Thursday, October 12, 2006


Last week's theme: In one last let-down for any fan of this blog, I have descended from Shakespeare and Sherlock into the depths of fiction - popular television culture. Each of last week's words was a last name - or a homophone of one - from the television show Lost. Those names, in the relevant order, are James "Sawyer" Ford, Jack Shephard, Charlie Pace, John Locke, and Mr. Eko.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

inextricable & inexplicable

Each of these words, which differ from one another by only two letters, describes a difficult web. The one is physical, the other mental, verbal. Actually, I suppose "inextricable" need not be physical - it is the man tied to a chair, the kid caught in thorns, but it is also the liar trapped by his lies. It is a physical image, I suppose, but anything hopelessly stuck, in actuality or otherwise, could be described by it. "Inexplicable" describes things that may not be tangled, but are of such a strange or wonderful nature that they tangle our words in any attempt to describe them. Colors, the sky, and even events. Often the word is used to describe an outcome or event that seems to have no realistic origin, such as a chair falling from the sky. The word in this context implies some unseen knot, one of circumstances that could produce such events without us being aware of the possibility, or mentally prepared to account for the event once it takes place.

The complicated arrays of letters that make up the words suit the tangle in both meanings; they begin and end easily, but what goes on in the middle - the "extric" and "explic" - is subtly more complicated and coincides with the acceleration of the word's pronunciation. The end effect is a hopeless jumble, of letters, of sounds, and in context, of circumstances.

Friday, October 06, 2006


The word starts with a vowel sound and ends with one, the only intermediary being a single consonant sound that has somehow occasioned the transition to the hollower sound of the "o." Like an actual echo, which is strangely haunting in its fading infinity, the word has a cache of mystique. It reminds me of high bridges in rural Jersey that I explored when I was a kid, chucking rocks in the water and listening to the splashes that stretched on and on under stone arches. The word is short and scarce like childhood.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Pronunciation- and spelling-wise, I've very little to say about this word. It's downright boring in that respect. Maybe that's apt; it's little more than a single note in a sentence's tune, one boring beat worth noting only for the time it takes to say it, and in terms of meaning, that's about right. The pace is the rate, the rhythm of something, and by not intruding upon the rate or rhythm of its surroundings, perhaps the word reinforces them. A pace can often impose order where there is little; and so, when we are nervous, we pace. Walking to and fro, constantly and steadily, we try to impose order where there is chaos, providing a physical backdrop of consistency and regularity for our disorganized and difficult thoughts in the mental foreground.

A hint regarding the theme: "Homophone" is a word that will apply to three of the words this week and how they fit into the theme. (But not today's.)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Between the position of the mouth that pronounces it and its prominence in words such as "loose," "lucid," and "mellifluous," the letter "l" is one of the alphabet's most flowing, easy-going letters. The word "lock," in travelling from such an attitude to the solid presence and abruptness of the "ck" sound, seems to somehow recreate the process of locking. This process, while not the only work done by the word, is closely related to its other uses. We say that a game is "a lock" for a certain team if a win is a foregone conclusion, that our votes are "locked in," that something has been done "lock, stock and barrel." In each of these cases, something final and irreversible has taken place; there is no going back.

A curiously unrelated meaning, with which we are all familiar but of which I cannot make head or tail, considering the word's other meanings, is a piece of hair. Words are mystifying sometimes.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


This word is rather soft and unassuming, as is the stereotypical shepherd him or herself. The notion of guidance in the form of a conscious being that pushes gently when one strays is so comforting, it is no wonder the concept has been adopted for religious imagery. Perhaps this, combined with the fact that the life of a shepherd has the potential for deep meditation and communing with nature, is why I tend to see shepherds as the soul of any fiction in which they appear. So important do their emotions tend to be, so withdrawn their manner and thought-out their few words, that despite their relatively low social status, it is they that I envy. But the most poignant of all shepherd images in fiction, or at least the one that comes to my mind most readily, is probably Holden Caulfield, in his confession to his sister that he would be content with a future of rescuing children from falling from a cliff as they play.

Monday, October 02, 2006


A simple but largely unused word, aside from all brand-name connotations. A ford is any place on a river or lake or stream that is suitable to be crossed on foot. Ford is also the noun that refers to attempting to execute this maneuver, as I well remember from playing The Oregon Trail as a kid in school. This game is one of the hallmarks of my generation's school memories. We all played it, and one of the decisions one has to make in playing this game is how to cross a river upon reaching it; you can caulk the wagon and float it across, pay for a ferry, wait for help from a native, or attempt to ford the river. This last was my favored option, despite the fact that it was often unwise, given the depth of the river, which was always provided. I lost many fictitious pounds of food, boxes of bullets, oxen and even family members to failed fords across the river, but "ford" is our word today, just to show there are no hard feelings.

Last week's theme: Maybe this theme was a little hard, that's why I tried to give some hints there at the end. I guess the fact that I came back to the blog late in the week after weeks without posting screwed things up a bit; I did five words in two days rather than one per day for five. Apologies, once again, but onward to the theme! Each word was the name of one of the supposed seven deadly sins with a single letter changed. The names of those sins, as you can probably guess now, are "lust," "greed," "wrath," "sloth," and "pride." I don't really consider them sins anyway. They can certainly lead to sin, I guess, but they're all pretty much human nature, in my opinion.