Category Archives: different kinds of words

The Persistence of Memory…

…No, I am not referring to the mesmerizing painting by Surrealist, Salvador Dalí, seen here. I was actually thinking about the persistence of millions of song lyrics, new and old, residing way down deep in my brain. Recently, my son Aaron and I were driving and blasting classic rock music, as we often do. He remarked that I knew the lyrics to every song we heard. (Have you noticed how classic rock has become the new “elevator music”!?) Later, as I reflected on the conversation with my son, I asked myself, “Why are those lyrics worthy of “deep memory placement” in my mind, in my soul?”

One simple answer seems obvious. We associate music with good feelings or bad, perhaps we even associate certain songs with a time period in our lives, or a particularly romantic relationship. We have all heard a lover claim that some ode was “their” song. Music delivers an emotional punch, so the memories and impressions associated with it become deeply implanted. When I began to assert my musical autonomy, I was a teenager, on drugs, and full of the typical adolescent angst. My mind was very tender, so the lyrical content and subject matter of songs I remember the lyrics to ranges very widely. As it is for many of you, music is the soundtrack of my life. Let’s exchange a playlist and broaden one another’s world. I’ll post a short playlist as a first comment under this post. I’d love to hear what you are currently listening to. 🙂

I recall lyrics as whimsical as those in Steve Miller’s, “Space Cowboy”, in which he claims to, “speak of the pompitous of love”.  😉 Yeah, that’s a good one. I am also moved to remember very romantic lyrics, like those in Nina Simone’s, “Wild is the Wind”, wherein the writers employ the metaphor of love, as wind, lifting the object of love, and flying in a dreamy freedom. In counterpoint, the same wind is later used as a threatening agent, blowing on a tree, trying to dislodge and blow away leaves, who are really lovers, clinging to their love for life itself! Phewww! I am haunted by the terrible, yet compelling, semi-autobiographical lyrics on the entire, double album, “The Wall”, by Pink Floyd. I can’t speculate how many times I have been encouraged to join AC/DC or Van Halen, or any random rock act in, “running with the devil”, on a “highway to hell”, or to some similar degradation. Candidly, I have to admit I still enjoy some of that devil music! Snoop dee ooh double-gee, Ice Cube, and Dr Dre, aren’t even waiting for Hell…theyr’e already aware that, “Pimpin’ Aint Easy”. 🙂 (although any one of them can currently be found pimpin’ for anything from bubble gum to Disney to personal computers! Ha!) Conversely, I have been inspired to, “Sing Your Praise to the Lord!”, who is an, “Awsome God”, by the late-great-though-he-would-be-small, Rich Mullins. I believe Rich understood the wonderful power God invested music with, and so, almost appropriately, he died at a time in his life when he was teaching worship music to Native American children on a reservation he spent much of his late life on.

Now that Rich and I have dragged God into the conversation again, I am back to the original “why”, I posed at the end of paragraph one. I do believe God created us with a significant need in our lives for music. In Revelation 4 and 5, we see the curtain pulled back on the throne room in Heaven. Music, specifically worship music, is a prominent fixture in that other-worldly scene; even among fantastical living creatures, and the presence of God on His throne, music still serves a front and center purpose! As a Master Artist, God has imbued in us, an ability to create songs which shine new light and some insight into our lives, the world we live in, and our relationship to God and everything else. I believe God very cleverly wrought in this way; when we sing, dance, or even just listen to music, several components of our physical selves, and our psychic selves engage. The “whole person” experiences music.

We sense music in our ears, the hum of it in our chest, the feel of it on our skin, the pull of it on our groins….we have a corresponding neurological reaction to that stimulus in our brains, our bodies react with an appropriate response. We are lifted emotionally, or perhaps made melancholy. Music enthuses us, we are swept away, and we even shake our asses! As our brain floods with dopamine, endorphins, and adrenaline, the music literally creates changes in our physical reality! Similarly, those neurological responses may even lead to “mood altering”. Are you addicted to music to change your mood? I am. 😉 It seems true that what we are listening to is informing us and changing us body and soul. Even though music ultimately belongs to God, I don’t think  he minds us rocking out in our own way as a cathartic act. I think it is good for our souls when we sing back a response to the world we grapple with. It may very well be a God-intended, psychological defense mechanism. God knows I find rest and refuge in music. Even in the loud stuff! 😉

I guess that explains karaoke and pre-diabetic people dancing. Sing on.. though you are out of tune! Dance on.. though you may pull a muscle! Sing your praise to the Lord! He is currently rejoicing over you with song!


Aaron inspires a lot of my thinking and writing!


Congratulations! It’s a word!

I recently created a word and submitted it to the editors at (SPOILER…rated R and above language found there). Even though I believe has a very low editorial standard, I was glad to see my word-vention published! Furthermore, I got the approval email on New Year’s Eve, near Midnight! 😉

Check it out here:


Words enjoy a life cycle, very similar to that of humankind. You probably don’t think about it often, but subconsciously you already know words are always being born, growing up more or less popular, serving useful purposes, and finally fading from favor and use for various reasons.

