I'm not a quick thinker on my feet.  I always think of something witty an hour later.   I'm able to teach because most of it is stuff I've been expounding upon for many years, and with middle-schoolers you can't talk for much more than 20 minutes anyway.  If I have to veer off into uncharted wordwaters, I can get tongue-tied easily.   The thought that perhaps if I wrote A LOT more, it might facilitate speech is really interesting.  Maybe it creates more neural pathways.   Of course by the time that would happen, I'll have numbered days of eloquent utterances because about that time senility will hit.  It sounds like a marvelous metamorphosis and I'm sure those around you think you are awesome and are not put off!!  You definitely have never struck me as snobbish at all.

  4. your writing has become much less self-conscious over the last two or three months ... pithy, self-expressive, intelligent and - most importantly -vastly more entertaining.

  5. I read this earlier today in Better Terms and tried to comment but couldn't.  I used to say that I learned to speak like a book.  It felt natural to me, but people thought I was a terrible snob.  They heard only the words and not what I was saying.  I've since learned to speak about three "languages," depending on the the circumstances;  business speak, over the hill southern belle and the words that come naturally to me.  Judging the situation correctly is the challenge.

  6.     The comment about your writing having an effect on the way you speak is interesting.  This thought had never occured to me, and yet I guess it would be unusual if it didn't affect the words you choose when conversing.  Whether we are writing or speaking, the thoughts and ideas still come from the same place.  Although we do use a different pattern for speech, I would expect to see some crossover there, especially if we are doing more writing than we did previously.  Thanks for a thought-provoking entry.  I know I will think about this the next time I have a conversation !   Tina