March 1, 2009

The Lightning and the Lightning-Bug

Mark Twain said, "The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between the lightning
and the lightning-bug."

Last month, a friend gave me a wonderful book by Susan Kelz Sperling called
Poplollies & Bellibones, A Celebration of Lost Words. From the first page, I was hooked.

We writers know that finding just the right word can be as hard as trying to eat spaghetti with a chopstick. We spend hours pondering our words, looking for new ones, and agonizing over how to give a tired idea a fresh, new twist. The next time you run into a writer's block, don't worry. Make a beeline for
Poplollies & Bellibones where Sperling introduces her readers to hundreds of long-forgotten words and their definitions and often uses them in context.

"Tenderis! You breedbate! You've knocked me over!" cried Polly Esther, struggling to raise herself up and rearrange her clothing. "You sang such a sweet liripoop. Why did you have to spoil it with a mulwine!"

You're probably expecting a translation here—but NO! I want you to get this book and savor it. Discover if you've ever practiced pumpkinification or if you know someone who is flag-fallen or if you are a hufty-tufty. By the time you've finished reading, your writer's nyle will be turned kew-kaw, and your pen will blutter just the right words.

By the time I finished reading Poplollies & Bellibones, my head was spinning with new words. So, I decided to search for even more. I went online and bumped into an entertaining website called
Wordle. Its creator describes it as "a toy for generating word clouds." You create a wordle by typing in a list of words (any words that you choose). From there, you make a word-cloud picture by applying different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. Give it a try. It's another great tool for thinking about words and finding brand-new ways to use them.

When your addiction to Wordle has waned, here's something else for you to play with. Animoto is a website where you can create free 30-second videos from still pictures stored on your hard drive or that you find online. You can share your videos by e-mail or upload them to a web page. It's easy, and it's fun. Here's one that I made by doing a quick Google search for images about words and then uploading the images to Animoto:

So, that's it for the month of March. I hope that I've inspired you to think about words. Go, play! Have fun with words.