Jargon just works! Bouncing, baby, butt loads of words are born as jargon, that is to say they live out their useful lives serving a particular niche group, industry, or technology. Jargon words are the 8-5 clock punchers of the word world. They work! Jargon words are so handy and practical that they often make it into the broader culture. Who among us can honestly say their life is not some kind of “snafu”? (situation normal… all f*cked up) Marching like the military that gave us the word “snafu”, we just go on dealing with our lives, even if they are crazy, because, hey, that’s the normal state of affairs!

Mama onomatopoeia gives birth to some interesting words. Some words just sound like the thing or condition which they define, like “drip”. Literary snobs call this onomatopoeia; I just call it em-frigging-powering! The potential to name and define the world we encounter goes up exponentially if one is careful to really look at things, and determine whether the thing “in itself”, suggests a word that is fit, and appropriate unto itself. Some words sound as if they have always existed and were waiting to be found and attached to the right time/place/thing.   We are all familiar with the comic book examples of, “Pow!”, “Bam!”, and Zoing!!” that were popularized on TV’s “Batman”. “Squinched is one of my favorite words exhibiting onomatopoeia. The best use of squinched I have ever seen can be read in Galway Kinnel’s poem, “Blackberry Eating”, which is among my favorite poems ever!  Cool Galway Kinnel Poem

Cognates are cohabiting! Not unlike humans, words often live secret lives in the shadows and we barely recognize their subtlety. Some words have “mid-life crises”, wandering around like lovers, lost until they find new life as a cognate, or “word borrowed from another language”. Cognates are like highly efficient, networker words that weasel their way, and the influence they purvey, into a totally new career and job description when they see their old market drying up. It’s kind of sad that cognates “cheat” on their original language, but who can blame them? Cognates seem sophisticated, are probably beautiful, in American English are often French, and are often soo sexy, ooh la la (ahem!…another cognate). At the very least, a cognate is useful enough to deserve a second go around. A few of my favorite cognates in American English are; “raison d’être”, which means “reason for existence” literally, and is taken from the French enlightenment era, also “gesundheit”, which is borrowed from German, and in keeping with German pragmatism literally means, “good health”… a very practical and precise wish for the sneezer, when compared to the more ephemeral and other worldly, “God Bless You”, which is in such widespread use, here in the US of A (Who are these blessers? Are they sincere? In which God’s authority am I being blessed?), and finally, “linguine”, which is Italian for linguine, and linguine really has the perfect texture when it is served under some very fresh seafood and a red sauce, then paired with a nice Chianti!

Ill-intentioned euphemisms! Euphemistic language is the weapon of choice for politics, and one’s own, internal, half-honest, rationalizing self (politics and lying to oneself = practical equivalents). Euphemistic language simply replaces an unpalettable word, or a provocative word or phrase, with a word that is a little softer on the ear, the mind, and the conscience. My favorite internal euphemism regards “holiday cookies”, which may literally be read as “diet-busters”! In my head, I optimistically, and narcissistically, rephrase the debate and refer to holiday cookies as “one time splurges”, or “well deserved treats at a special time of year”. Unfortunately for me and cookies, it’s always a special time of year. Word! 😉 Politically speaking my favorite piece of euphemistic language is the word, “choice”, as it is applied to the issue of abortion. I am not pro-choice, but the phrase is my favorite euphemism, because it exemplifies the most powerful aspect of a good euphemistic word; the ability to reframe a debate. When the word “choice” is used euphemistically in place of abortion, arguments in the debate are immediately steered away from the life in the womb, and steered to the woman (or persons) who are seeking to terminate that life. What a powerful stroke of word magic. As a coups de grâce, the “choice” movement has also gotten the mainstream media to stop referring to those with an opposing viewpoint as “pro-life”, and start referring to them as “anti-choice”, or “anti-abortion”.  Ha! If you still don’t understand how changing the language changes the debate, ask yourself this question, would you rather spend time with people who were “pro” something as beautiful as “life”? Or would you prefer to be stuck in a 3 hour lecture with people who are “anti-anything”? The “anti-anything” crowd sounds like a real fun day at a picnic, eh? It was a very savvy rhetorical move to associate ending human life with something most Americans want and clamor for, a “choice”! The argument has been reduced to a Pepsi v. Coke taste test, and babies lose! I think you get the drift, regardless of your position on the subject of the euphemistic values of “choice”.

Often, sadly, words die. As a matter of fact, entire languages die. Classical examples of dead languages include Biblical Hebrew, Koine Greek, and Latin. As the strength of the civilization that employed a language rose and fell, the words rose and fell too. The upside is that modern language is replete with words from those “dead” languages which have been borrowed and modified (cognates again). These ancient-words-come-lately haven’t just endured the centuries to trip on our tongues; they have enjoyed a kind of resurrection! At this point it is worth mentioning that the study of “dead” languages can yield some very high-octane word power, affording the student broader depth of understanding of almost any other language. If you’d like more facility with English, study any other language!

I may try inventing a “perfect” word during the year 2012. If I  look really hard, and observe a word that sounds like the thing it represents, or borrow beautiful, continental words, or lie to myself with a real whopper of a euphemism, you may see it turn up on wordswurdswirds! If the word is aptly invented, perhaps it will be published in another venue by someone other than this great guy. Word!