THE VIEW FROM MIDDLE SPUNK CREEK
They come to me in my sleep. They deluge my brain when I’m reading a book. They (sometimes) tie up my tongue while I search for the right one.
As a writer, of course, they are my bread and butter. I continually search for the right one to impart a vision, an emotion, a phrase. The wrong word can leave a sentence, or a scene, flat and listless. The right word can light it up, paint a vivid picture in the imagination of the reader, make a line memorable forever.
James Joyce wrote: “He was unheeded, happy and near to the wild heart of life.”
He could have written: He was ignored, happy and near to the wild heart of life, OR
He was unheeded, contented and near to the wild heart of life, OR
He was unheeded, happy and near to the untamed heart of life.
In each case, the change of a single word gives a different nuance to the sentence; changes the image in the mind of the reader.
So, we struggle over words, looking for the perfect one to convey the exact feeling or image we wish to impart.
The perfect word doesn’t have to be long, elaborate or evocative. I was reminded of that in an email from an old friend this week. I’m unsure of the ultimate source for the following. I can only give credit to RVV for sending it to me:
This two-letter word in English has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that word is ‘UP.’ It is listed in the dictionary as an [adv.], [prep.], [adj.], [n] or [v].
It’s easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP?
At a meeting, why does a topic comeUP? Why do we speak UP, and why are the officers UP for election and why is itUP to the secretary to write UP a report? We call UP our friends, brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver, warm UP the leftovers and cleanUP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and fix UP the old car.
At other times, this little word has real special meaning. People stirUPtrouble, line UP for tickets, work UPan appetite, and think UP excuses.
To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is special.
And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.
We open UP a store in the morning, but we close it UPat night. We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP!
To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look UP the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4 of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions.
If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UPis used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don’t give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.
When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP. When the sun comes out, we say it is clearing UP. When it rains, the earth soaks it UP. When it does not rain for awhile, things dry UP. One could go on and on, but I’ll wrap it UP, for now . . . my time is UP!
Oh . . . one more thing: What is the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night? U P !
Did that one crack you UP?
Don’t screw UP. Send this on to everyone you look UP in your address book . . . Or not . . . it’s UP to you.
Now I’ll shut UP!
Check back weekly for Rob’s musings from Middle Spunk Creek.