Weekend Do: Words Edition

August 19, 2011 § 3 Comments

The author Thomas Mann once wrote, “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” Yeah, I hear you, Thomas. If words were dishes, the wall would receive a lot of them. And on such days, I need to step back and remind myself why I like working with words in the first place–how they change, where they come from, how we play with them, and why we relate to them. So today, in celebration of words, consider these activities:

1. Do use culturally appropriate words to show your gratitude and hospitality. When linguist Deborah Fallows lived in China, she learned that among friends, the Chinese strip away words which Americans find polite. For the Chinese, using words like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ actually create formality, a distance that is easily offensive among those you consider good friends.

Listen to her NPR interview on speaking and dreaming in Chinese here (about 8 min).

2. Do create your own alphabet. For the 100th anniversary of Mitchell Library in New South Wales, Australia, librarians created an entire alphabet compiled of images of books, maps, photographs, paintings and other objects in the library’s collection. Letter A is created from a 15th century ivory book cover, a painting of a church, and a drum from the Tonga.

3. Do consider your word choice. In the short film below, the message and the medium are the same, but the words make all the difference.

4. Do read good words–at any time and any place. Steve McCurry (best known for“Afghan Girl”) photographed readers of all ages and ethnicities and of both rich and poor who were enjoying a good book. He writes, “People read while they do just about everything else.”

(photo by Steve McCurry via his blog)

See more photos here and here.

5. Do sneak words into unexpected places. The Argentine artist and “poetry bomber” Agustina Woodgate sews short poems into thrift store clothes in Miami, Florida, “so that poems can be in every day life.”

6. Do share your favorite words in the comments below. Recently, I’ve been intrigued by OK after reading of its mangled history (and its “entire philosophy in two letters” – Allan Metcalf).

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§ 3 Responses to Weekend Do: Words Edition

  • Laura Mettler says:

    runic \ROO-nik\, adjective:
    1. Having some secret or mysterious meaning.
    2. Consisting of or set down in runes.
    3. Referring to an interlaced form seen on ancient monuments, metalwork, etc., of the northern European peoples.

    And he dances, and he yells; keeping time, time, time, in a sort of runic rhyme. — Edgar Allan Poe, The Bells

    Today’s dictionary.com word of the day, brought to my attention by my sister. The moon letters in The Hobbit are definitely runic.

  • Adriel says:

    I enjoyed the video clip with the blind man. It make me think about how to be more encouraging as I help people, and the difference that phrasing can make. Thanks for sharing!

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