ACW

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Saturday, 5 March 2016

The Joy of Words by Janey Clamp

One of the things I love about being a writer is being able to play with words. In most jobs, the higher up the ladder you climb, the further away you go from your original love. Teachers, nurses and innumerable others become managers and
 administrators - the ones whose job it is to keep people like you used to be in line. As he progressed through primary school my son used to wistfully look back on when he was in Reception and could play in the sand pit. Well, I reckon I still "play in the sand pit" on a daily basis.

Isn't there such a lot of fun to be had with words? I don't know how this pleasure would translate to other languages, but it seems to me that English is rich in its playful possibilities. You've probably seen the 'poem' that highlights the wonderful confusion of the various pronunciations of words such as bough, cough, though and hiccough. Is it just English that is so quirky? I hope so - for the world's sake!

What about the delightful phrases that our children invent as they learn their mother tongue? I'm sure that every family has its own unique terms for everyday objects that originated in a two-year old's mind. We have "rockerrigle" for crocodile; "brurio" for bureau (yes, I am that posh.) Our piano was the "fwanino" and still is, I might add. My younger son had "garky" instead of cake, which extended to our lovely friend Kay, although "Garky" for her has to have its capital letter, of course. Even obscenities have their special section: "the swear that rhymes with ship" being a personal favourite.

It was probably Roald Dahl who made up words to such brilliant effect, calling his invented language "Gobblefunk." Who doesn't read words such as frobscottle, whizzpop, majester and frizzlecrump without a smile on one's face and an uncanny ability to understand their meaning? It's been revealed that many of his words had their roots in his wife's changed ability to speak once she'd had a stroke. It makes the humour bitter-sweet, but still amusing. For me it goes to show that even in the midst of pain and suffering there is a joy to be found somewhere.

In my own writing I have a perverse satisfaction in seeing a wiggly red line appear under some of my words. "Make of that what you will, Microsoft!" is my hidden subplot. Like the person who must have accidentally discovered that a splash of Worcestershire sauce enlivens a bolognese,  or the scientist who unwittingly developed medicine by forgetting to clean up the lab one day, there will be new words our language has been crying out for. I have a feeling that my sons have already broken new ground.





Janey is Creative Writer in Residence on the Sunday Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Norfolk and is on the Thought for the Day team at Premier Radio. She blogs for ACW and other organisations as well contributing to a daily online Bible commentary. She is working on a novel and a book about marriage breakdown.

10 comments:

  1. A post that made me smile as I remember times of made up words! I love reading made up words in a book. Not sure I am clever enough to make them up though.
    Lovely post.

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    1. A lot has been on the radio this week about how many words Shakespeare invented in his plays, whole phrases we think normal but were completely made up. Now there's a challenge......!

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  2. Love it! The music of words - from 'squelch' to 'somnolent'.... wonderful words. Thank you for this lovely celebration of words, Jane. :-)

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    1. Thanks, Helen. Squelch is such a brilliant word. I'm sure it's derived from deepest Latin, of course 😊

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  3. Brilliant Janie,thank you! I especially liked the swear that rhymes with ship - probably shouldn't, but I did! Made me chuckle :) x

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  4. The stuff of family folklore for sure!

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  5. Can you imagine the fun of spending one's whole career investigating the history of words? I've had that amazing privilege!

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  6. You've got my mind whirring now, Janey - maybe we should start an ACW dictionary!

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  7. When he was three, my grandson called his wee backside his 'boffman'. It quickly became and has remained a family favourite. I especially cherish having a conversation with him about the new bunk beds which his other granny had bought for him and his little brother coming to stay. I asked him which of them slept in which bunk. He replied: 'I sleep on the top and Timmy sleeps on the boffman.' Unforgettable.

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