A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Only Words

It's only words, and words are all I have... BEE GEES

A game I play during walking's boring bits (and there are boring bits, though guide books and walking memoirs never seem to mention them!) is 'My Top 10' - compiling a list of 10 top favourites in a particular category. I'm sure others do the same. I did it when on my 2nd Camino walk last year here ('10 Things I Miss About England') and here ('10 Things I Don't Miss About England') and here ('10 Influential Walking Books'). And I had some fun in Scotland recently considering '10 Top Uses Of The Trekking Pole' with another walker I met (odd to meet someone else with such a strangely perverse mind as my own.)

Lying in my tent a few weeks ago, listening to the wind and rain harry the remote Applecross peninsula where I'd camped the night, I idly compiled a list of 'Top 10 Favourite Words'. (I did it as quickly and spontaneously as possible. I thought that too much premeditation would ruin the game by making it too 'intellectual' - you'd never choose even the 1st one if you thought about the whys and wherefores too deeply.)

This was my list:

1 Harvest 2 Moon 3 Summer 4 Autumn 5 September 6 Lovely 7 Nice 8 Camino 9 Redolent 10 Pomegranate

Of course this is only a game, and a bit of fun - tomorrow's list would be completely different from today's. And a list compiled the day after tomorrow different again. However, I think it's interesting that my initial, careless list features on the whole fairly simple words, not very polysyllabic - and contains 3 adjectives and 7 nouns. (Quick thought on nouns and adjectives: nouns are indisputably there - concrete, correct, defined; adjectives are frilly, slippery, quicksilver creatures, always begging to be improved, threatening to be discarded, afraid of drowning the reader in a flowery glut.)

Of course I'm aware that words tend to lose much of their meaning and resonance in isolation. They shine and make more sophisticated sense in the context where they're used - that is, related to each other in a cohesive sentence, paragraph or verse.

Some words surely have a more mellifluous (now, there's a nice word!) sound than others. But does 'mellifluous' sound 'mellifluous' because we know the meaning of 'mellifluous'? What if 'mellifluous' meant 'rancid' or 'jealous' or 'carbuncular'? Can words ever be divorced from their meaning? Yet certain words do have a poetry and a potency just standing on their own, unsupported by the structure of syntax, and valued for individual sound and symbol - as in some chants, runes, charms and spells. Hasn't the Buddhist 'Om' got a resonance and a meaning which is, well, almost beyond words?

Lots of thoughts and questions since my original, simple list of 10! Perhaps all words are 'beautiful' if used correctly, imaginatively, sensitively and thoughtfully. Perhaps it's how we use language as a whole - in synthesis - that matters most, rather than these poor, lonely, isolated words.

What's your list of 'Top 10 Words' today? (No reflecting, please... just scribble them out..!)


Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

splendor, fluid, lily, savour, willow, welcome, kiss, bless, yellow, yes

gleaner said...

purple, blue, superfluous, soulful,connected, absurd, preposterous, outrageous, flowing, kindred

Oh dear, is that 9 adjectives, what does that mean??? :)

I know, I'm not to analysis, so I'll just type my word verification (wormens) and presss the publish button!

gleaner said...

can add one more favourite for this morning...bombastic...

oh, and another adjective :)

am said...

ocean, redwoods, sunrise, play, clarify, grace, wonder, awe, dream,

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Chocolate, gurgle, asparagus, neccentric, silvery, moon, wiggly, stillness, splodge, trellis.

I hope you're not doing psycholanalysis of us all here!

I think 'chocolate' would be on my list every time. This is because of what it means - my favourite treat! I like the word 'moon' because I like the moon, and 'stillness' conjures up landscapes in the moonlight.

I think the other words are favourites because they just sound so gorgeous!

Old Winter said...

curly, lost, ending, cool, forgotten, ibex, never, reality, method, insanity

The Weaver of Grass said...

honeysuckle; moonlight; wonderful;
camomile; darling; beautiful;
mellifluous; soothing; bellflower; mountain - these spontaneously and off the cuff Robert - interesting exercise. When I have spare time I do similar things while walking along - mostly a river beginning with each letter of the alphabet, or a flower, or a capital city. We must have similar minds - I am unable to think of nothing at all!

Rachel Fox said...

Oh heck...I just don't have favourite words! I like all of them...in some way or another.
Sorry - did think about it. Just couldn't do it.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Lambent, sojourner, October, epiphany, crepuscular, murmur, luminosity, burgoo, burble, soughing.

(I'm obviously a bit caught up in lighting. The words "burble" and "soughing" have to be connected to, respectively, brooks or creeks or rills—another word I love!—and wind, preferably through pines. I might also have tossed in "soliloquy" if I'd have have a bit more space, as I like the way it rolls off the tongue.)

By the way, I checked out your list of walking books (okay, books on walking) and wondered if you'd ever read any Colin Fletcher? Two of his best are "The Thousand Mile Summer" (walking the length of California) and "The Man Who Walked Through Time" (about his hike through the Grand Canyon and being the first man ever to do so in a single continuous journey. Fletcher is a thinking walker's writer, and his books are way more than simply the recounting of a trip.)

Alan Sloman said...

cutilage, velvet, emerald, love, imagine, fenestration, googly, yardage, transom, dextrous.

A great game. Ever played the 'Drippy Hat' Game? That's good for miles in the pouring rain too.

Val said...


jay said...

Ah .. favourite words!

Deliquescent, walnut, chocolate, snuffle, dog, obsession, fragrant, obsolete, murmuration, soppy.

Deliquescent is always at the top of the list. I don't know why, but it's always been my favourite. The others came out of thin air.

The Solitary Walker said...

No, it wasn't a psychoanalytical exercise, Raph - just a bit of fun... This said, however, these 'spontaneous' lists of 10 do, I think, represent uncannily accurately the personalities (or rather 'blog personalities') of the respondees...

Thanks, everyone - I did enjoy rolling these words around my tongue. There were lots of lovely, sensuous-sounding words (not surprising, coming from such a sensitive, arty bunch!) and some joyous silly-sounding words (Raph, again - did you know Bob Dylan once wrote a song called 'Wiggle Wiggle'?)

Rachel amkes an interesting remark when she says she doesn't really have 'favourite' words but likes 'all of them...in some way or another'. I was kind of meaning the same thing myself when I said in my post that perhaps all words are beautiful if used imaginatively, thoughtfully, sympathetically, accurately and in proper context.

I just can't single out any one list - all the words in all the lists are just fabulous. But I must say that Bonnie's has a flow and a rhythm and a connection that gives her list a 'short poem' feel.

Thanks again - more lists welcome if anyone's so inclined!