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Words Matter

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Recently, some co-workers cajoled me into playing a game called Wordfeud. It’s a mobile phone application that allows you to play a game very similar to Scrabble against up to 30 friends on their cell phones. I played against three friends but lost two games – not because I didn’t spell enough words using valuable letters like z, q and v, but because I just didn’t have time to play. My 48 hour deadline clicked away without me taking the time to pause and think about words, not even for a minute. When I realized what happened, my heart sank. I owe words much more than that, because words have meant so much to me all of my life.

Everyone likely has had moments in childhood during which they wanted to hide from someone or something. When I did, I escaped into books. And I relaxed as I read them. Stories delighted and comforted me, while words fascinated and challenged my mind. I remember trying to sound a word out, as I examined the phrase or sentence in which it was found to figure out its meaning. To this day, I still have a few words that I catch myself mispronouncing. I call them “passive vocabulary” words because I’ve never actively used them in conversation. I’ve just relished reading them on the pages of a satisfying novel.

Reading and writing drew me to my career in journalism. Creative writing is still a hobby. So, yes words matter to me. And it seems like a crime that this world just doesn’t seem to allow time to preserve and treasure them. Text-talk often makes me crazy. I realize it’s driven by a need for efficiency. But there are consequences to sacrificing our expressions to modern-day exigencies.

I do understand language needs to evolve. Spelling tonight with a ‘ight’ instead of an ‘ite” is anachronistic. I won’t demur when the Oxford English Dictionary deems it appropriate. However, when I heard this week that now words like “thang”, “thingy” and “grrl” would officially be accepted in a game Scrabble, I’ll admit I wasn’t happy.

So, what does make me happy? A website I read about called savethewords.org. On it, wonderful specimens of vocabulary are preserved for posterity. Lovers of language can adopt a favorite word that’s in danger of disappearing from disuse. On the site it reads “Each year hundreds of words are dropped from the English language. Old words, wise words, hard-working words. Words that once led meaningful lives but now lie unused, unloved and unwanted.”

You can adopt your own word, just like I did: mine is “egrote”. It reminded me of another word I favor: egregious. Egrote means to feign an illness in order to avoid work. Not that I plan to, mind you, but it’s nice to know a new way to say it if I think someone else is! That is, if I can figure out how to use egrote in a sentence. Egregious, by the way, means glaring…in a bad way. I can use that in a sentence any day. But I’d better stop adding sentences to this blog entry before it becomes egregiously long. See how fun that is? I’d love to know some of your favorite words too. Ones you feel need protecting, by sharing….

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