Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ounce Dice Trice by Alastair Reid, illustrated by Ben Shahn

Light Words
(to be said in windy or singing moods)


...So goes a page in Ounce Dice Trice, a silly and joyous celebration of words. And not just words, but their full form as well, their onomatopoeitic essences. The Introduction of this delightful book first published in 1958 declares: Words have a sound and shape, in addition to their meanings. Sometimes the sound is the meaning. If you take a word like BALLOON and say it aloud seven or eight times, you will grow quite dizzy with it. All the words here are meant to be said aloud, over and over, for your own delight. If you want to know more about their meanings, ask a dictionary.

It is playful and restores wonder, astonishment and excitement to our lives. I don't know much of anything at all about linguistics, or the history of languages, though I wish I did. I do know that like art, though, language reflects culture. However, the question is begged: can the essence of words extend beyond the rigidity of our cultural perceptions? Is there something more, some element such as lightness or windy, singing moods that can be captured? Perhaps "contained" is a better word, for what does "captured" imply, can these ever be fully captured? Or maybe displayed, shared, examined, celebrated... anyhow, yes. This world around us, somewhere, somehow, out of something and some place words came to give us understanding of our surroundings. And words are created all the time - "google" is in the dictionary now...

Anyhow, check this out for Odd Words (to be spoken out loud, for fun), proper onomatopoeia ("'CROOMB' is what pigeons murmur to themselves," "'HARROWOLLOWORRAH' is yawning," and "'PALOOP' is the tap dripping in the bath"), and the definition of piddocks, pobbies, and a puggree.

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