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Monday, March 12, 2012


Words give form to ideas which are communicated through grammatically structured and semantically sound sentences. Words weave magic in the experienced hands of a master craftsman: the literary artist. Words are an arsenal in the hands of leaders who sway public opinion in their favour for nefarious purposes. World History is replete with examples of the vicious use of language to manipulate the sentiments of the people. Hitler’s propaganda machinery is a case in point. His megalomania led to near destruction of the world and changed the course of world history. Words are like a two edged sword, hence to be used sagaciously. There are umpteen instances where the oratorical skills of the well meaning leaders turned the tables on the unscrupulous elements and brought forth tremendous changes.
I had forged an amorous relationship with words long back, after I joined college. The first two books which I got issued from my college library were Pearl S. Buck’s, “The Good Earth” and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s, “The Hound of The Baskervilles” Both books introduced me to an entirely new but fascinating world of fiction where ingenious use of word formations articulated a mesmerizing world of gripping stories. I learnt about pre- revolution China from the first book and suspense, mystery and horror as the core of the detective fiction from the second. (Later my interest in Doyle’s detective series deepened to such an extent that his mysteries turned into unputdownables till the unraveling of the plot in the end.)
Sherlock Holmes as the legendary fictional detective: enigmatic, mysteriously romantic, with his long coat, pipe and his alter ego Dr.Watson held sway over my curious and impressionable mind for long. It was during these years my interest for reading and learning new words developed and became a lifelong passion. (My father got me a copy of “Oxford Pocket Dictionary” which became my best friend and loyal companion till it was replaced by a regular one).I kept making a personal dictionary of my own; the habit has stayed with ever since.
Words are powerful entities and extend their semantic boundaries regularly, defining new concepts, and conferring nomenclature to changes which are taking place in the universe all the time. Words keep pace with the needs of the expanding world by assimilating words from other languages and cultures and by coining new words.
Battles are won or lost depending on the oratorical dexterity of a General to revive the sagging confidence of his forces or of a teacher to lift the students out of examination fever or of a parent to calm a restive child or of a lover to reassure his beloved.
Word games are proliferating in print media and being lapped by young and old. All time favorite ‘Scrabble’ has its loyal fan base. Testing the vocabulary and comprehension of the students are an integral part of school curriculums, language proficiency tests and competitive examinations.
The contribution of the popular ‘Reader’s Digest’ with its attractive page, “Word Power” has readers (including myself) addicted to the page and the first thing which they check out is this interestingly conceived page.
Words will always remain inadequate to express the infinite world in which we dwell. Language says Saussure (father of modern Linguistics) is a living organism and flexibility in its connotative sphere is inbuilt. Words denote particularities but connote concepts as they combine two aspects of the language phenomenon i.e. concept vs. acoustic image.
In his book “Literature and Science” Aldous Huxley says that ‘words empower us not only to communicate scientific quantified regularities but also to weave oceans of human experiences and emotions in a purified, highly sensitized and nuanced language.’
For a writer an enriched vocabulary opens up possibilities of forays into an ‘El Dorado’.


Dear friends let’s share a few gag bags to revel in the word play.

Gossip: A person having a great sense of rumour.
Flattery: Giving someone your candied opinion.
Marriage: A bachelor’s blunder to taste the thunder.
Lock: A device to keep your neighbour’s honest.
She wanted to see the world, so he gave her a world map.


  1. Cool Post Upplaji. I agree, words are magic. They keep swimming in the mind too!

    I recently read a novel called " The Lacuna" b Barbara Kingsolver. She has used words in such a magical way!

  2. Thanks Pattu,
    As regards the magic of words,I recently read an anthology of Irish Short Stories and found abundance of that magic flowing in the pages.