“The eyebrow pencil was no mere charcoal emphasis on blond eyebrows, but a design necessary to balance a chaotic asymmetry. Make up and powder were not simply applied to heighten a porcelain texture, to efface the uneven swellings caused by sleep, but to smooth out the sharp furrows designed by nightmares, to reform the contours and blurred surfaces of the cheeks, to erase the contradictions and conflicts which strained the clarity of the face’s lines, disturbing the purity of its forms.”
― Anaïs Nin, A Spy in the House of Love
Art in all its diverse and hued forms can be beautiful. A cat, sitting alert like its exalted Ancient Egyptian ancestor, can be beautiful. What about a person? Yes, I suppose a person awash in the glow of physical perfection, or basking in an utterly distinctive personality can be beautiful too.
So too, for me, words can be beautiful.
The German word wortschatz means “the set of words a person knows” but literally translates as “word treasure”. I like this immensely, as the implication is that words are a prized possession, objects to hold close to your chest and heart, and love far more deeply than you would an ipod. The other meaning: words can make your life rich.
Words have their own physiognomical beauty, complimentary to their context or meaning they may convey. For words, in themselves, have color, shape, character; they have faces, mannerisms and motion; they have taste, fragrance, juiciness — they have tints, tones, and personality. Some simple, some sophisticated, words are a uniquely human form of self-expression. They can convey beautiful messages. Words are important; they can also inflict great pain when used foolishly, without thought to meaning. They have the power to deeply hurt another person.
Many writers wrap themselves from the world in the beauty of words.
Of course form — how you drop the words, like pebbles, carefully aimed into flowing river-sentences is an intricate part of their beauty.
“Dancing on my own. My body sets, no longer fluid, hardens to a pose, and all my life is writ between its lines. Across the years each blow and each embrace have left their subtle mark… a tightening of the muscles here, a certain laxness there… My history is locked within the still life of my coiled flesh, and if I move it all comes spilling out. Then, carefully, like an old newspaper clipping, I unfold myself, awareness sharpened by the knowledge that I am observed. The deities of death and love, of quicksilver and fire, look on. We view each other, though remote, through windows warped into the air. Their faces hang against the dark, their size dependent on their distance from the image-aperture. A muscle trembles in my thigh. My boot squeaks on the polished floor. Slowly I rise and turn… I’m dancing. Dancing on my own.”
― Alan Moore, Miracleman
There are many wonderful, miraculous words. Yet our daily set of words, our wortschatz is often limited to a very minute number — the bare essential to communicate. This seems sad. I think that in general, we are losing much of our vocabulary. It still exists in written form, but is so seldom spoken in the everyday. So I suggest this — pick a word a day — any word — it could be chatoyant or effervescent, myriad or panoply — and use them, speak them, dance with them and treasure them.
To get you started… these are mostly English words – if anyone has any words they love, in any language, feel free to post/share them. With an explanation, hopefully!