These is my words.

This post is written in conjunction with the Spin Cycle over at Sprite’s Keeper, the topic of which this week is language. Click here to see more of the most linguistic posts on the internet this week.

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Long before I declared myself an English major (or even knew what it meant to do such a thing), I was starkly aware of the power of words.

As a child I liked to read and read often. I was never the cute little Hermione or Anne of Green Gables bookworm who knew from a young age she wanted to be a writer (though my sister definitely was), but reading still was fun for me.

My main interest in reading was not so much the stories as the words. I cherished words, rolling new ones over and over in my brain until they shone, polished. Even to this day I can remember exactly where I was—what book I was reading or what class I was in—when I learned certain words for the first time.

I guess in that way I was a collector. Words were wonderful, handy things, all lined up in my brain like wrenches in a toolbox just waiting to be called up, arranged, and put to good use. With words I could communicate, could make myself heard. Words could express tangible needs—like please pass the pickles—or more abstract philosophies—like I wonder if it’s the clouds that are moving or the earth.

Yes, I was profound in my youth.

But for all their vast practical applications, words can also kill people if used violently. Words are a lot like wrenches that way.

I could tell my mom and dad that I hated them. I could tell my sister to get out of my life. I could tell lies about friends on the playground. I could say really mean things to people I loved simply because I was small and self-consumed. I could, and I did.

Sometimes I did.

I’ll never forget the first time I said the F word:

I didn’t mean to—I mean, not really. I had a cousin named Buck and he was over playing with my sister and me and I distinctly remember jumping on my bed (I was one part girl and two parts heathen) chanting, “Bucky, Bucky, fee fi fo f*cky—” you know the game. I knew it was a bad word but I didn’t really know how bad. Plus it sounded so sharp and exact coming out of my mouth, and I cannot deny that I enjoyed the feel of it slipping through my teeth. I figured if I got in trouble I could just claim my innocence by arguing that “it’s just how the game goes.”

I did get in trouble, of course, but my fall back excuse didn’t save me from a time-out and a lecture:

“Do you know what that word means?” asked my mom.

“Not really.”

“It’s a very bad word. It’s what people use to describe [I will save you the awkwardness here and now, but I can guarantee you it was not fun for a seven year old to hear].”

Oh.”

“Camille, you must be careful with the words you choose.”

I must be careful with the words I choose—I am nearly twenty-five and still trying to get the hang of that life lesson.

I think, though, that once I’ve mastered that, I’ll be a really excellent human being. It may not be until I’m eighty, but I’m determined to see it through.

Words have a way of inspiring a person that way.

Don’t you think?

About Camille

I'm Camille. I have a butt-chin. I live in Canada. I was born in Arizona. I like Diet Dr. Pepper. Hello. You can find me on Twitter @archiveslives, Facebook at facebook.com/archivesofourlives, instagram at ArchivesLives, and elsewhere.
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10 Responses to These is my words.

  1. chelsie says:

    I thought that this was going to be a different story… haha!!!

  2. I also am still learning that lesson. :-) (Although, in your defense, Buck’s mom must have known that rhyme was coming..)
    I am the same way with words. My mom can’t figure out why I suck (another rhyme) so badly at knitting or crocheting, yet can weave sentences together that actually sound presentable. Such is my talent. And yours.
    You’re linked!

  3. I remember the first time I heard the B word (you know, the custard one) and knowing it was bad but not why. So I asked my mother, her face pickled but she simply said “it means that a baby was born without its mum and dad being married”. It took all the venom out of the word for me and as a small child in the 80s I always thought people who used it were too stupid to think of anything else to say. As an adult I still think it ha ha. Great spin on the topic. :) I love hearing about what first inspired people. Xx

  4. Alicia says:

    Words are powerful and I’m always impressed at how those wrenches affect us. Writing is a gift and immortality.

  5. VandyJ says:

    The old saying stick and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me? A pack of lies. Words are very powerful and hurtful if used wrong. But wonderfully uplifting and healing if used right. Amazing what a bunch of letters stuck together can do.

  6. Peg says:

    Very eloquently spoken. I love the way you weave your words and you are so right that words are tools and weapons and they should be used just as carefully as things that cause physical harm because they cause emotional and psychological harm.

  7. SuziCate says:

    I couldn’t help but laugh about the song. The above commentor, Peg, is my older sister…I used to get her to sing the song and I always picked buck or truck for the word, and then I’d laugh hysterically when she let the F-bomb fly!

  8. CaJoh says:

    Sometimes the words from our mouths are not what we intended to say either. I like the phrase “put your mind in gear before you let your motor mouth go” Think before you speak sometimes helps, but sometimes the words just come out.

    Great spin,

  9. Pseudo says:

    This was the post that rolled through my head in a much less articulate way all week. Hello fellow word lover ; -)

    BTW We used to pick “Chuck” for that song precisely because of how it would end up.

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