Fleeting thoughts: Words, words, words

I found a spare dictionary at work last week and gleefully took it home, and now it’s displayed at the very top of my bookshelf. If I have to pick an odd hobby for when I’m old and curmudgeon, and when all I have left in life are inanimate objects, I would choose to collect dictionaries. They are totems, keepers of humankind’s kaleidoscopic logic and emotions changed by time. 

When I was seven or eight years old, I copied the entire A section of Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary’s Tenth Edition. This edition is beautiful: deep red cover, silky pages with shimmering gold edges, always cool to the touch. According to the inscription inside, my father gave the dictionary to my mother as a gift. August 23, 1992. I’m tickled by the idea that this was considered a gift. Dad didn’t give her jewelry or flowers, but a dictionary . . . I sat at my parents’ desk in their bedroom, secluded from my sister and my brother who took up more space than me. This was back when my family of five lived in a two-bedroom apartment. The desk lamp cast shadows against the walls, letting out just enough light to hit the pages and illuminate new words. 

I still discover words by reading. It’s always a solid experience. When someone mentions an unfamiliar word, I’m almost never able to catch it. Or I would feel awkward stopping that person mid-sentence and asking, “Sorry, what does that mean?” 

But I’d forgotten the second part to committing these words to memory: repetition, the muscle memory of scrawling each letter, the right side of my palm sliding across a page in a notebook. I’m noticing how easily words slip away from me, so I’m compelled to return to the dictionary, to this childhood method of capturing words. I’m also revisiting the aid of visuals. I used to draw pictures to accompany words and their definitions. On computer paper folded into eight sections—each reserved for a word—I once sketched an image for eviscerate: entrails hanging out of an open stomach wound. (I love that word and its sound—a hiss in the middle, a bite at the end.)

The words I love are usually multisyllabic—and not often heard from people’s mouths, unless those people are pompous. I would love to include such words into my writing, but as much as I want to, that’s not my writing style. When I try, it’s a hundred-dollar-word surrounded by dollar-words, and that’s no good. I’ve learned to love my plainness. 

Here are some of my favorite words. What’s yours?

Compunction

Defenestration

Lackadaisical

Vacillate

Teeming

Susurrous

Bludgeon

Seeping

Knoll

Ethereal

Sonder *a made-up word that’s been adopted by logophiles*

Derelict

Quell

ASIDE

As I was writing this post, I needed help from the WordPress tech support. Mahangu chatted with me and before I signed off, I was compelled to ask him for his favorite word. Obviously surprised, he took a minute to think.

“I guess one of my favourite words would be mercy. It’s a tiny word, but is a central part of what makes anyone a good person, right?”

Mahangu is a genius, obviously.

 

Fleeting Thoughts is a space where I can release my imperfect, unfiltered words that often occur when my body is still but my mind is racing.

Other Fleeting Thoughts

Weekend Tuesday Rainstorm

Love, Hate, and the MTA

Bullies

A Spark

Things I’m Incapable of Doing

Fleeting Thoughts: Weekend Tuesday Rainstorm

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Rain slaps the windows of my Uber as we cruise past bright lights on Eighth Ave. The driver talks at me but I am away. Lightning flickers; outside Duane Reade, I hear a soundless argument between a couple. A large man claws at his chest, his heart, as if to say, this is what you’re taking from me—here, have at it, while his companion hides her apologies behind her hand. On the next block, there are friends huddled on the stoop of a familiar French café, underneath its flapping awning, talking of someone they know who’d strayed or turned wayward. Another stop. A girl shrieks as her foot sinks into a puddle. My driver lets his questions rest; I listen to the wipers swipe to the rhythm of soldiers gone to war underneath thunder-soaked clouds.

***

Fleeting Thoughts is a space where I can release my imperfect, unfiltered words that often occur when my body is still but my mind is racing.

Other Fleeting Thoughts

Love, Hate, and the MTA

Bullies

A Spark

Things I’m Incapable of Doing

Fleeting Thoughts: Things I’m Incapable of Doing

Realizing that I could have easily shortened the title by saying “Things I Can’t Do” instead of “Things I’m Incapable of Doing”

Remembering song lyrics and singing along to said song lyrics

Quoting lines from films–doesn’t matter if they’re mainstream or obscure

Keeping the left side of my bed free from stacks of paper and books

Carrying one book with me (I was wondering why my backpack was heavy and realized I was carrying two large books and two smaller ones)

Running more than 1.5 miles on the treadmill without having a near-death experience

Maintaining a conversation without being the first to back away

Making a joke that’s actually funny

Not loving the smell of cigarette smoke

Accepting “God has a plan” as a reason for someone’s death (natural, accidental, or purposely morbid)

Killing the cockroach that lives in my apartment (and I think, “One day . . . “)

(At the moment) Writing coherent sentences

Starting Life After Life (Not that I don’t want to, but it seems that every time I open the book, I have something more important to do)

Complimenting people when I think their tattoo is really cool

Not wishing painful deaths for all catcallers

Keeping your interest in this blog post (You can stop reading now)

Accepting country music (please keep it away from me)

Guessing other people’s age

Walking right past The Strand without going in

Knowing if this person is checking me out or if they’re trying to figure out what’s on my chin (yes, it’s chocolate)

Staying completely awake during car rides

Resisting buying coffee even when I feel fully awake

Remembering how to spell suprise

Feeling completely OK when I’m not writing

Feeling completely OK when I am writing

 

Other Fleeting Thoughts

Love, Hate, and the MTA

Bullies

A Spark