There are words that I find fascinating. Words I hardly ever hear, but when I do, I want to know more. Last night at dinner with new friends I heard a brief mention of a potentate. I suppose I shouldn’t admit that I didn’t know what a potentate was or maybe I shouldn’t admit that we have new friends, but I feel comfortable about admitting both and I’m merely adding to my repertoire of people and things. Anyway I immediately thought, since we had consumed a great deal of alcoholic beverage, that a potentate was a strong alcoholic beverage. But then David started to talk about how an impotentate was a total screw up. So I got confused. Then, when I whispered to David about how I was confused, he explained that there was no such word as impotentate, he had made it up. As you can imagine, I remained confused until I went to the dictionary. I am sure all the people that read this blog know what a potentate is and by now you probably know what a firkin is, but just in case, it’s a monarch or a dictator or as David was using it—a sheik.
Words are wonderful. When you hope to be a writer you need to use lots of them. Or at least you need to identify those which help you to communicate something to the reader. Some of my favorites are: suddenly, anyway, and tapioca. While I often write in the first person I do my best not to use” I”. In fact I go to great lengths reconstructing sentences in order to avoid “I”. Sometimes this is impossible. Because when I’m writing about something personal, how can we know who is me? That’s a bit too esoteric so let’s move on.
“Suddenly” is a word I like but never use. It one of those words that can change the tone or the story line without actually having to change the direction. Like, “suddenly, there was a storm”. Or “suddenly she saw the man of her dreams”. Or “suddenly the potentate fumbled and became an impotentate.” The reason it doesn’t get used in any of my stories is because as a storyteller I don’t usually want to change the tone or the direction without telling another story. It’s hard for me to do description, but there is never a lack of stories . Anyway, is one of my favorites because as you can see, it provides a little pause while I’m looking for something that takes me from thought to thought. Anyway, tapioca has nothing to do with anything except it happens to be my favorite word. For years I tried to like the food because I loved the word, but it never happened. I eat it but I don’t really like it. It’s kind of like trying to drink martinis because you love martini glasses. Which I also do, but I like both the glasses and the vodka.
Which brings me to the theme of the blob. Maureen Dowd and her words. My friend Joe says that there is always a middle in Maureen’s columns but sometimes it’s missing a beginning and an end. When she has all three the columns can’t be beat, but when she doesn’t , we’re left with a President who she helped to elect because her Gore columns were so mean spirited. Gore couldn’t do anything right, and Bush had a beginning, a middle, and an end. The best thing she has written lately was a column about “the Devil Wears Prada” where she talks about how she identifies with the Anna Wintour character and hates the little assistant who does nothing, but becomes famous because she betrays the access and trust she was given by Anna/Meryl—in the movie. I liked the column because it gave me more insight into the writer than the movie. Maybe Maureen should review movies about the characters with whom she identifies. They would give us a better perspective on who she is. Those words here would be a whole lot more interesting than the words she uses in columns where she talks about Bush betrayals of the American people. These are words combined in such a way that they start and end with the middle. We’re just sayin.. Iris