These segments in the blogsite are about words. The use of words. The origins of words. The changing nature of words. The outrageous character of words. The raw beauty of the perfectly chosen word. The outright hilarity of the ill-chosen word. The power of words to invoke the worst and the best in each of us. My goal here is to inform, amuse, educate, incite curiosity, provoke response, and – to the very best of my ability – to entertain.
Allow me to introduce myself: I am your host, Tristan Black Wolf. That is both a Cheyenne tribal name and my “nom de furry” – the name I use for my fictional works about anthropomorphic animals, sometimes called “therianthropes,” “anthromorphs,” “anthros,” or just plain “furries.” I joke that I was writing even before I could read, in that I’d make up stories about anything. My first published story appeared in November 1977, and since then, I’ve published seven novels, a collection of short stories, and a non-fiction book on comedic improvisation. I’ve had thirty or so screenplays produced, and I’ve published literally hundreds of short stories, articles, reviews, blogs, and more. I’ve won the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge in 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017, writing over 50,000 words on four different novels in only 30 days, and I plan to keep challenging myself every November hence. I have, in fact, been awarded my PhD in Liberal Arts in honor of my forty years of published writing and my instruction in writing and literature.
I love words. Sue me.
Just as an example, take a look at a particular turn of phrase that few seem to have caught on to. In recent years, a great deal of interest has arisen regarding the forgiving of all student loans, as a means to stimulate the economy. (We in the United States are also considering, far too slowly, following Germany’s example and making college free of tuition… but that’s a topic for later.) The word “forgive,” in this context, means to relieve, to eliminate the debt, to wipe the slate clean. Because of legislation that took effect in 1976, student loans were protected against bankruptcy. No matter how bad your debt in other areas may be, your student loans were to be paid off, no matter what, quite possibly extending to those you leave behind when you die. With interest rates on loans soaring as high as 30% (effectively much higher, with penalties added into the equation), these loans have to be repaid, no matter the consequence. Worse still, there seems to be little progress toward being able to refinance the loans at a better rate, thus making this insane burden – the initial principle of such easily reaching past the $100,000 mark – even worse.
Student loans are unable to be forgiven, and thus it is correct to say that they are “unforgivable.” Their interest is likewise “unforgivable.” And I’m sure that there are those who would use the same word to describe the behavior of the banks.
That’s part of what this blog is about: The nature of how we use words, and what it says about us and our daily lives. Consequently, as this blog continues, you’ll probably hear various bits of observation about the zeitgeist, observations of the world in general, or passing notes on society at large. Mind you, I’ll do my best to be apolitical, or at least not partisan, but politics has been described as a “war of words,” and understanding those words is part and parcel of this portion of the blog. In fact, what you’ll discover is that everything in the universe is about words. Words create our reality. As simple proof, I offer the psychology experiment in which people were shown a video of two cars, one striking the other — the scene of a car accident. Group A was asked, “How fast do you think Car 1 was going when it struck Car 2?” Group B was asked, “How fast do you think Car 1 was going when it smashed into Car 2?” Estimates of speed by Group B were five to ten miles-per-hour faster than estimates from Group A. Words create our reality, or at the very least, our perception of it.
The Patron Saint of Words, the late George Carlin (1937-2008), observed that “Words are all we have. We have thoughts, but they’re fluid. We assign a word to a thought, and we’re stuck with that word for that thought. So choose your words carefully. The same words that could hurt, could heal.” Consider me your nurse practitioner, here to enlighten you — and perhaps to heal, preferably with laughter.
You’ll also find me talking about the specific use of words called “writing,” whether for formal, business, creative, or personal reasons. As the world slowly dissolves into “L33TSP34K” and txt 4 U LOL, I continue to stand firm in the belief that language not only can be saved, but that it must be. When we lose the ability to communicate clearly, we will devolve at a rate faster than the alleged brain matter of the people in Hollywood who keep remaking movies that absolutely don’t need it. (I cringe at the idea of a Miley Cyrus remake of Gone With the Wind.)
You’ll also get to find out trivia about words, discover little-known and lesser-used words that you can use to befuddle your friends, and discover that some of the words you’ve been bandying about might be improperly used, or perhaps even non-existent. For instance, I sometimes hear about someone being called “erudite” because he speaks well; the word itself, however, isn’t about how someone speaks, but rather about being learned, educated, displaying a great range of knowledge. For example, to call Ronald Raegan “erudite” would be a poor choice of words. He delivered the lines of a script fairly well, but his actual knowledge was, when pressed, sorely limited. And for the last time, “enthuse” is not a word — you may “be enthusiastic,” but you are not “enthused.” It’s like using the noun “impact” as a verb… but we can save that for another time, when it will have more impact. (It will not, under any circumstances, be “impactful” — another horrifying non-word.)
Welcome to one madman’s irregular rants about words and how important they are. I hope you’ll stick around to enjoy the entertainment. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with what I hope will be a popular new bumper sticker slogan: “Eschew inexactitude! Support antiobfuscative disambiguation!” …yeah, that should cause a few traffic accidents, just trying to read it all…
I’m Tristan Black Wolf, reminding you to say what you mean… and mean what you say.