21 June, 2011

Confessions of a Word Nerd

I was born this way. Not an hour out of the womb, my parents told me, I babbled and burbled a proto-linguistic stream — there was no crying, just that innocent, excited exploration of verbosity. After months in utero and mute, I was too thrilled about the feel of random phonemes on my lips to get upset about my new, weirdly spacious accommodations.

The first German word I learned from my Würzburg-born mother was Hubschrauber — helicopter. Flattening my three-year-old tongue and curling my mouth to get those three munchy syllables out pleased me to no end. Letting the word fly from me felt like an accomplishment, so I repeated it over and over. The meaning was secondary to the sensory experience of forming it.

Today, of course, I write. And as any writer will, I hold dear a select few words. Because I like to think I'm grown up, usually it's because of their mere usefulness. (I am forever impressed with the myriad applications that exist in life for apropos and utter, and will be the first to acknowledge my own overuse thereof.) Then, though, there is that other class of words — the one which I am less beholden than infatuated by. Like comely mannequins in a window display, who catch your eye without even being alive, these words' aesthetic perfection, effervescence on my palate, or the flawless singing in my sensitive ear draws me in. I'd buy whatever they were selling.

Except these words, like mannequins, are incapable of loving me back. I can't enjoy a night on the town with the lovely aubergene — where in this country might I take her that would be sufficiently upscale? I cannot broach meaningful conversation with crepuscular, whose chilly affect stills almost any dinner table, gorgeous though she is. It's almost impossible to sit in repose with nepenthes on the sofa; certain relationships just feel forced. And although I fooled around with handsome vermilion in my teens, the attraction being undeniable as it was socially unacceptable, that's now little more than a fondly remembered stage, almost quaint, like my puppy love, Hubschrauber.

I keep my exotic unrequited loves in mind; I fantasize about them while I'm spending time with plainer prose. Sometimes I stray — an errant poetic affair here and there — and luxuriate in sibilant bliss with, say, adscititious. I mean, I'm only human and need a thrill now and again. Too bad I've got to sneak around to do it — that's all I'm saying. My beauties deserve better than to be treated like fetish objects, hidden away. Maybe I'll live to see a day when, instead of just talking about my complex feelings for melisma and metonymy, I can actually bring them to social gatherings without attracting all that jealous condemnation. A guy can dream, can't he?

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