How To's

Love of Words

Love of Words

Get Your Vocal Groove On

I have a love of words and come from a word-lovin’ family. Jokes were pun-based, semantics quibbled and the dictionary at hand to clarify and demystify. Those who regularly read my articles will notice I can’t resist the allure of alliteration or a light rhyme. It’s not intentional, my brain, trained early, sits happily in the vocal groove of rhythm and pattern.

No One Ever Died From Too Big A Vocabulary

What about those not born into logolepsy? (“obsession with words”) My dad would studiously correct my English and say, “Geraldine, it’s… get out the way, not get out of the road!” I still think of this as petty pedantry, ludicrous logomarchy (“argument over words”). I would find refuge in persiflage, (“light banter”), happily batting the verbal ball back and forth until all was smooth once again.

So often language reflects our personal and cultural beliefs and the geography we just happen to be born into. Is there really right and wrong with words? Besides my dad, who makes up these rules anyway? Language changes like fashion and political correctness with every nano generation.

Dyslexia & Somatic Public Speaking

My husband has mild dyslexia, (“difficulty with spelling and reading words”). His brain is wired differently and he’s brilliant at thinking creatively left of field. In order to spell a word correctly, he needs to remember how it exactly looks to write it. My rabbiting on about how ancient grammatical rules and linguistic sounds provide spelling clues, mean absolutely nothing to him.

Consequently, I now pay more attention to clients with dyslexia and other perceptual and cognitive differences and use a more creative, less written word focus to public speaking. It makes me realise how written word oriented, in fact, prejudiced we are in western society. The written word is regarded as a cornerstone of education, but whose education?

I’ve switched to working more somatically, using the whole body to communicate message and self-expression through tone, gesture, props, purpose and activating the senses.  It’s much more visceral, cutting through the blah, blah, blah. Our brain processes movement and tone before it gets around to interpreting language. There is a time lag.

Why wouldn’t you tap into communicating every way you can and use the written word as practical backup and reinforcement? As a lover of words, I am not diminishing their beauty, merely pointing out that communication is so much more than words and the written aspect, is just one form. Many of my clients worry that their inability to write at Pulitzer Prize level means they will fail when speaking in public. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Just Make It Up!

I reckon lethologica, “when you can’t think of the word for something” primarily shows up when:

  1. You are having a menopausal moment;
  2. Your brain is over processing or you’ve wound down to catatonic;
  3. You are part of the trend to just make something up, to stray from the truth, embroider, embellish or even lie to cover up that which you just don’t know or care about. To make real, fake.

And To Make Fake, Real

The belief that it’s ok to just make something up and get away with it on a grandiose scale relates to one of my favourite words: mephobobia, (“the fear of becoming so awesome the human race just can’t handle it and everyone dies.”) Imagine the audacity to fuel that much power and influence.

My other favourite crazy word is shoedipity, (“The act of wearing incredibly uncomfortable shoes because they look fabulous.”) Love a bit of silliness and yet truth is reflected here. Who hasn’t worn something just because they thought they looked great… until they saw a photo 10 years later?  With both mephobobia and shoedipity I think of the fall of the Roman Empire, luxuriously imploding from self-indulgence. A case of Maximus Supercillius perhaps?

By the way, fusing parts of words together is called blending or portmanteau. Examples include hangry (“hungry and angry”) and spoodle (“spaniel and poodle”). Compounding, (“the combining of two entire words”) include the self-explanatory “website” and “housemate.”

“No, We’ve Never Met Before…”

Oops! I say this often at introductions as I remember voices before faces. Squinting at someone across the street or over a handshake, my memory revives once I hear their dulcet tones. Naturally, I tartle often, (“to hesitate while introducing someone, because you have forgotten their name”).

Of course this misadventure may lead to joyous snarfling, (“laughing so hard you snort, then laugh because you snorted, then snort because you laughed!”) My husband says I am a snarfler. Luckily it is a delightfully infectious state. Or at least to other snarflers. Maybe someone should set up a Snarfling Appreciation Society? And perhaps a sub-group for those who simultaneously lose bladder control?

Fear of Long Words

I nominate snarfling as a cure for people suffering from hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia or, (“fear of long words”). I confess I cut and pasted this word rather than type it out and suffer a misspell. I wonder if it also manifests in the dumbing down of language and ideas, simplifying everything to the lowest common denominator. “Jack jumps over a log”, “I am the best in the world!”, “You are so stupid I will make this easy for you.” Twitter twitter tweet tweet.

Flavours For The Ears!

I work over the phone and skype often without being able to see my client and read their facial micro expressions. I just hear their voice. Some of the most powerful sessions I’ve experienced come because there is no visual distraction. Just listening to the voice allows me to focus oh so clearly on my client’s tone, word choice, language pattern, the space between words, speed and pace, what is said and what is unsaid. So much feeling is conveyed through tone alone. It’s like flavours for the ears!

Mirror To Our Souls

How could you not feel a love of words when they reflect so much of ourselves? Words are like a mirror to our souls, not always pretty, but honest. I think we have far too much shoedipity and mephobobia going on. And not enough snarfling or greng-jai, a beautiful Thai word for which we have no equivalent in English. It means, “being aware of other people’s feelings with the reluctance to impose upon them.”

Stay tune for a later article extolling the beauty of my favourite non-English words and their delightful meanings. Words have the power to leap across time, culture and emotion to break us and to bring us together.

©2020 Geraldine Barkworth, Australian Public Speaking Coach. The views in this article are the authors’ own. You may reproduce my article if kept in its entirety.