Day 295 of 366 Blog Challenge 2012

Hello all

Today as we settle into the routine of being home again, Geoff and I have been busy in the Land of Words. What does this mean you might ask? Well, I copied this title  from the poem of the same name by Eloise Greenfield and it spoke to me about how I felt about words.

In the land of words,
I stand as still as a tree,
and let the words rain down on me.
Come, rain, bring your knowledge and your music.   
Sing while I grow green and full.
I'll stand as still as a tree,
and let your blessings fall on me.

Let me explain how this whole word thing unfolded until it became the Land of Words.

When we were on the road this last week, doing the Coffs Harbour back to Cabarita stretch, we heard a wonderful interview with Elaine Page, the singer famous for singing musical theatre songs from Cats and of course Evita where she became well-known for her wonderful rendition of “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.” It was here we learned a new word.

The remarkable soprano Renee Flemming

Elaine is in Australia at present and in between discussions, the presenter played Elaine’s favourite music one being a piece by Renee Flemming (the soprano) with music by Rachmaninov, singing what Elaine called “VOCALISE.”

I had never heard of such a thing! (See how you can be educated whilst racking up the miles?) Elaine went on to explain that vocalise (pronounced voka-leez) is singing without words. You know, what I probably would have called ‘humming’ to a particular tune. And yes, this is exactly what it is!

If you love all kinds of music listen here to Renee Flemming’s vocalise.  It’s not You Tube so you need to click on the part: Rachmaninov’s Vocalise. It is beautiful. As I write this, I feel as if I am turning into an Opera buff as well as a wordsmith now.

Once Geoff and I learned about VOCALISE we began to notice other singers singing without words! In fact, Andre Rieu has a dedicated group of singers who often sing vocalise as a background to the main singer, and they sound wonderful too.

So, armed with a new word we have been having a bit of fun by using it every now and again. But folks, it happens every time: once the pupil is ready the teacher will come. In other words, my Poem-a-Day email came in called “Vocabulary” and it is all about WORDS, written by the American Jason Scneiderman (no, NOT Spiderman he he).

So Geoff and I began to learn some new words and I got the dictionary out AGAIN in checking on these words (such as boreal and apercus) when yet another word came into the letter box via “Junk Mail”. The leaflet was headed:

SOROPTIMIST : “Walk the Talk with Soroptimists and Friends … walk to stop Violence against Women”

“What in the name of goodness is a soroptimist?” I asked Geoff. He had no idea either, but back to the dictionary again and I  found out that “a SOROPTIMIST is a member of an international association of clubs for professional and business women.”

The  Soroptimist International website puts it even better:

“We are committed to a world where women and girls together achieve their individual and collective potential, realise aspirations and have an equal voice in creating strong, peaceful communities worldwide.”

Aha … now I understand … and what a great cause! However, I have to ask myself if I have been hiding under a bush all these years? Still, it makes us feel good knowing – in our older age – that we are still keen to keep learning, still keen to keep growing and changing. And I love what Jason the poet said in his poem Vocabulary (which I have included below in this post):

“I wonder how anyone can live without knowing the word “wonder”

And that says it all for me folks: because I cannot imagine that I could live without finding WONDER in all these new words that I keep learning! Sometimes, I feel just like a child who discovers ‘wonder’ in every new thing they see; in this case in The Land of Words.


Let me end by saying, in the words of the first poem: “Come, rain, bring your knowledge and your music” as the words rain down on me. Enjoy the poem!

                                                               by Jason Schneiderman

I used to love words, but not looking them up.

Now I love both, the knowing,

and the looking up, the absurdity

of discovering that “boreal” has been meaning

“northern” all this time or that “estrus”

is a much better word for the times when

I would most likely have said, “in heat.”

When I was translating, the dictionary

was my enemy, the repository of knowledge

that I seemed incapable of retaining.

The foreign word

for “inflatable” simply would not stay in my head,

though the English word “deictic,” after just one encounter,

has stuck with me for a year.
I once lost “desiccated”

for a decade, first encountered in an unkind portrayal

of Ronald Reagan, and then finally returned to me

in an article about cheese.

I fell in love with my husband,

not when he told me  what the word “apercus” means,

but when I looked it up, and he was right.

There’s even a word for when you use a word

not to mean its meaning, but as a word itself,

and I’d tell you what it was if I could remember it.

My friend reads the dictionary for its perspective on culture,

laughs when I say that reference books are not really

books, but proleptic databases.

My third grade teacher

used to joke that if we were bored we could copy pages out of the dictionary,

but when I did, also as a joke, she was horrified rather than amused.

Discovery is always tinged with sorrow, the knowledge

that you have been living without something,

so we try to make learning the province of the young,

who have less time to regret having lived in ignorance.

My students are lost in dictionaries,

unable to figure out why “categorize” means

“to put into categories” or why the fifth definition

of “standard” is the one that will make the sentence

in question make sense.
I wonder how anyone

can live without knowing the word “wonder.”

A famous author once said in an interview,

that he ended his novel with an obscure word

he was sure his reader would not know

because he liked the idea of the reader looking it up.

He wanted the reader, upon closing his book, to open

another, that second book being a dictionary,

and however much I may have loved that author, after reading

that story (and this may surprise you)

I loved him less.