Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Joy of Language

I was recently held hostage to some TV shows en route to JFK and that dull assault has convinced me that our entire nation has become inured to the joy of language. And I don’t say that just to use the word ‘inured’,  but you have to admit,  it is a pretty great word. Inured. When was the last time you had a chance to use that? It just feels good. Being able to use an uncommon word in just the right way,  without pretention and without forcing it,  is a singular joy. Saying what you mean in the most concise and powerful manner possible without showboating is an almost physically gratifying delight.
I did it in a conversation a few weeks ago with a word I can no longer remember. The word came to me without thinking in the same way it eludes me now as I’m no longer in the thick of the war of dialogue that demanded it into existence. And though it sprung forth organically,  it was one of those words you read in an SAT study guide,  but have never have once formed in your mouth. My compatriots paused in their conversation to note for the record their shock and awe at the use of the word in question. I felt that put the word in a zoo. But I did not want this exotic creature on display. I wanted it wild. When I uttered the syllables,  there was a physical feeling of relief that accompanies unpracticed perfection. Like hitting a baseball perfectly. Like fully popping a pimple on the first try. Or like delivering a perfect bowel movement. Language can be corporeally satisfying like that if only we happen on the right opportunity and channel our riposte with unfettered alacrity., Have you ever stopped a conversation with a word?
Do you remember the culprit in question?

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