Someone gave me a book called “Studies in Words” by C.S. Lewis a few years ago.
I have been afraid to read it. I thought – I’m just not smart enough for that tier of C.S. Lewis’ brain! Sometimes I have to read his paragraphs seven times to understand, and it’s thrilling, but I don’t know if I can hang with him while he waxes poetic about the word “freedom” for an entire chapter.
I started it today. I got through seven pages of the introduction.
I can hang with him (yessss!), but
it’s too good. My brain has to pause to take it in, because I love it so, so much.
This sentence on the first page (which has nothing to do with anything), made me weak in the knees:
“Natural curiosity and mnemonic thrift drove us, as it drives others, to link them up and to see, where possible, how they could have radiated out from a central meaning.”
Who uses the word “mnemonic” ever?? And what in the world is mnemonic thrift. I don’t even care. I love you, C.S. Lewis.
I scribbled “wordsmith!” in the margin.
And then I turned the page.
“One understands a word much better if one has met it alive, in its native habitat. So far as is possible our knowledge should be checked and supplemented, not derived, from the dictionary.”
You know what, C.S.? You’re right. I can’t believe I never thought of that. And I can’t believe you wrote an entire book about words. I might be the only person in the entire world who wants to read it.
Onto page 3.
“One of my aims is to facilitate, as regards certain words, a more accurate reading of old books; and therefore to encourage everyone to similar exploration of many other words. I am sometimes told that there are people who want a study of literature wholly free from philology; that is, from the love and knowledge of words. Perhaps no such people exist. If they do, they are either crying for the moon or else resolving on a lifetime of persistent and carefully guarded delusion.”
I absolutely have to find a use for that phrase in regular life. If someone says something crazy, I’m just going to be like, “You have clearly resolved on a lifetime of persistent and carefully guarded delusion.” And then I’ll just walk away.
“It is well we should become aware of what we are doing when we speak, of the ancient, fragile, and (well used) immensely potent instruments that words are.”
Also, did everyone know that “verbicide” is a thing?
It’s the murder of a word.
“The greatest cause of verbicide is the fact that most people are obviously far more anxious to express their approval and disapproval of things than to describe them.”
That’s when I had to take a break and close the book.
I have to sit with that for a few days, because, what.
A book about words. It’s too delicious.