I’ve always loved the word crinkle… it has such happy, amiable edges! A charming breed of wrinkle; the friendliest of furrows. It’s so much more compelling than a fold but infinitely kinder than a pinch; the pleated softness of a smiling eye or the puckered crunch of a special-cut crisp. And unlike the meekly silent wrinkle, it has a distinctive voice too – a crackle, pop and ruckle. Such a perky onomatopoeic specimen, like tickle and wink; tiny slips of mischievousness tied up in little wriggles of ink.
More and more, I’m realising the power of words. We don’t just speak them, we release them into the world like frogspawn; fertile pouches of punctuation that grow arms and legs, all squiggling far and free into the world. The language we birth drifts like plankton through the energetic ether, crossing vast reefs of ever-receptive anemones that digest and release their essence back into our teeming little rockpools of time and space.
Ah, the bawdy gleam of gobble or the sticky lewdness of secrete; the ringleted prettiness of curlicued or the thrilling, breathy sibilance of illicit! Hurrah for the stout clout of thick-witted and the bovine plod of placidity! Though I do pity that poor, misplaced militia (no such sibilant treat should describe something so mercenary and bleak; better a gooey, molten delicacy to be savoured for its sweetness!). So thank goodness for hullabaloo, kerfuffle and rapscallion, all doing exactly what they promised to.
As the 18th-century writer Samuel Johnson said, ‘Language is the dress of thought’. And for each of us, there is a Narnia-like wardrobe of words to explore and try on if we choose. No need to don the dreary sacking of a word like exercise; we can experiment with frills, fabrics and finery! As Candace Pert rightly notes in her book ‘Molecules of Emotion’, doesn’t ‘bodyplay’ sound infinitely more fun than exercise?!
Words can enhance and empower like Dynasty shoulder-pads or leave us chill-veined and shivery in our socks and pants: a sharp-suited ‘I will’ vs a threadbare ‘I might’. Words can protect us or expose us, feed or deplete us, nourish or sicken. Just like mushroom-picking, it’s best to choose with great care; the most tempting and accessible are often the most poisonous, and the rarest delicacies must be sniffed from the earth like buried truffles.
And so they remain, waiting patiently for us to discover them, forgotten presents under the linguistic Christmas tree. Poor weevily, mawkish and gnarly, under-appreciated like the lesser-loved dwarfs in Sleeping Beauty; a motley collection of the roguish and downright grumpy!
Words are a buffet of coloured beads with which to string our necklace of meaning and a merry sandpit of sound-play. Try whispering oink, smudge or clunk like sumptuous jewels, or enunciating the engorged licentiousness of tumescence… oh haughtily naughty word, how I do love thee!
And like a box of beads, each word choice influences the next. Our first pick determines the shapes and colours that follow, and each bead threaded onto the necklace of our lexicon invites more of the same; miniature avalanches of associative energy tumbling endlessly into the jewellery of our subconscious.
‘Struggle’ is a case in point – a sludgeonly word full of drudge-filled deadweight that I so often catch myself using. What if I choose something a little more flexible, like the fancy performance-wear athletes use? A breathable, moisture-wicking wonder that lets me prance and stretch freely, all while giving my buttocks a gratifying-perky lift?! What if I’m not struggling (which sounds arduous and futile), but rummaging – delving delightedly through the great jumble-sale of life’s possibilities towards those abandoned, mothballed treasures of truth? Yes, that feels better!
And since feelings are the fruiting bodies of our thoughts, the language we think and speak in spreads its spores like fungi; great cankers can bloom forth if we’re careless with our choices. A word’s resonance can spread underground like honey fungus, withering our roots and inner wood.
So may we all be truffle-hogs instead, digging out the subterranean treasures rather than grasping at the familiar toadstools of our lexicon!
And may I rummage through my words the way I do through my tin of Quality Street…
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