Monthly Archives: June 2012

Loquaciousness – My Love of Words

I haven’t written in a while. This was because I had finished my first year of University and for a good few weeks now I’ve felt like I ought to talk about what my first year at Uni was like but, in all honesty, I feel I’ve said all I need to say on the University front for now at least. I like privacy and I like freedom. What else is there? 

But I was inspired to write about tonight’s topic when I was thinking the other day about my father. I love my father dearly but we’re so alike we repel. Like magnets, as it were. One time we had an argument, an incredibly fierce argument, that ended when we realised we’d been arguing the same side. One of the big differences between me and my dad, though, is our language. My dad is of the mindset that you should use one word in place of three if you can help it, and one syllable in place of many as well. He often mocks me, in jest, for my habit of using big or exotic words or my technical vocabulary. I in turn ridicule him for his inability to communicate clearly when he isn’t giving the conversation his undivided attention. 

But I was thinking about it and I was wondering to myself why I liked using so many words. If I can help it I’ll use a complicated grammatical conjunction in place of two separate sentences and I’ll use plenty of words where one might do – particularly when I’m angry or distressed. When I get angry I get ridiculously formal and will start talking in a mild form of legalese. I came to the conclusion, pondering over my habits, that I use words because I love words. My dad loves numbers – he’s a hobbyist astronomer, a physicist and a graduate engineer. He likes engines and science and technology. I like all those things as well but I don’t understand them nearly as well. I count with my fingers occasionally, for heaven’s sake. 

No – the difference between me and dad is that I like words. I love ’em. I love how they can provoke emotion, how they can form song and sonnet and serenade, how they can inspire great deeds or horrible crimes, how they can frame, portray and shape the mind. Words are our most important faculty – without out highly advanced communication we would be indistinguishable from the other apes. But I also love the sound of words – the phonemes and consonants and vowels. I like how some words form in the mouth and how some play on the ear. I also like discovering the little idiosyncrasies in our speech that defy the actual written, ‘correct’ language we’re all supposed to abide by. I love how around my area we don’t say “I’m going to the shops” but rather “I’m goin’ tuther shops”, how Scotsmen form their ‘Os’, how me and my brother have adopted my father’s strange, Dundonian habit of pronouncing “Stupid” as “Shchoopid“, how my Irish friend says “Alligator” and, perhaps most delightful of all, how Americans pronounce “Little Italy” as “Liddle-liddly”

I have some words I hate to pronounce – words like “Hospitable” and that awful curseword “c*nt”. I am one of those people who don’t like to swear all that much. The intent is very much there but I don’t like saying the words out loud. I think this is because I don’t like the harsh noise of the words – f*ck, c*nt and tw*t. They’re all so unpleasant. I use ‘lesser’ cursewords like ‘bugger’ and ‘damn’ because I much prefer the sound of them – they’re pleasing and amusing to shout out. 

I think this is part of why I love foreign languages and, particularly, Russian. I adore Russian phonology – the Shushes and Zhushes and rolled Rs – and it’s why I love the sound of Russian singing and, thereby, Russian language. Their word for ‘baby’ or ‘toddler’ is малышка – “Malishka”. How lovely and soothing a word. The Hindi word for ‘smiles’ is मुस्कुराहटों – Muskuraahaton. How pleasing a tune – how it bounces along: MUSkooRAhaTON. French has “cœur” meaning ‘heart’ and Spanish has that delightful habit of its older generations pronouncing “España” as “Eshpaña”. Welsh have the soft whistle of “collasant” meaning ‘they lost’ as in the glorious “My Hen Wlad Fy”, the awesome and beautiful national anthem of the Welsh-speaking peoples.

Words and sounds are literal music to my ears. Oftentimes I will rewrite entire sentences to allow for a kind of rhythm to bounce along the words or to allow for a sort of flow in the phonemes. I would not be surprised to discover I have some strange deficiency of the mind which causes me to live my entire life in a sort of obscure poetic meter. I’m a big fan of rap when it allows for words to string together in combinations that had never occurred to me. It’s like how a painting combines colours to make something amazing you’d never seen or thought of before. Rap, poetry, literature and indeed the spoken word itself all allow for the coming together of sounds and ideas into a piece of music. I love words.

