A lifelong love of language

A lifelong love of language

I’ve been obsessed with words for as long as I can remember. I don’t recall learning to read, or having any difficulty doing so. Like breathing or walking, it feels like something that was just always there.

I’m sure that I went through the same stages of discovering letters and how they form words, no doubt my parents remember me learning to read–but I don’t. Words are a part of me, I feel.

My writing reflects that, and so does my love of reading. I don’t have the attention span for novels like I used to, and something about the prospect of holding a book for an extended period of time (or carrying it around with me so I have it when I need it) feels strangely overwhelming. Still, I continue to read anything and everything I can.

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I can read articles for hours. I love exploring the unique use of language in social media. I have an enormous group of friends across the world with whom I communicate almost exclusively in text mediums. BuzzFeed, Forbes.com, and LinkedIn are some of my favourite sites to visit for interesting or thought-provoking articles.

Lately I love reading up on content marketing strategies, and I’ve always been fascinated by advertising. I hate when effective content and social media strategies are reduced to a game of numbers. It seems crude, even if it works.

Linguistics and the construction of language is a fascinating area of study, too. I tried studying it at a university level, but too much of it focused on using obscure or dead languages to demonstrate theory (taking away the familiarity of English so the construction could be more easily seen). I’m not particularly interested in how other languages work, so I didn’t pursue it beyond an elective class.

Array of colourful alphabet letters

I love the shape and sounds of some letters. Some I hate. They have a colour, and a feel. I like the combinations they make on the page and in my head, on my tongue when I speak. My favourite letter is L, but only capital L. Small l looks too much like I, and is less satisfying in shape. L is blue. That’s my favourite colour. It’s smooth, like a water-worn rock.

I dislike O in both capital and lower case. It’s orange, my least favourite colour, and it tastes like the rind of an orange. I don’t like how it feels to write, either. I can never get the ends of the line to join into a nice loop. Frustrating. Or it looks too narrow, too fat… O is a stupid letter.

I’m glad I don’t have any in my name.

I like and dislike certain combinations of letters, too. I looove ie/ei, though I can never remember which way they go in some words. I rely on autocorrect for that. Bad me! I also love Rh, ir and yr, ri, el, th, mr, ai, iq and sa. I love the letter S, too, now that I think about it. It’s sleek, gold, and probably tastes like glass… though I haven’t thought about it much.

Combinations I hate include cl (I just think of clowns, I can’t help it), kr, rk, um, ur, et, ith, and sh. I think they’re gross. They look gross, sound gross, and feel gross.

The shapes are important, though. Words have a shape and a rhythm (now there’s a word I adore: rhythm!) that is more than the shape of the combinations inside them. In primary school, our teacher would give us boxes that represented the shape of words, and we had to guess what the words were.

I have really horrible handwriting. Always have. My pen licence was revoked three or four times in primary school, and I think in the end I only kept it because forcing me to grey lead pencil any longer was going to end in more ridicule. It was largely anxiety related, part pure laziness, and part just how I write.

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‘I always had terrible writing. Even concentrating long enough to write this neatly is hard.’ – an example of my writing closer to what it would have been ten years ago.

One of my closest friends never had trouble reading it. Even when I’d forgotten what it was supposed to say, she was always able to decode it (mind you, she was also the one I went to when, for whatever reason, I couldn’t open my combination lock yet again). She said, ‘The trick is to forget the letters and read the shape of the word.’

And she was right. The shape of the word was there, the general idea of it was on the page–but the individual letters that made the word weren’t necessarily legible. I’ve become so reliant on a keyboard in my post-school life that I’m not sure even that is true now.

Back then, it meant that I could disguise words that I wasn’t 100% comfortable spelling (though there are very few of them) without compromising the meaning of the message. This was especially great when I suddenly found myself struggling to spell ‘when’ in the middle of a written exam.

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‘The shitstorm that is my writing cause I’m too lazy to put any real effort in!’ – my writing as it is now. 

That happens, too. I lose words. I spent a very confused hour one day unable to recall the words for ‘plastic bag’. Would have been fine if I hadn’t been actively working at a supermarket check out! The whole time I could ‘feel’ it just outside my reach while I took bags from the holder and waved them limply at customers, saying, ‘Do you want… um, this?’

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These days my hand writing is just a shitstorm. There’s no nice way to put it. I don’t enjoy holding a pen, and I can get my thoughts out way quicker on a keyboard. Hand writing feels backward and uncomfortable, constricting. They say it’s better for you to hand write, but anything I write by hand I’d also intend to re-type for use, so it’s terribly inefficient.

I don’t like doing something twice if I only have to do it once. As Dad says, if you do it right the first time you shouldn’t have to do it again.

I’m working toward overcoming the obstacles that challenge my ability to put fiction together. I have folders upon folders of writing scraps ready to become novels, but not yet the full toolset to get it done. Finally moving up from retail and into a job where I get to weave words daily has brought me all sorts of happiness, I do genuinely enjoy writing about industrial cleaning equipment!

I just love words. Language creates our frame for understanding the world, it shapes what we can and cannot comprehend. Without our vast and productive language skills, we are no more than instinct and needs-based communication. Language is what makes us human, and from language came the possibility for other language: art, music, mathematics.

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It boggles me how some people just don’t see that. I might be weird for thinking the letter S tastes like glass, but I’m pretty sure that people who don’t give language the full respect it deserves are weirder than that!

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One thought on “A lifelong love of language

  1. Synesthesia aside, I share many of the same sentiments about language as you. Reading novels and other lengthy works of text was something that I came to enjoy and appreciate as I got older though. In any case, it was beautiful reading somebody express their connection to language and writing in that way. As a shameless plug, though only because it’s relevant, you’re welcome to come read my essays. I write on a number of different topics, though typically philosophy, political science, and religion. I do dabble in music, film, and health though. Anyway, that aside, thanks for the beautiful read.

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