No, my passion for language hasn’t diminished so much as it’s sort of taken on a different vibe. When I was growing up I remember how listening to my dad Spanish mesmerized me. It was like he was performing magic right in front of me – some sort of verbal thaumaturge that made my world shift. The people he was speaking with would listen and understand. Then, obeying the order of the spell that had been cast, make motion to carry out whatever it was that they were ensorcelled to do.
I mean, you talk about magic…Ho-ly Crap!
It was somewhere in there that I had made a tacit vow to myself to learn this esoterica, this oral sorcery and make the world mine!
…or something like that.
I just wanted to know how it was done. What did he do!? I had so many questions. I found myself more and more tantalized by the aesthetics, subtle beauty, the ebb and flow and omnipresent charm of language. Over the years I have gained more of an appreciation for it. I find now that it’s much more than the witchery I had first observed. Language, to me, has become a well-spring of communication within which is seen all that makes up humanity. There is the rich beauty of the ebb and flow of a given tongue’s eloquence. Yet, this seems to happily coexist with its antithesis, the coarse and crude cacophony of mouth full of verbal vomit, explicatives and insults. There is calligraphy and poetry – both demonstrable examples of the language’s greatest attempt to touch God – the highest spiritual place within us. This is mirrored with the “chicken scratch” of doctor’s notes and illegible laundry lists. It’s all there.
I remember there being a time when I had surely known what the “right” way was in any given language, which had been falsely created from a concept in my mind of how I thought the linguistic world should be. I knew all of the right ways to say things with regard to language, the ways to do things with grammar and the proper way to punctuate any given piece of prose. I knew that the word was DES-picable, not des-PIC-able, EX-quisite, not ex-QUIS-it and that there certainly was no such thing as laying down (unless you were putting duck feathers on the ground or somewhere below you).
I used to be upset that there was no body of government or high authority that oversaw the regulation of English words and which kinds of words were allowed into the language. There has to be some sort of grace period, I thought, words can’t just be part of the language because they’re in a song or because some linguistically uneducated politician says it once in a speech! Yes, the self-appointed guardian of the English language. What airs to put on!
It was right because I looked it up, dammit, and I know what I’m talking about. Incredible.
I have realized much since then, and certainly by no means is my education over. Language, as I see it now anyway, is an ever evolving being. It has been and it continues to be so. It has been changing for far longer than I have been on this planet and, I heavily presume, will continue to do so long after I am gone. All this business about being right is a foolish venture, actually. It’s just one of those games that the ego wants us to play, but we always end up losing because we can never really win. If we’re wrong, we get upset that we weren’t right and try harder to prove we’re right, which goes on endlessly. If we are right, we keep looking for more opportunities to be right some more.
I know now that language is just another one of those glorious pieces to behold in this labyrinth of existence. The opinions that others have of it are of no value what it is and the course that it will take. I am simply here along for the ride, a participating observer. Whether I think a word should or should not be a part of the language means nothing to living being of language. It’s like saying, “The sky shouldn’t produce so many clouds that look like jelly beans.”
All I know is that it’s there and it’s gorgeous. A fascinating invisible being, language runs through us and around us in its own creative dance every minute of every day. It’s a whimsical and jolly being that loves all of us. No matter how we see it, use it or present it, it’s as simple and as complex as we want it to be. It’s our tool to understanding all there is to understand of our world, our lives and ourselves. I see it as one of the multifarious manifestations of human genius.
There just aren’t words enough; the ineffable nature of it all blankets me with a delightful awe and I’m so happy that I’ve fallen under its spell.