By Bob Groeneveld
How did the word “word” happen? From what nook or cranny of some long-forgotten brain did it spring?
How did someone stumble upon the idea that a word should be identified as a word by using the word “word”.
Words like bang and boom make perfect sense. They convey the sounds of what they mean.
In fact, there’s even a word for that: onomatopoeia. (Which of course leaves you wondering – at least if you wonder the way I wonder – how onomatopoeia could possibly have come to be the word that means onomatopoeia.)
After all, not all words sound like “word”.
Indeed, very few words sound anything at all like “word”. Check out this sentence – the only words here that sound like “word” are the words that are “word”.
Clearly, an Angle or maybe a Saxon must have been floating around inside his head when he thought words should be words.
But it definitely was not a Frenchman – a denizen of the other language from which English was eventually concocted – who came up with “word”. He must have been floating in a different part of his head, because the French word for “word” is “mot” – which is actually just as arbitrary, and indeed equally silly to the English word for “word”.
But don’t quote me on that word for “word”.
I’m sure that it will come as no surprise to you that I was smoking something that it is now legal to smoke the first time I ever wondered about the absurd sound of the word (aha! Absurd as it sounds, absurd at least sounds a bit like “word”… but I digress) that describes all of the rich and wonderful sounding words that make up our language,.
What may surprise you, however, is that I haven’t smoked any in years – not since many years before it became legal.
What surprises me, is that I have remained intermittently fixated on “word” long since the one time that that substance optimized my consciousness to the point where I felt it necessary to explore the sound, the abstract meaning, the gut feeling of that particular word as the base of all words.
I sometimes catch myself mouthing the word, rolling it around in my head, delving into the way it feels there, checking it out from every angle (but never from any Saxon )… and I tell myself to cut it out, or to quit it, or to halt, or to be done with it, or to… and then discover that I’ve transferred my obsession from “word” to the words I use to try to stop it… it? Where does “it” come from? And why does it come “from” anywhere? “Where”…
All I have to do is start with a simple “word,” and all too often, I have no idea where it will lead me.
And thus, it appears, the word has become my life.