Wednesday, August 08, 2007


I love words, but the problem is that when it comes to learning new ones, I have a terrible memory. I used to get a-word-a-day emails, but there was no point, because I could barely retain what I'd read from the time it was on my computer screen until I stood up from the computer. I've learned to live with it, and have decided to just enjoy the moment when i come across something new.

If I'm really struck by something, I end up having to write it down. My desks at work and at home are covered with post-its, and roughly one-third of them contain words and sometimes phrases that I've really enjoyed. I listened to an interview with an Iraqi guy a few weeks ago, and while telling a story about goofing off in front of some soldiers, he said that his parents told him to stop laughing and "turn your face off!" What a fun expression, right? "Turn your face off." It reeks of translation, of course, but I wish it was something we said in English. Of course, it's only something I ever think of when I'm sitting at my desk, by myself, and I happen to see that I've written it down.

Today I was listening to the podcast (are you totally sick of the podcasts?) A Way With Words, and they talked to a few lexicographers, the people in charge of deciding which words get to be in the dictionary. They talked about the word diegogarcity, which is a newly coined word for when you hear or see something you've never heard or seen before and then suddenly you seem to see it everywhere. This happens to me all the time! I'm so glad I finally have a way to say it without stumbling all over myself trying to convey the experience.

I also really like the word schadenfreude, which means to derive pleasure from someone else's misfortune. You'd be surprised how often this pops up--I don't think I ever realized how often it makes people happy to see others fail, whether it's real life, a movie, a tv show, or even a book. And see? If it weren't for words, I'd have never realized exactly why it's fun to watch little kids hurt themselves.


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