Justifying my obsession with words; introducing the "theatrical gesture" concept of word-smithing
by phil on Saturday Aug 19, 2006 2:55 PM
I guess I'm a logophile. There I said it. A logophile is a lover of words. Certain words develop this amaranthine quality due to their mixture of rareness, intrinsic aesthetic properties (connotative), and their precision or imprecision at describing something (denotative). I used to track certain words and word-admixtures that would be recurring in my head for weeks at a time:
These words often don't stand by themselves as interesting, but become interesting in a novel context. For example, I used to love—love—using the word negotiate as a way to describe the process of going through traffic. "How am I going to negotiate this traffic on I-35?" Somehow using negotiate better expressed my internal tactile sentiment of ... negotiating through traffic.
I would get attached to these words with hypnotic repetition. For example, "negotiating traffic" would be in my head like a catchy jingle that I couldn't get rid of.
In High School and Middle School, my friends and I would get locked onto a magic silly word(s) that we would blurt to each other in the classroom as a sort of inside joke. If you counted how often we would repeat these silly caricatures of our world around us, you'd think we were insane.
Repeated usage of these magic words doesn't initially make the words grow old. They actually strengthen them. The point of these magic words is to bring focus to a particular angle or opinion. Magic words aren't like regular words in that regular words are more than enough to describe something. Magic words, on the other hand, are a spin on the regular words.
Bill O'Reilly could end his segments saying, "if you have something of worth to say, send us an e-mail." Instead, he says, "if you have something of pith to say." Why "pith?" The usage of "pith" in this context is a magic word because it's not essential for simple communication, but used to create a theatrical gesture.
By a theatrical gesture, I'm describing the image of someone angling their body like a bullfighter with a flag, palm flat and swung from upper left to lower right in the direction of a sash. When you say something with a theatrical gesture, you are angling the words. When you say something without it, you are just transacting the words.
The most pleasing and interesting admixture of words captures a greater essence, a truer narrative, a particular construction of a something that wasn't otherwise evident with unmagical words.
Magic words become an incidental poetry in everyday conversation. And they're not always annoying. It may seem like magic words are the equivalent of just using big words, but even in the ghetto magic words are used. For example, I was watching Planet of the Apes (2001) at a cineplex in San Diego, and in the scene where Mark Wahlberg kisses two ladies within five minutes of each other, a couple of thug-life homies in the row behind me kept blurting out "doubly." They were using an admixture of "bubbly" (as in booze) and "double" (as in two at a time). I got the idea that they were trying to praise sexual relations that involve a man and multiple women. I had never heard "doubly" before, not in any rap songs I've heard, so my guess is that it's just an invented inside-slang that this group of guys just so happen to enjoy gesturing with.
I've also heard that twins will create their own complex insider's language that their parents won't understand. They've personalized language with their own in-group theatrics. And thus, twinning may be a social process by which we use insider speak to make you and me alike.