“not for a lack of feeling, but for want of words”

15 07 2008

I always say the wrong thing, am always searching for the “right word” to say what I’m trying to say. Countless notebooks with margins filled with more precise words: peripheral, heuristic, illuminate, gaunt, chasm, chimera, phalanx, epoch, reify. It’s not that I don’t know these words. It’s that I am afraid that I will forget them. I want to remember to use them in the moment that they are most apt to convey the meaning I am attempting to convey to the listeners that are, through no fault of their own, perhaps hard of hearing. See? Again. I’m using the word convey twice because I can’t think of a better word or another word that means nearly the same thing. 

According to Bakhtin, “Language is not a medium that passes freely and easily into the private property of the speaker’s intentions; it is populated–overpopulated–with the intentions of others.” The speaker’s intentions. Can the speaker know her intentions? Joan Didion on writing: “Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write.” Nothing makes me feel more stupid, more inept than language. Few things frighten me more than the slip of tongue that causes me to misuse a word. Most commonly used computer application on my computer: dictionary/thesaurus. Most commonly used? Isn’t there a word for that? 

A note to the reader: The length of this post is inhibited by my lack of language and so I leave you with this wondermous masterpiece that will certainly leave you speechless.

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6 responses

15 07 2008
Eric

I love the video. I wish that I could download the song. It is better than the original.

15 07 2008
mariegauthier

We’re readers, we know many words! But we can’t use them in daily conversation because we’re afraid of being accused of pretension, or worse, of mispronouncing them! (Because we’re readers, we don’t pronounce anything properly. I’m using the royal “we” of course. Once, I was looking up Prague travel books for a customer, and I said “Prague” like you’d say “Prego.” Right before I said it out loud, because I’d never never said “Prague” out loud before in my entire life, I thought, “Is it ‘Prahhgue’ or ‘Praygue’?” I chose wrongly, and my customer stared at me blankly and said, and I’ll never forget it though it’s been nearly 10 years, “I have no idea what you’re saying.”)

Anyway, words need to be used, spoken, made a part of your permanent lexicon — that’s what keeps them a part of your writing. The only words a part of my lexicon are ones I’m sure I pronounce correctly….an impoverished lexicon, indeed!

15 07 2008
mariegauthier

That was supposed to be a close-parenthesis, not a winky face…

16 07 2008
Jennifer

I was mapping out ideas for book chapters (someday I’ll start it, I swear) and I realized the exact same thing! Of course, in my case there was no dictionary or thesaurus nearby. I was at 30,000 feet, balancing my bright yellow legal pad-which I bought for a ridiculous price at an airport newsstand-on my tiny tray table while I tried to furiously scribble all the ideas that had started popping into my head.

Maybe the editing process will help my jumbled rants!

2 08 2008
Schmemma

FACEBOOK TOLD ME YOU WROTE A NEW ENTRY! And it lied! IT LIED!

I misses you alreadys.

22 09 2008
ChrisDostie

Speechless I most certainly am. That sentence had to bother your inner english teacher. I enjoy your blog and read it often… write more… homebuilding sucks and this is at least a mentally stimulating. You can only look at red numbers for so long. Hope all is well.

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