January 4, 2010

Those Adulterous Words

Your word of the day: disintermediation (from George Walkley’s blog Life as a Beta Geek), as in “Authors with their own successful platforms will start to behave like publishers, including the possibility of disintermediation.” Has the ring of “disestablishmentarianism.”

I love coming across new uses for or variations of old words. It feels Shakespearean. And the way words can mean the same thing (denotation) yet hold the opposite weight (connotation). For example, the archaeologists I used to edit would write about the layers of sediment “harboring” cultural remains. They could have said that the sediment “contains” cultural remains, which carries no negative connotation, but the resentment of having to stop everything to dig the dang things up comes through with the word “harboring.” It was more about their reaction then the physical reality.

The only audio recording of Virginia Woolf I’ve come across (“A Eulogy to Words”) celebrates this slipperiness of words ~ in VW’s wonderfully stately but subversive way: “English words are full of echoes, memories, associations. … They’ve contracted so many famous marriages in the past. …Words are the wildest, freest, most irresponsible, most unteachable of all things. … Words don’t live in dictionaries. They live in the mind. … How do they live in the mind? Variously and strangely, much as human beings live. Ranging hither and thither, falling in love, mating together. Tis true they are much less bound by ceremony and convention than we are. Royal words mate with commoners. English words marry French words, German words, Indian words, negro words, if they have a fancy. Indeed, the less we inquire into the past of our dear mother English, the better it will be for that lady’s reputation. Because she has gone a’roving, a’roving, fair maid.”

What I’m Reading Today: My good friend April Heaney’s story “Homebound” in the latest Prick of the Spindle. The story tracks the thoughts and emotions of a woman after she dies. I love it. A remarkable exercise in empathy and imagination and craft, April! And I also want to give a shout out to Prick of the Spindle and the wonderful work Cynthia Reeser and her staff are showcasing (whether or not that category includes the story of mine that they generously published).

And, oh, PS A story of mine "Control Erosion" (pdf) went up today at the SNReview! So exciting. Thanks, Joseph Conlin and all!

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