Essays

Sometimes I write about things I care about.

In a Word

Unknowingly, I met the love of my life when I was five years old. My grandmother sat me down and played “Weird” Al Yankovic’s palindrome-filled music video, in which “Bob” holds up signs with the lyrics throughout the song. My grandma would pause it frame by frame so I could read it frontwards and backwards as many times as I wanted: “Do geese see God?” My eyes were wide with awe because I didn't know words could do that – that language could be manipulated in such a distinctive way. At that moment, although I didn't realize it on a conscious level, I had fallen in love with words.

When I was in third grade, the relationship stalled. Books became painstaking to read and the activity became more of a chore and less of a pleasure. Eventually, my teacher noticed that I was struggling and assigned a reading log to me. I reluctantly flipped through flimsy novels written for younger children until I finally found a book that made me want to turn the page: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. I became enthralled by the china rabbit’s odyssey, who as the protagonist, embarked upon a quest to find his original owner; through his voyage he learns to be compassionate. I loved the words in that book.

From then on, I devoured books faster and faster, eventually reading more than one book in a day. I was lost in worlds constructed from words; pen strokes created universes. I was fascinated by the endless reorganizations of twenty-six letters. Twenty-six letters unleashed from their alphabetic order, then fused together again to create new arrangements. Twenty-six letters mold themselves to fit whatever word I need and were only exhausted at the end of the dictionary. Anything I need to express, describe, relate, define, explain, ask, or argue – there are words for everything. And when something new evolves – tangible or conceptual – a new word is born to give a name to that something new. Language is organic, flowing and ebbing with the communication needs of the people.

Words, like people, are diverse and take on different shapes and sizes. Euphony is a lens through which I consider words. I like how some words can sound viscous like mellifluous, ooze, voluptuous, or volatile. I like how some words are cacophonous– fiscal, asterisk, phlegm, factual, and cloister. I like how some words seem velvety: fresh, sabotage, morph, elixir, and whisk. I like how there are phrases in which the words seem to melt into each other; for example, torrential downpour or cellar door.

Words are not just made to be beautiful; they hold a tremendous amount of power over you once read or heard, and sent to lilt through your head and coil around your mind. Whether for good or bad, words can linger with you for the rest of your life. They can hurt, heal, kill, entertain, and enlighten. The pen is mightier than the sword because the pen doubles as a sword and a shield. I can find safety nestled within the alphabet just as easily as I can use it to change someone’s opinion. The words I carry with me have an influence on my actions and thoughts.

Words have torn the world apart and sewn it back together again. If I choose my words carefully, it could lead to a date or a job or an acceptance email. I trust words to help me achieve my goals and fulfill my needs.

Every word has influence within it, I only need to pick the right one.

Alexa Schummer