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THE THINGS I WRITE WHEN I’M OUT OF TOPICS

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There are over seven billion people and millions—even
billions—of words in the world. I mean, when you think
about how many words just the English language has,
and then think about the fact that there are thousands
of languages with a significant amount of words, assuming
that there are billions of words is not a far-fetched
thought.
Something I find amazing about words is that you can
put them together in any order and change the meaning
of the resulting sentence, depending on how the words
are ordered. For example, the sentence “I had pizza
for lunch” is a commonly stated and easily understood
sentence, while saying “Pizza had me for lunch” is essentially
the same set of words, but has absolutely no sense
or meaning. Words can be put to music and made into a
song, they can be said with a rhythm and turned into a
poem and—simply by changing one’s tone of voice—they
can make the same word sound completely different. For
example, saying the word “stop” brings about a very different
response than screaming “STOP” does.
I don’t know about you, but I have a very interesting
relationship with words. And it’s not only because I’m
a writer. Words have a way of bringing out feelings and
emotions within me, even going as far as to making me
nostalgic. If I hear the word wedding, it takes me back
to my cousin’s wedding in 2013 and reminds me of all
the excitement I had that summer. However, not only
do I remember the wedding itself, but I remember all
of the events leading up to the wedding, as well as the
sightseeing trip of Washington DC my family took a week
before the actual event. And all of this is a result of hearing
just one word. Isn’t that incredible?
But sometimes it isn’t the word itself that elicits a
nostalgic response in me, but the representation of the
word. I know this sounds confusing so let me explain
further. We all know the word ‘smell.’ This word can be
used in different forms. You can say “that smells heavenly”
to describe a chocolate bar, or you can ask “what
is that smell” when you come across an unpleasant odor.
But my relationship with the word ‘smell’ has to do with
how different scents remind me of different times in my
life. The smell of chlorine reminds me of summer at the
Blue Bayou Water Park in Louisiana, that new car smell
reminds me of the first ride we took in our newest car and
the smell of a specific cologne reminds me of my cousin.
That last one, in fact, has a story behind it.
When I was younger my family and I would meet up
with my cousin and his parents all the time. We would
meet several times a year, either by us driving up to his
place in Arkansas or him and his family driving to our
place in Louisiana. And I noticed that every time we met,
he had on the same cologne. I think it was called Axis or
Axel or something along those lines. Eventually it got to
the point where I just matched that specific scent with my
cousin. So one day, I was at a Walmart—nowhere near
my cousin—and I was in the perfume and cologne aisle.
Being the weird child that I was, I started to open up the
perfumes and colognes just to see what they smelled
like. And, of course, I opened up the one that my cousin
used and then told my mom “it smells like —-!”
But let’s go back to words. Remember how I said that
words can be put in any order and the meaning of what
you are trying to say can depend on this order? Well, this
can go in the other direction, by putting together words
to purposely prevent people (oh look, alliteration) from
understanding what you are trying to say. Now, you may
be wondering—why would someone purposely not want
people to understand what they’re trying to say? Well,
the most common occurrence is when you want to say
something about someone but don’t want that person
to know or understand you are talking about them. But,
apparently (and this is something I learnt in my highschool
English class) there is a type of poetry which
consists of people putting words together to create a
poem that means absolutely nothing to anyone reading it,
but makes complete sense to the poet. And often, these
types of poems are based off experiences of the poet.
I wrote such a poem in my English class, after we were
introduced to this style of writing. This particular class
had taken place immediately after our summer vacation,
during which I had spent one week in Boston for a family
reunion. Of course, with 75 individuals—from ages
four to 80—gathered together, doing different activities
for all seven days, there were bound to be a plethora of
interesting tidbits for me to write about. At this reunion:
Taco Bell was a staple meal, one of my cousins jumped
into the hotel swimming pool fully clothed and we rode
a duck tour around the city. Of course, a lot more happened,
but it’s been eight years and I can’t remember
it all now. Anyways, when I wrote this poem, it included
riding ducks and fully clothed “Ravars” and eating burritos
at a temple and much more. I knew exactly what I
was talking about, even if my poem included terms that
weren’t even words at all, but my classmates had no idea
what the poem meant. And, similarly, I had no idea what
their poems were about—which was the entire point of
the assignment.
I love words. I love how there are so many of them, all
in different languages. I love how there are some words
that I don’t understand because, to me, that makes them
all the more endearing. I love how very talented people
can put a bunch of words together and turn them into
songs, poems and stories that move you, anger you,
frighten you, bring you joy, bring you sadness and just
open up just about any emotion in you. And I love how
people use words constantly, throughout their day, without
even thinking about it. When you talk, you’re using
words. When you type something, you’re using words.
I’m using words to write this column and you will be using
words when you read it. It’s just amazing.
Side note: I can’t believe I wrote an entire column on
words. I came into the office this morning with no idea on
what to write, and suddenly I have 1,135 words. I guess
inspiration strikes when you least expect it. Oh look,
1,146 words. I think that’s enough. Now I’m done.

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