Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

epeleolatry (and the worship of words) ~

I confess. I’m a total word nerd. I was that kid you hated in 4th grade, who begged for spelling words, and won the spelling bee, and had her nose in a book so often that even my grandmother – an old teacher – yelled at me: Girl! Get your nose out of that book! I didn’t invite you to read all weekend!

This past semester I learned a new word: ‘squeg.’ It means to ‘oscillate between max and zero, as in an electronic current.’ But the student who brought the word to class (we have Daily Word in class – words we love, don’t know, want to share…) thought it meant the apogee of a conversation. When I heard her definition, I thought: hmmm… who knew conversations had apogees?


Still, it’s a new word, however discordant it sounds. It’s hard to make melody from a ‘q’. I used to love the word queer, until it began to be used to beat up friends. I liked the way the mouth purses to make the qu dipthong, and then almost smiles to make the ee. It’s noticing (and caring about) things like this that confirm my complete word nerdiness.

All of this makes me quite odd, if you think about it. Because I find squeg an unlikeable word. How can you like or dislike a word, you ask? A sentence – that’s different. It may be poorly written, unclear, etc. We all remember THOSE classes :). But an orphan word? Unattached to parents subject and predicate? Naked of modifiers? Ungendered in its lack of pronouns? What’s to hate about that??


I give you… music. There is no music in ‘squeg.’ It even lacks the onomatopoiea  of ‘squelch.’ Or the whispery finality of ‘squish.’ It’s the ‘g.’ The whole word becomes guttural. And for word nerds? That’s enough.

Except actually, according to the Venn diagram , I’m a word ‘geek’: if you’re obsessed w/ words (guilty :)), and reasonably intelligent (debatable), then you’re a word geek. No rhyme, unfortunately, but accurate… Which should be worth at least as much as rhyme, even if it doesn’t sound as good…


So are you asking what this has to do w/ Beginner’s Heart? All the small things we love make us who and what we are. I heard the poet Carolyn Forché speak recently, and she called our little, everyday decisions the ‘rucksack of our aesthetic.’ We become them, these tiny habits. Perhaps even more than what we think matters, what matters are the infinite & infinitely small day-to-day choices we make. Our quotidian existence :) (another great word!) Like collecting words…



[1] The worship of words.

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