I am a logophile: A word lover. (from the Greek “logo” meaning “word” and the Latin “phile” meaning “lover of.” )
I love writing words, reading them, speaking them, singing them, listening to them. I love learning new words and uncovering old ones. I even like reading the history of words.
Back in March, I took my AP Language class to the University of South Florida library so we could peruse the Oxford English Dictionary – a whole, beautiful, dusty row of books filled with words and their meanings throughout the centuries. We learned so much! Did you know, for example, the word “awful” used to mean the same thing as “awesome”? Or that “nice” used to mean “stupid”? But “mean” has meant the same thing for almost a millennium?
These are facts I find fascinating. I like learning the history of cliches, too. For example, the phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses” (meaning wanting to have everything your neighbors have) originated in a 1920s comic strip. Interesting, huh? William Shakespeare, though, is the king of cliches. He is believed to have invented over 130 phrases that have become a regular part of our vernacular. Things like “A sorry sight,” “It’s Greek to me,” “I haven’t slept a wink,” “Wear my heart on my sleeve.” And he invented well over one thousand words! Invented them – meaning these words did not exist in the English language until Shakespeare penned them! Just look at a few of these: bedroom, discontent, critic, gossip, laughable, rant, premeditated, eyeball, lonely, hint, generous…
Do you see why I love words? Every word has a story, and I will never even come close to knowing them all.
And this is just the English language. Every language has its own unique sets of words with their unique histories, invented by their own “Shakespeares.”
The Bible tells us God reveals himself through nature – when we see a sunset or explore a mountain, we recognize that only an incredibly creative, powerful God could have created such beauty. But I believe words do the same thing. I see God in words – in the variety, the complexity, the beauty of a well-turned phrase. It is through words that we learn about God and it is through The Word that the world was created (through, by the way, “The Word made flesh”).
Words are more than just tools, more than rhetoric. They are a gift.
So let me leave you with this gift from The Word: ”Let the words of my mouth and the meditatation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” ~Ps. 19:14