Tag Archives: Words

More Fool You

1 Apr

Words. Essentially the idea behind them is that you scrawl a few symbols next to each other onto a piece of paper, and if someone familiar with your language sees them, they’ll be able to read that word and know exactly what you mean. Let’s look at an example:


If you speak English, you’ll know that those symbols put together mean this:

However, if you’re of a certain age with an obsession for pop culture references, this might have come to mind instead:

Or, god forbid, this:

So now we see that words can be a little more complicated than we first thought.

There are thousands and thousands of words in English and at least 100% of those words have more than one meaning. Last night after tea, I had a delicious pudding that many of you may be familiar with—gooseberry fool. It was light and creamy and just so dreamy that I confess I had seconds.

Yet the word fool has other meanings. It can refer to a different noun, meaning “silly or stupid person.” Believe it or not, it can even be a verb, “to trick or deceive.” Often when a person has been “tricked or deceived,” they are considered to be a fool. Ironically, the opposite is true. I am not unaware of a man who considers himself an expert at “fooling” people—I’ll refer to him as Mr X as I’m quite good friends with his wife, Mrs Patrick Grayson Harrison, and I don’t want to embarrass her. Mr X seems to believe quite strongly that he can fool others—sometimes by telling an untruth and sometimes by leaving gaps in the information he shares. One evening he told his wife that work had kept him late, when actually he had gone ten-pin bowling with his mates. A few months later when his wife asked how his day had gone, he said “Fine,” when he had in fact been severely reprimanded by his employer for shoddy work on a report. Now no doubt at the time he was actively tricking her, he was thinking, “My wife is such a fool.” However, she always found out the truth. So not only was Mr X’s deception revealed but his attempt at fooling only added extra nastiness to the whole affair. In the end, as is clear to all and sundry, it was Mr X who was proving himself to be the silly or stupid person.

Now believe it or not, some words are even more complicated. Take a word like “hurt.” It can be a verb, noun and even an adjective! What the eff? How are we to ever tell what a person really means?

Considering that words are the basis for our communication, it’s no wonder we get confused sometimes. The best we can do is be precise in the words we speak and thoughtful in the way we listen.

And it’s probably best for everyone to just avoid all types of fools—unless it’s the gooseberry kind, to which I say, Thirds, please!

Sometimes DH Lawrence Wrote About Nature as Well

12 Aug

DictionaryAs a logophile, I love a good word. There are so many wonderful words out there: tourniquet, crumbly, and trousers, just to name a few. One of my favourite words is nature—it’s brilliant because it’s got so many nuances, so many shades of meaning. Said in a certain way, it may imply wickedness, but, whispered softly, it can be quite lovely (not unlike the word whore).  Despite the fact that the OED takes almost 178 column inches to explain all of its many definitions, ultimately the word can be broken down in two major categories.

Mother Nature

When I was a small child, my parents took me to an ecology rally in Loch Arbour (NJ) where millions of concerned citizens gathered to acknowledge our responsibility to the environment. There I saw a placard (or it might have been a billboard) that read “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” This was the first time I had encountered this particular archetype: the caring maternal spirit of the Earth, who provides for all her children. Needless to say, given my personal experience with matriarchs, it did not ring true for me. However, I can see what they were going for. Mother Nature symbolizes everything that the natural (as opposed to man-made) world offers us, not just our basic needs like food, water, clothing and shelter, but also those things which make so many of us happy, like sunshine, the scent of lilacs, birdsong and cannabis. We’ve got to do better at taking care of nature—it’s not just about cleaning up after ourselves; we’ve got to change our whole attitude and show it the respect it deserves before it’s too late.

Human Nature

There’s some dispute about the concept of human nature. Some people focus on our individual characters, our constitutions or outlooks. They believe each of us has a personal nature: we may have a hot temper or the patience of a saint, we may be trustworthy or we may be devious. Our dispositions are determined by many factors, such as genetics or the influence of our parents or the skills of our hypnotherapist or maybe our wires are just wonky. But do groups of people have their own nature? Is it the nature of all artists to be tortured or the nature of all young people to be fucking idiots?  Psychologists and pornographers are also continuously debating the different natures of men and women—does the arrangement of our chromosomes alter our essences, causing some of us to enjoy making sandwiches and others to prefer shifting bricks?

If there were ever a war between the two categories of nature, let’s face it, Mother Nature would be the hands down winner. The most horrible things on Earth—from violence and destruction to pollution and racism—are the domain of humankind. This is why I struggle to look a tree in the eye.

My explanation of the multiplicity of meanings in just one single word serves as evidence that they’re real clever inventions. Basically, the set up is you put some letters into a certain order and together they make a word which you can write as well as speak and which represents ideas, people and objects, really anything you can think of. This actually works in all languages—including the ones with those funny letters.

Clever, eh?