What is the Metric Equivalent of Thirtyhunnert Pazillion Words?*

Digital illo: Birds' WordsA Flock of Words

How fleeting is the flight of birds

Compared to mine, on made-up words!

Vast verbal ventures fly me high

Above their wings—above their sky—

Above the reach of angels’ thought,

So lofty are the words I’ve got.

Proliferation I can send

Beyond the universe’s end,

Where birds and angels, so it seems,

Fly only on the wings of dreams,

And I, the master of the words,

Master the dreams, the angels, birds,

The flimsy few whose flight intends

To float to those far-reaching ends

Where language takes me—but I know

Linguistic lands where they can’t go,

Because they lack these fragrant words,

Unknown to angels, dreams, and birds,

And all whose wings are not enough

To keep up with such heady stuff.

Wafting aloft, flaring with fun,

I leap the moon, the stars, the sun,

The past, the present, times not yet,

The known and unknown, and I get

No weariness from flying here

Above the mental atmosphere,

But elevated past all birds,

I’m wild with joy on wings of words!

* One of my posts.Digital illo: Word Wizardry

Giggling among the Snapdragons

Digital illustration: Exploding SnapdragonSo many real-world things have such fanciful names that it’s a pity we really don’t pay much attention to them very often. Magical, rollicking words and names just roll off our tongues like music, yet we fail to pause and marvel at the wonderfulness of the sounds or ideas contained therein. If we must talk and listen and cogitate, why not relish, too, the sheer flavorful euphony of the language in which we do it?

I know, even as someone who barely manages a few words and phrases in various other languages (most of these, not surprisingly, food-related), that each language has its own elements of amusement, astonishment and alchemy embedded amid the ordinary terms and concepts of everyday use.

In the vestibule is one of the most wonderful of places one can be, in my estimation; it’s not for any innate fineness or elegance or appeal the room itself may well have or that being in it might confer upon me, but rather for the arcane and esoteric quality of the very word Vestibule, which leaps from lip to tongue to tooth with alacrity and verve long since arrested in lesser words that we use too commonly. For the same reason, one should seek out Encumbrances and Perspicacity, Snapdragons and Doodling and Capybaras: no such thing as a mere dictionary can explain the depth of pleasure derived from slurping the juices of a luscious, under-exercised word.

Persimmon Persimmon Persimmon

digital illustration

[To my readers who are better educated than I am : Please pardon my humble attempt at kanji. It’s well-intentioned!]

Some words are more delicious than others. It’s not simply that they represent something actually tasty, an edible something full of juice and jazz; the mere sound, even the thought, of these words just leaps up and dances and smacks you in the chops with irrepressible mirth.

I’m not terribly familiar with persimmons as food like those who grew up in its primary regions of growth, but Persimmon bounces as a word. I can’t really imagine a way in which that fruit could have much credibility as a subject for a tragic song, having such a sunny sound. Is it even possible to write a sad story about bananas, other than the gradual present decline of the world’s banana crops? Simply thinking the word Banana makes the corners of my mouth curve up in a silly parody of the fruit. It’s not hard to be Flabbergasted or Gobsmacked by any number of things in this day and age, but would I opt to describe myself with those words rather than Stunned or Mortified if I want a sympathetic audience? Could a pair of Galoshes or Gumboots with my Bumbershoot ever be as sober and somber as Wellingtons?

As anyone who writes with purpose knows, the choice of words is not always easy or obvious in crafting the proper atmosphere. But when the opportunity arises for play, why then there are a whole lovely mess of cantankerous and giggly, hyperbolic and incorrigible and snappy word delights just lying around in dusty corners waiting to be picked up and tickled back into action and it would be a pity to just say what is expected when we can chuckle out slobbery and salacious words that will startle readers right down to their anklebones. Great if I can feel a bit outlandish while thinking and writing it; better yet if someone reading what I wrote can garner a sense of the same otherworldliness too. Go ahead and bite.

Her Eyes were Limpet Pools

Am I reading the poetic maunderings of a youth regarding a romantic soul-searching staring match with his sweetheart–or is there somewhere a glorious spa for mollusks about which I ought to know? One little slip of spelling or pronunciation leaves me wavering in the dark. Which might be good, or might be bad–it’s all in the application of the moment. For lo, there can be such beauty and delight in Malapropisms and Spoonerisms and all manner of other happy tortures imposed on language. These joys are often best savored like a very dry aperitif by those intrepid souls fortunate enough to discover them, for the most frequent perpetrators of unintentional linguistic crimes rarely know the difference even if the error of their ways is pointed out to them by any well-meaning pedagogue or tiresome pedant.