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The Screaming Woods – Random Adventures

I haven’t written in a while. I could put it down to having just had two exams and a long period of begrudging revision but the fact is that I spent just as much time goofing off online in my revision as I did in my regular studies so there’s nought but laziness to attribute to the gap between then and now.

This is particularly inexcusable because I’ve had a fair few fun little adventures between then and now. Particularly impressive in its scope and origin is the fated journey to the Screaming Woods – the most haunted place in all of England.

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Sometime in late May my good friend Andy contacted me and suggested we get some lunch. We consider all the options avaliable to us and, after a period of wandering around and finding none of the University food-joints open we opted to contact our good friend Robbie and embark on a short journey to Whitstable, a nearby costal town, to have some fish and chips by the beach. This was the beginnings of a quest for lunch that would end with us driving home in the dark at three in the morning singing cheesy pop songs.

For you see en-route to our little seaside town we passed a mediocre carvery. We begin discussing the idea of having a carvery and suddenly Andy and Robbie are overcome with a desire to eat a roast dinner. We drive around Whitstable for over half an hour looking for some phantom carvery Robbie was sure he’d seen to no avail. We then get lost for ten minutes and end up on a large road heading back into Canterbury. Back at the University of Kent, still hungry and now verging on Six O’Clock – the time at which eating transmutes from lunch to dinner – we call on our friend Jamie to join us in driving down to a local carvery.

At the carvery we encounter a very strange man serving as the meat-carver. Presented with three meats – Gammon, Steak and what appears to be Chicken or perhaps Turkey – me and Andy both request the Turkey. “It’s Chicken!” he grunts. We ask for Chicken. “Turkey!” he gruffly mutters, handing us the suspicious meat. I still don’t know what it was that I ate but I wouldn’t be suprised to find its carver has a restraining order or something. In any case we finish our meals and enjoy each others company. Surely this is the end of our quest for dinner?

But for some reason Jamie drives us home a different route – taking us round the back of the University through some fields. We all suddenly have the brilliant idea of going on an adventure and finding something cool. We drive for quarter of an hour down the road and end in some peculiar car park in the middle of a woods. There I battle with my phone’s 3G in a bid to find the location of the legendary Dering Woods – reported by Robbie to be in the town of Pluckley and one of the most haunted grounds in all of Great Britain. Whilst in that cark park we see a curious white van left open and seemingly abandoned in a manner not unlike a horror film about abduction. Perhaps it was the van of our disturbingly disturbed carvery-chef.

Having found Pluckley on the map we drive through winding country lanes for hours as the clock ticks onto eight and then nine but the sun refuses to set. We find the town of Pluckley and discover it has a bizarre smell. We look around for a few minutes and finally find the fated Dering “Screaming” Woods. The most haunted woods in all of England. Andy and Robbie are wearing flip-flops. What could possibly go wrong.

We walked around that wood, impossibly lost, for many hours. But time passed strangely in those eldritch  forests. For it was only on our panicked return to the car (panicked because we were lost, not panicked because we were being chased by the unliving damned) that the sky finally darkened to what could be considered ‘night’. We were in a literal Twilight Zone – where the passage of time seemed unconcerned with the passing of the sun overhead. Me and Jamie, shod in appropriate footwear, made a detour through a thorny bramble. When Andy and Robbie followed they did so only after we had given up our socks to better protect their feet. Andy spent the rest of the journey complaining about my smelly socks. It wasn’t particularly the kind of dialogue found in a horror film. Nevertheless Robbie was adamant he saw a face in a small cabin adjacent a railway line. Tramp or ghost? Who knows.

The biggest scare of the night – other than the vague anxieties about getting lost or running out of petrol on the way home – came in the form of a pothole. Whilst that makes it sound like the journey was not particularly scary I must express in the clearest terms just how terrifying a pothole it was. It was so large I thought we had driven partially off a cliff-edge or something. The car screamed and the road roared when we passed through it. Andy screamed. It may have been Andy…it could have been Robbie.

What had started out as an earnest search for lunch transformed into a full English roast and a ghost-hunt miles away from home. If that’s not an adventure then I don’t know what is.

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