Monday, September 01, 2008

Weaving Words

Despite being immersed only in Punjabi until the age of about three or four, English is my mother tongue. I speak it, I write it and I think in it. And I find it a wonderful language. I've immersed myself in it and dive into it joyfully; hell, I've even got several levels of the Prestige Class 'Editor'. I love the feel of the language, I love its expressiveness, I love the fact that it can encompass both toilet humour and high literature with equal clarity. With its metaphors and similes, alliteration and onomatopoeia and all the other components that make it such a rich language, it's a pleasure to read.

They say that English is the best language for punning, because it's got so much redundancy in it, and I find that wonderful. The ability to say the same thing in a multitude of different ways fires off different associations in my brain depending on how it's said, so something with the same essential meaning can come across in so many different ways. And the art of the pun is perhaps one of the most misunderstood parts of the language. Using homonyms and synonyms to craft a joke is a wonderful gift, and yet so many people just shrug it off with a groan and a shake of the head!

And that leads to a wider issue: that people born and bred in this wonderful language have the capability to completely miss its utter fantabuloso-ness. So many people don't take the time to savour the lyricism and glee that language can be manipulated with. This is something I've come to appreciate more recently with the works of Ian McDonald and Salman Rushdie, who, I feel, have a similar tone to their writing and a similar joy for the tools of their trade. Sometimes when I'm reading a book, my day can be made just with a single paragraph or sentence that suddenly jumps out at me. It's sad that so many people can be deprived of this simple joy.

So take the time to appreciate one of the greatest exports that Great Britain ever gave the world, whether it's Chaucer or Shakespeare, Pratchett or Rushdie, or your own favourite writer or poet. Never let yourself get so busy that you no longer have the time to let a master wordsmith weave their spell around you.

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