Coming to terms with ourselves

By Melinda Gassaway Guest columnist
This article was published November 11, 2017 at 4:00 a.m.

I love words.

I enjoy adding new ones to my vocabulary so perhaps I might pull just the right one out at just the right moment and use it to give some pizazz to a sentence that needs a pick-me-up.

A passion for words -- along with an inquisitive nature -- is what draws me to daily crossword puzzles in The Sentinel-Record and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. These challenging grids offer up so many familiar and unfamiliar persons, places and things, that the brain has to work overtime so one might correctly fill in all the blank spaces. I do pretty well most of the time, but then there are those tricky posers that frustrate even the best and most patient would-be solvers.

I also read a lot. Books are treasure troves of interesting words and phrases. The British often seem to have cornered the market on phraseology. Jacqueline Winspear, author of the popular Maisie Dobbs series, gave her faithful readers one of my favorites -- "over-egging the pudding."

Newspapers, magazines and subject-specific publications give us timely and helpful information and they do so in a certain style that gets to the crux of the matter and helps us organize our own thoughts.

Printed words have always boosted my clarity and understanding, perhaps because they remain in place -- unchanged by time -- to be considered and reconsidered whenever one chooses.

Listening to audiobooks is another way to savor words. There are a number of outstanding fiction narrators who turn in masterful performances when given opportunities to bring novelists' works to life. Words have their own cadence and giving them just the right inflection is critical in vocal communication.

Even when I am in the process of composing an opinion piece or a personal note to friends and business associates, I sound out the words on the paper to see if they do indeed come together in a certain rhythmic way. Of course, this methodology does not always result in the desired end product.

The cultures in which we live and work afford us a whole new panoply of words to apply as we see fit or not. Slang has always had its place in generational languages, but frankly speaking, I find much of present-day informal idioms a bit too coarse. I like words that test my knowledge and pique my curiosity. And I generally avoid the overuse of superlatives -- a practice that goes back to the erudite guidance of my English teachers at Hot Springs High School and to stern admonitions from Tom Duffy, my feature writing professor at the University of Missouri.

Most everyone has a mental list of his or her favorite words -- words they access most easily when trying to describe certain situations.

But, no matter how many words and expressions are in our personal glossaries, there are instances in which showing restraint in what we say is preferable to overstating the matter.

And then there are those life events for which all the words we manage to utter seem wholly inadequate.

Choosing one's words carefully is important and in reality, it reveals a great deal about who we are and if we've come to terms with ourselves.

Editorial on 11/11/2017
comments powered by Disqus