Words are amazing. Even if you disagree and say they’re boring they’re amazing, because without them you wouldn’t be able to say they’re boring. If you quacked or grunted like a hippo or made weird whaley sounds, I wouldn’t have a clue what you meant and would probably be driving you to casualty right now.
When it comes to language, animals really lose out. I bet there’s no quack for ‘Tuesday’. I bet hippos don’t have a grunt that means ‘happily ever after’, and I double-bet that whales have no whaley sound to describe the bottom of their shoes. Even if they do, I bet that whaley sound doesn’t also mean solitary, or a type of flat fish. And even if it does, I bet they can’t put it all into one whaley sentence, like a fisherman wearing a single worn-down welly boot who’s just caught a fish and notices that ‘my sole sole is as flat as that sole.’
What’s even more amazing, and brilliantly annoying, is that the more you try to understand words, the more they slip away. Take the word ‘exciting’. The dictionary says it means ‘causing great enthusiasm.’ But what’s enthusiasm? ‘Great enjoyment and interest,’ apparently. And enjoyment? ‘The process of taking pleasure in something.’ What’s pleasure? ‘A feeling of enjoyment.’ So round and round we go, disappearing up our own definition, which is a meaningless word because it’s defined as ‘a statement of the exact meaning of a word’ – and words, we’ve just discovered, don’t have exact meanings.
So why bother with them? Oh yes, because they’re amazing. And why are they amazing (which means greatly surprising, which means … oh shut up)?
Because there’s so much more to them than meaning. There’s their sound … Scupper. Resplendent. Pip.
There’s their look … Rhythm. Ache. Moustache.
And best of all their lack. Without words, how would we ever appreciate the spaces and silence between them?