Language is what sets man apart from all of God’s creatures. Language allows us the opportunity to achieve a limitless amount of dreams. The seemingly impossible becomes possible and even probable as we communicate with one another and collaborate to discover solutions to our problems and ways to smash through all of our road blocks. Language is the tool by which we learn, teach and improve each new generation. The building blocks of language are words and words are made up of individual letters and symbols, each representing a specific sound or two. There’s only twenty six letters in the English language yet man has crafted those 26 letters into so many combinations each with its own specific meaning.
Spanish, French, English, German, Japanese; no matter which of the many native languages of man one examines, it truly is remarkable how Mankind has formed so many unique words out of just a handful of symbols. What’s more remarkable is how our offspring can grasp the concept of language and can remember what so many words mean at such young and tender ages. Still, having thousands upon thousands of words to choose from in which to express our thoughts, feelings and ideas to one another was not enough for our ancestors. We had to start stringing the words together in different combinations just as we first assigned grunts, squeaks and other sounds to specific letters then combined them to make our first words we next began grouping words together to make phrases. Now, we could express much more than the single thousands of thousands of words could not!
Through the years, the word combos became longer, from simple two and three word groups to four and then five words and even much more complicated longer groupings and thus sentences were born. This is all word craft, sometimes a puzzle, sometimes a science, many times an art. The skill of the wordsmith has grown in complexity to now, in modern times, it require real talent to do the craft our ancestors’ started justice.
Authors, copy writers, poets, lyricists, novelists, news reporters are all expert wordsmiths specializing in their own tiny niche of what is commonly called the profession of writing. Now a days there are many variations of word craft, broken down into what the scholars refer to as the genres and cross genres of literature. People go to school, take courses then practice for many, many years, in most cases a life time to develop and hone their particular word craft expertise. We honor our best word craftsmen with; money, praise, honor and distinction of title like Poet Laureate and of course with prestigious awards such as the Pulitzer Prize for exceptional work in news journalism.
Man’s many languages are always evolving and there are many different dialects of the same language. The rules of literature are often vague and skeptically defined at best. Yet, there are always scholars watching and ready to quickly critique. So, if you as an author need to create a word to express yourself better, I say go ahead. Don’t hesitate, people are always creating new words and you have as much right to join in as any of us! That’s not to say Webster’s Dictionary will recognize your new witticism. But, one never knows what slang will catch on. And when slang hangs around long enough it eventually is accepted as legitimate terminology.
To stand out as a wordsmith of distinction one must be able to combine groups of words to express complicated ideas simply, beautify or make exceptional the ordinary or expose the hidden in terms others quickly and effortlessly can grasp. Wordsmithing is both a talented craft and the quintessential art. Since all art forms; music, painting, sculpture, dance etc. pale in stature to literature. This is partly because words have the ability to express so much and evoke such immense emotion with such little effort.
What began as grunts squeals and groans being represented visually by just 26 symbols (give or take a few letters and symbols depending on which language one is discussing) has turned into a phenomenon. The role of the Wordsmith has become very specialized. Journalists, fiction novelists, poets, song lyricists, academic writers, advertisement copy writers, technical writers, essayists, just to name a few; all specialize in their own specific field of word craftsmanship. From designing informative instructional text manuals for heart transplant surgeons to composing whimsical entertainment skits to be performed on stage by elementary age school children, Wordsmiths continue to define Mankind.
For centuries the general public has put their favorite wordsmiths on pedestals, attributing the word genius to the very best of the lot. As we ease into the technological age of the twenty first century, the challenge for wordsmiths to do their profession justice and honor has become increasingly difficult. Advancement in science and industry alone require many new words plus new words are needed to describe things in almost every evolving field of human endeavor; agriculture, theology, sociology. Mankind is forever evolving and we will always need new words and expressions to depict our new ideas and give insight into our thoughts, worries, dreams and passions.
Contrary to what many believe, the lives of most writers, authors and scribes are rarely paved with gold, prestige, riches and honor. It is most times a life of loneliness and lots and lots of self-sacrifice. This tone was set thousands of years ago when people of all creeds, such as the Monks, would dedicate their lives to tirelessly toil transcribing by hand, historic and religious documents that depicted events and happenings of their times and immortalized doings of past generations. Without their sacrifice and dedication, most of the world’s history would have been long lost and speculative at best. As man’s world becomes more complicated, the need grows for dedicated Wordsmiths willing to commit themselves to the craft of learning and developing expert communication skills.
The names and stories about the world’s best and most elite Wordsmiths; Aristotle, Socrates, Shakespeare, to name a few, and their words, crafted so eloquently and with such passion have been assured, to the best of man’s ability , to live on immortally at least as long as man himself continues to exist. Over two thousand years ago, Aristotle wrote, “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” And, “The roots of education are bitter but the fruit is sweet.” Over 400 years ago, Shakespeare wrote, “Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once." These quotes are cherished and repeated by people all over the globe so many, many years after their creator’s deaths. Whose words of whit, pleasure, warning or love from our century will still be quoted 500 or a thousand years from now?
I’d bet on at least a few of Gandhi’s catchy saying such as, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” will endure. And it is very likely Martin Luther King’s speeches will not be forgotten too soon. I would also bet money on John Lennon’s lyrics from his hit song ‘Imagine’ will still be sung a few hundred or more years from now. Perhaps, if you dig down deep and write words from your heart your name and your ‘copy righted’ words will be deemed noteworthy enough and of such value to be passed down and repeated from generation to generation too. Only time will tell.
The thing for all aspiring scribes to remember is, no matter what the ‘copy rights’ say; writing and Wordsmithing is and always will be a communal endeavor. Without all the unknown and unhailed wordcraftsmen that came before Aristotle and Sacrates, who thoughtfully and coherently assigned symbols to the grunts and moans of their fellow cavemen and then the their future generations crafting sentences then paragraphs, the prolific writings of Shakespeare and John Lennon’s inspiring, hopeful lyrics would never have become possible. For this reason, scholars of old and scholars to come will always agree there is no writing ever done that has no merit or is thankless.
Keep writing fellow scribes! Keep writing! For, I am not the only one of us who believes the survival of Mankind depends upon it. And, fellow readers go on encouraging and supporting your favorite writers because if history has taught us anything it is, “United we stand and divided we fall.” Oh…if I could only claim credit for that line!
*Until next time, keep the blog comments coming. Every writer has to get a start somewhere and “practice writing be-gets polished writing”. Look out, I may be able to claim ownership of that saying!