P&I drawing

From one letter's change can spring a new breed . . .

Whoever chanced upon the bag of “Mescaline Salad” before sharing its portrait online must have been elated both at the pleasurable frisson of surprise and the consideration of whether his dinner greens might in fact be hallucinogenic. After all, a product-testing could conceivably explain the truth-in-labeling serendipity itself. The “Sliming Tea” I found on the weight-loss product shelf at a health food store seemed to me as though it might have been assisted in its production by this post’s titular creatures, but on second thought I was reminded of the effects such dietary aids can often have on digestive tracts en route to achieving their, ahem, ends. This led me to wonder further if the product was to be followed by consumption of yet another product I spotted in the refrigerator case, the “Steamed Mini-Bum”–or if it actually produced the latter item.

You see how marvelously, magically this all works. One good mislabeling–or indeed, inadvertent libeling–can lead to yet another, and each offers opportunities of the richest and rarest sorts for improving one’s health, wealth, and entertainment, not least of all by virtue of increasing the quantity of belly-laughs-per-hour in a day. Best medicine of all. For example, if I should accidentally ingest some of the aforementioned miraculous products, I wonder if I would have been more or less inclined to accept the printed invitation I once read to attend the special breakfast being served at “Our Lady Queen of Heave”, which I rather pictured as a chastely Catholic version of a fine Roman vomitorium at which attendees could enjoy communal pancakes-and-puking.

Meanwhile, on the home front, I need only look at my voicemail transcriptions or activate the subtitle function on the television in order to enjoy the best garblings of garbage on offer. There, our friend Wyant becomes “why amps” and I, as Kathryn, get to become “Captain”; I really think Captain Sparks has quite a dashing ring to it, don’t you? Though it might be even better as it’s occasionally written, Spanks. But I have a feeling that Captain Spanks might receive communications less delightful or at least a tiny bit less polite-full than otherwise. Why, now that I’ve mentioned the name, I could even be getting a new reader or two who came here searching for one kind of play (‘swordplay’, if you will) and stayed for another (wordplay). Because that’s just how fantastically a misplaced consonant can change the path of one’s life. And don’t get me started on what can happen when something goes awry with one’s vowels! It can be a little disconcerting to get a message that one’s colonoscopy doctor (in this case, Dr. Panzer) on Wednesday will be “Dr. Cancer”, or discover that apparently the titration study for which one is scheduled might be a “castration study”, something that I think it’s safe to say not a one of us would show up for willingly (a quick return phone call to clarify, at the least, is required).

P&I drawing

Stranger Danger: the slightest misunderstanding or misinterpretation can turn a perfectly innocent phrase into a dangerous expedition into unknown territories . . .

In that case, it might be best to obey the Spoonerific actor who implored his mistress to “sift and shave thyself” and make a dash for the nearest door. Potentially life-and-happiness-hazardous typos aside, there is still a whole universe of fun to be found in the misadventures of the lettered sort. I know my dear husband “Dr. Splotches” (thank you, Google Voice) and I have found a great deal of amusement in the translation of previously-unknown worlds through the artful misplacement of a letter or two along the way.

I adjure you, do not trust overmuch in your Spelling Supervisor or Grammar-Magic software to save you from your worst self. The machine knows not of homophones, colloquialisms or, as mine has proven many a time, what might to you be perfectly commonplace words and terms–I love the alternatives my computer offers for any words it finds unfamiliar, but they’re not often appropriate replacements, sometimes especially for use in mixed company. Scientific phrases and jargon can trip up the masters, but beware your trusting it’s (not its) okay to let a computer impose its (not it’s) will on your verbiage. Even artificially intelligent characters (I’m referring here to technology, not to politicians, zealots, critics and other humanoids) can slip on the banana skins of word choice and phrase placement. The computer is the veritable Dogberry of the modern world and not to be trusted any further than the assumption of GIGO can go. So I will leave you with Dogberry’s farewell admonition, “Adieu: be vigitant, I beseech you.”

P&I drawing

At what point does an Adventure become a Misadventure? It might depend on whom you ask--and how the response is worded . . .