Saturday, 29 March 2014

Confessions of a logophile

Yesterday someone said to me, “I like it when you come in for your appointments. I always learn a new word.” That felt better than someone telling me I look AH-MAY-Zing (which isn’t a regular occurrence and therefore may not be a valid comparison, but still…)

It’s not that I set out to teach anyone new words. In fact, I'm usually the one learning them. It’s a natural consequence of reading. As an early reader, my fascination with words was immediate. At my first university (University of Melbourne, leafy trees, lush lawns, sandstone, and that horrible Redmond Barry building) I became engrossed in linguistics. 

Words and language have always captivated me. The home I grew up was multilingual (English, Italian, Croatian – Dad has a smattering of Spanish and German) and there was an emphasis on reading. My mother was the one who stacked our bookshelves with encyclopaedias and, in 1959 as gift for my father, purchased a Webster’s Dictionary, through which he perfected his English; enough to found an inaugural interpreters’ association and regular work in the Supreme Court. He still has that dictionary. The cover imprint is faded and the pages well-worn. For me, it’s the best book on his bookshelf.

Recently, I've been reading more academic literature. It feels like I have to stop every few minutes to look up something new. I love it! I'm drawn to documentaries on the English language. (Try the DVD series The Adventures of English for a short entertaining look at its origins and history). I admit I can grate on people’s nerves but I'm not giving up my passion. There is something deeply existential about finding exactly the right words for what we need to say to one another, in the right way. That’s why I like the succinctness of Twitter as much as I love the hardcover printed tomes on my bookshelf.

Those around me are regularly driven crazy by my discovery of a new word that sends me to the dictionary, scouring for meaning and origins. I have a word blog, not a food blog, because words are more delicious to me. I like to mix them, roll the syllables and sounds around my mouth, test them out loud, listen to the cadence, bake them into sentences. It’s almost word porn.

I'm an unashamed, logophile, a verbivore, a verbomaniac even. Interestingly, when I ran the spell check on this piece, Microsoft Word edited ‘logophile’ to ‘loophole’.

Funny that. When you love words, there isn’t one. 


Friday, 21 March 2014

Projects, pens and passwords

Excitement and apprehension. I can’t tell the difference between them when I embark on a new learning project. I'm curious, nervous, overwhelmed, underwhelmed, speedy and immobilised; somehow all at the same time. Then the doubt creeps in. Stomps in actually, and makes its presence known.

With all that going on, I'm never sure how I manage to start moving in the right direction. Usually I organise myself by getting a hold of new notebooks (with blank pages full of as yet unwritten possibilities) and making lots of notes about the project. I confess to still being a paper and pen person; more often it’s a fountain pen. It makes me somewhat archaic I know. 

Last time I did any formal academic study, there was no such thing as the Internet, or eBooks. It’s a different world to explore and navigate. It means that I'm not only focussed on topics, but on the mechanics of finding information in multiple ways. At least I'm willing to have a go at the new forms of digital technology, and while I'm daunted at one level, I love the opportunity to feed my curiosity. My late mother, who was denied access to formal education as a child, had managed to maintain fierce curiosity for the world throughout her life and by personal application, became literate in three languages. Her sense of awe and inquisitiveness for everything around her is a legacy I adopted with ease. I'm sure it will serve me well. What’s really bothering me is the myriad passwords that I need to remember for multiple online access.

I guess I’ll have to write all of them down on paper with my faithful fountain pen.