Are You Choate?

Ever since I was a child I’ve been attacked by words.  One of my first words was ‘hernia’ because I loved the sound of it; but later in life I developed what was almost a speech impediment, in that I found myself unable to alliterate.  I simply could not say a phrase like ‘free on Friday afternoon’.  I’m not sure I can explain why; the sound of the words and the repetition just affected me too much – so I would have to find a way round it.  ‘I’ll be available at the end of the week after midday,’ I’d have to say.  Or something like that.  It was only when I started to write properly that this went away and I was able to control words instead of them controlling me.

Of course any writer knows that this is an illusion.  You do not control words.  You try, but it’s like a mariner trying to control the tides: all you can do is to observe them; get to know them and feel them so that you can work with them.  Words are what they are and stubbornly refuse to be what you think they are – or to do what you want them to do.  Anyone who’s ever tried to write a poem will tell you that.  So that nowadays, even though I can speak a sentence that has alliteration in it, I am still held hostage by the beauty of words.  Look at the word ‘inchoate’.  Isn’t it lovely?  It sounds beautiful, what with the vowels and the ‘ch’ in the middle – and there’s so much you can do with it.  You can add ‘col’ to make ‘inchocolate’*, you can chop a bit off to make ‘inch’; you can snip off the end to make ‘ate’ – it’s just bursting with fruity goodness.

I love our words.  That’s why I find it so hard to forgive those who use them without caring.  I don’t mind people making mistakes – what I mind is when they just can’t be arsed.

Like in this poem:

For your Good

(on the horribleness of the expression ‘my bad’)

The incompleteness of the sent-

it sends me into shudders

though realising what you meant

it lacks grammatic rudders

so as you blunder into shot

so I must thunder ‘My bad what?’

What is it that is so ‘ungood’?

Bad leg?  Bad arm?  Bad winter?

A mouldy apple?  Rotten wood?

Bad finger after splinter?

It sounds as awful as it looks

I’ve written you in my bad books.

….and so on.  There’s more, but I won’t give it you now.

oh! and listen to Radio Leicester on Saturday at 7.30 when I shall be on with Sheila doing my poem ‘There’s a War on’.

Kirk out

PS  And come down to the Town Hall at 5.30 to protest the proposed opening of a Tesco on Clarendon Park Rd.

* yes, I know ‘inchocolate’ isn’t a word – but it’s fun, isn’t it?