I Was Playing Hooky When They Discussed Dangling Participles
By Scott Richards
Words, just five little letters, a rather small amount of the almost infinite group of collected symbols that we have created and chosen to express our emotions real, or imagined. Words are our units of communication, the elements of language representing fear, joy, or indecision. They are a vast repertoire of sounds commanding us to react, tremble, laugh, exaggerate, pity, triumph, or die. Yet despite our impressive literary arsenal, our words, or choice of them often leave our attempts to communicate misconstrued and less understood than the squeaks of the simplest animal.
At first glance, “Words” does not appear to be a very dangerous collection of letters. None of them sharp, or combative in appearance, yet when adequately poked, tasted, deleted and rewritten, they are exposed for what they really are; individual worlds of their own colliding in a dictionary soup in my head at night far too often ignoring my pleas to line up in some worthwhile manner by daybreak.
Dawn arrives and with it an eerie foreboding, a questioning of last night’s keyboard exercises, the intended meaning of each word and its relationship to the next. Is it drivel? A series of ill-placed, or uninspired entries creating a sentence I only thought was good?
Early man might have had it better with only mental pictures of antelope, cooking fires and a full belly roaming around in his wordless brain. Too few words had yet been developed to create such anxiety and indecisiveness I feel using this word, or another. Just imagine, literary bliss on the savanna. True communication was at its peak with the few grunts that had taken on certain accepted meanings. It may have been the last time people truly understood each other; me hungry – see mastodon – yum.
But man was lazy and didn’t feel the need to enhance the grunts so sentence structure, adverbs and adjectives would have to wait many frustrating millennia to plague the efforts of this writer. Even nouns were slow to develop, allowing the same grunts to cover a broader range of items and meanings to maintain the simplest, most uncomplicated form of language.
Clearly though, a prehistoric discussion using a handful of words would be void of depth, color, humor, or opinion, but would also be free of the sometimes painful efforts of nimbly assembling today’s vocabulary into a pleasing, readable format. I’m not sure which would be worse, not being able to express it in words, or not expressing it well. I believe the joining of letters is and will always be mankind’s greatest, continual aesthetic torture for those resigned to breathing, eating and possibly mastering an adequate command of those five little letters, words.