The Surprise and Charm of Words


If you’re planning on living any extended period of your life in the blissful isolation of a recluse, there are some basic skills and tricks to master. Personally I like to have a plethora of hobbies and activities available at all times to ensure I have very little reason to ‘go out among the others’. As my friend Jim McPherson once said, “People are just fuckin’ awful”. So true Jim, so true.

Crosswords are a seriously pleasurable pass-time and one that has the potential for endless expansion. The above book of crosswords, enticingly titled “Crosswords for Pleasure” was $5 NZ from my local supermarket and with its large print and adequate variety, packs a good punch for a small amount of money. I can attest to its claims – it was indeed pleasurable, though perhaps it could be improved with an ‘adult’ edition entitled, ‘Crosswords OF Pleasure’, complete with X-rated wordplay and pornographic themes. There could be a market for it – something I may look into.

Rogets Thesaurus

The great thing about words are their capacity to surprise and charm. Upon many a winter night I have stayed up late and poured through a thesaurus like a scholastic truffle-pig, sniffing out the best and most satisfying words to add to the arsenal of my working-vocabulary. It is a great joy to then use these new discoveries in conversation or writings and observe the way they dance and interact with sentence and syntax – to see the sparks and burr of language ignite and entertain like vocabulary pyrotechnics.

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When it comes to the theory and philosophy of language, the two main works by Ludwig Wittgenstein are must reads for both budding word-buffs and literary recluses. The depth of ideas are difficult to understand which, along with the joy of reading it, has the added, though unintentional, advantage of ‘screening out’ anyone of limited mental capacity. While there is nothing wrong with being unintelligent, it is helpful to know who your audience is when discussing such tracts. Nothing is gained by either side from casting pearls before fence-posts.

Though to instantly attempt some redemption for my seemingly cruel sentiment, I should add that one benefit of intellectual stupidity is the lack of any significant and imminent danger of exposure to new and profound ideas. Perhaps this is actually a great boon in regards basic life-contentment. I have often wondered, as have others, if it’s significantly easier to feel more generally happy when not very bright? Seen in this light, it’s not surprising that geniuses are often prone to depression and suicide – to be able to see how awful humanity is with such clarity must be overwhelmingly upsetting and exhausting.

Fortunately for most of us, myself included, genius is not a common failing. So despite all else, at least we’ve got that going for us.


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