Sunday, November 05, 2017


I love dictionaries. I said that to David Meltzer once and he asked - which one? It never occurred to me there was a difference. I longed for my own OED but now they don't print them anymore. It's all on line.
There were years when I mostly read in bed during whatever amount of time I had before sleep took me. If I came across a word I didn't know I'd get up, go to the living room and look it up. Sometimes. I couldn't always push the covers away.
I just finished a book by John McPhee. His writing makes everything interesting for me. A whole book about Oranges! In the new book he writes about writing in terms of his career, editing, reasons for a given topic. He started thinking about oranges because he stopped at a fresh squeezed orange juice machine regularly and noticed changes in the color. I love that. In a sentence describing his reaction to a certain fellow he used the word horripilation. These days I reach for my phone and am always a bit surprised when the word appears after a few letters. It's one reason I might like a Kindle. You just click on the word. You stay under the covers in any case. McPhee has been gifting me new words for years.
I just watched the new documentary about Joan Didion. She's gifted me new words, specifically meliorative. After looking up the word there is the effort to use it in your life. I remember walking around with that word in my head waiting for a reason to use it. After a while the word is there whether I use it or not.
When I was in college I spent a lot of time with two young women. They made fun of my 'big words'. I didn't really know what they meant. I wasn't doing anything on purpose. Even worse was the time in my MFA program when a young man asked me why I used so many SAT words. Somehow I thought people who were trying to be writers might share my love of new (to me) words. Another person in the program felt that words that were too obscure made things too hard for the reader. Imagine the expletives that came to mind. 
Chiaroscuro was the last word that caught me. I think it must have been in something by Ferrante. I made a sticky and hung it on my desk. It's not a word that I can imagine using but it does come to mind when I look at Kristina's photos. It stuck with me because it's just so beautiful. I'm not sure horripilation will stick with me. I don't have the experience.

1 comment:

Kristina Krause said...

:-) I still guffaw every time I remember that fellow student saying that to you! How vexatious! Obviously not a kindred logophile, the odious dolt.

Now I have to go investigate McPhee!