Thursday, May 23, 2013

For the Love of Words

I recently read a work of pure genius recommended by somebody from my book club. Ella Minnow Pea (if you didn't catch that: L-M-N-O-P!) is set on an island called Nollop, named after the supposed creator of the famous sentence that uses all the letters of the language:
"The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog"

This sentence is preserved on an important memorial in the island, and throughout the novel, the letters begin to mysteriously drop one by one. The government takes this as a sign that the letters that have dropped must be eliminated from the English language, and bans the use of those letters.

Here's the amazing bit:
As each letters falls and becomes prohibited from use, so do they disappear from the novel.

If you're not shaking your head in amazement at that, I don't know what it takes to impress you.

There are several themes brought up in the novel: free speech, totalitarianism, the sanctification of things. But what got me thinking most was the degree to which letters getting banned affected their expressiveness- their connectivity to each other- eventually, their life. It reminded me of 1984 and the "Newspeak" that the government enforced to take away expression from people.

It shows that words are everything.

What's a life worth when you can't give voice to your thoughts? When you can't connect with the world around you? Sure, there are examples, like Hellen Keller who was able to shake the world being deaf, dumb and blind. But she only started to make a difference when she began reaching out and making herself heard.


But that's not entirely true.

Some people are all talk. ALL talk. Literally.
There are others who do. Have you ever heard the saying, "What you do is so loud that I can't hear what you say."? I love that line.

Also, sometimes you don't need words. Remember that summer in Lebanon when you and I were official vacation buddies? We left everyone with their afternoon tea-cups and water-melon plates sitting under the grapevine, and we climbed up to where there was that cushioned-swing facing Amu's orchard. We spent two hours just sitting there on a swing in a mountain, with orange and apple trees spread like a carpet before us, watching a breath-taking sun set over tens of villages looking like dots from so far away.

When we went back to everyone else, we laughed like crazy because we realised we spent two hours together not saying anything. Weirdly, it felt like we'd had the longest conversation ever.

It shows that words are nothing.



  1. I wait so desperately for your posts, they refresh me. Keep writing :)

  2. What a fascination post, word are so important and so meaningless at the same time. I am going to look for the book.

  3. Definetly going to purchase it. Words are very interesting, meaningful and meaningless. But it's important to hear the words that the silence speaks.

  4. Yeah yeah I am shaking my head.How could I not.'Tis too wonderful to bear.
    And yeah words...I think they're important.Even in silence.
    Because you only notice silence when you realise there are no words.

  5. This is the third time I'm trying to comment here. My computer keeps crashing. But then maybe this is a sign that sometimes silence is more important than words. ;p

  6. I love your memory of Lebanon ^_^ Beautiful, interesting post. Definitely going to read this book some day x)

  7. Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words!
    I get words all day through;
    First from him, now from you!
    Is that all you blighters can do?

    This from "My Fair Lady," the "Show Me" song. Thought you would enjoy it. Thought provoking post.

  8. This post... how do I even begin to describe this post? It's flawless. You articulated how words can be everything and nothing at the same time very beautifully and brilliantly!

    And this fab-sounding book is definitely going into my wish list.

  9. Nominated you for a couple of awards. Details on my site. :)

  10. The book sounds really interesting: the title itself is quite captivating!
    Silence speaks a lot yes, but sometimes some things just have to be put into words, spoken out. Maybe in a whisper, but spoken.
    Orwell's 1984 really made me realize that.

  11. I am going to READ THAT BOOK. I rarely ever say that to myself after reading a book review, but you are different. :-) And in return, I give you Mr. Pip. You might have read it already, but it's my treasured possession, my beloved, my absolute favourite in the world. By Lloyd Jones. :-)

  12. Must be a great book! Now I'm intrigued :)

  13. How do you do this? How do you always make everything so beautiful and memorable and... humane? I love it.


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