Print

Only For Lovers Of Words

By J. D. Hicks

words for love

 

When I was a university student, I often went to the library. Even on a Friday or Saturday evening, I’d enjoy stalking books among the stacks. It may sound sinister or unhealthy, but I was merely a developing bibliophile. Because I was a habitual user of the library, the staff knew me because I was the only person who regularly, indeed ever, borrowed a particular book: At 8” thick and weighing 9 pounds, Funk and Wagnall’s Unabridged Dictionary was not a tome to be taken lightly. The first time I plopped the heavy Funk and Wagnall’s on the countertop at the front desk, the startled librarian surveyed the big pulpy block of erudition and observed that the huge book could not be checked out because it was a reference book.

I explained that I had found the giant dictionary in general circulation and that the checkout slip inside the green binding showed I could lawfully take it out for the normal checkout period. You can’t shoot a rocket higher than the heights of my elation as I lugged this Sequoia of books out of the library. In the coming months, I’d renew the dictionary many times, and in my one-room apartment, I’d scan the columns of small print for—

For the answers, I refer you to Mr. Stommes, my charming eighth-grade teacher, who required his students to locate and learn the definitions for weekly vocabulary lists. This taught me two lessons.

First, I discovered that if I ever hoped to broaden my knowledge of the English language, I needed to study it. Before Mr. Stommes, I had depended on my own guesswork or the offhand explanations of others for the meanings of words. I had never thought I needed to study the English language, because I had thought I owned it. Even apart from words I was completely unfamiliar with, there were words on the vocabulary lists whose meanings I had previously guessed and used. After checking the dictionary for these words, however, I realized that my guesses had erred. (I recall at the time the word puberty suggested fearsome and forbidden sexuality. I never uttered the word above a whisper.

Later I was relieved to learn it described a phase of human development and I hadn’t been using an obscenity.) I saw that if I wanted to achieve clarity when I read, wrote, or spoke, I had to consult the lexicon for reliable definitions.

The second lesson I learned was that words, even single words, could entertain me. I found that words could delight with humor as in borborygmus or oologize or enchant with sound as in glossolalia or sylvan or tintinnabulation or intrigue with meaning alone as in eschatology or psychopomp. Beginning in the eighth grade, I set aside my baseball cards, the stamps, the penny and dime collections.

By the time I entered the university, I was an experienced word collector. When I found a word I wanted to remember, I added it to my list. Like a bird fancier scanning tree branches for a new species to put on his life list, I searched for a new word perching on the line of a page, or I hunted them in the vast expanses of unabridged dictionaries such as Funk and Wagnall’s or Webster’s International. I sought the novel, the exotic, the beautiful or plain, the melodious. Birders understand this, for they are outsiders in pursuit of an intangible reward. I am an outsider as well, but I am a worder and go wording in the inexhaustible English language. If you are a worder, I hope we meet someday on a quiet path somewhere among words.

 

Only Cover Story
Only Cover Story   April 2022 Slaying The Deer Slayers In Mexico: The Yaqui Experience By Hayes Raitt March 2022 Where is Little Martin? By
ONLY IN MEXICO (Perhaps) - December 2010
ONLY IN MEXICO (Perhaps) By Tom Clarkson   All in the same week might you experience:  —While waiting for your muffler to get fixed, ending
And to Think That Only Yesterday - March 2010
And to Think That Only Yesterday By James Tipton   It was common, in recent years, for Enedina de los Angeles to doze off sitting up. But today,
You do not have to be a dog lover, only human - February 2010
You do not have to be a dog lover, only human By Jackie Kellum   There is an event that occurs periodically around Lakeside. Although most sights
ONLY FIVE SECONDS - January 2010
ONLY FIVE SECONDS By Jose  Amador Translation by Elizabeth Sellars   (Ed. Note: Over the next few issues, we shall be running excerpts from
Wordwise With Pithy Wit - January 2011
Wordwise With Pithy Wit By Tom Clarkson   This morning, my pal F.T. – who shared the Iraq experience with me during my third trek there – forwarded
Victoria Schmidt
  VICTORIA SCHMIDT   Column: Editor’s Page   Website:   Victoria Schmidt came to Mexico with her husband, in 2007. 
Moonyeen Patricia King
    MOONYEEN PATRICIA KING   Column: Profiling Tepehua   Website:   Settled in Mexico 13 years ago.  The
Ken Masson
  KEN MASSON   Column: Bridge by the Lake   Website:   Ken Masson has been playing, teaching and writing about bridge
Alejandro Grattan-Dominguez
  ALEJANDRO GRATTAN-DOMINGUEZ   Column: Editor’s Page   Website:   Wrote/directed first movie about Mexican-Americans, Only