I am often struck by the different ways we use words.
Rereading a favourite book of mine recently I found myself marvelling at the author’s ability to evoke particular experiences and emotional states. Her unusual choice of words drew me into her world, but equally, caused me to consider their meaning. I had to read slowly and in reading slowly found myself consciously appreciating the craftsmanship of her writing.
Visiting my local greengrocer this afternoon I had the opportunity to reflect on an entirely different use of words. The greengrocer’s is at the top on my street and I am there often, grabbing a couple of pieces of fruit, an onion or another carton of milk to tide us over until the weekend’s big shop. The owner of the shop is always there and we always exchange greetings when we meet. We comment on the weather, ask after our respective children or the weekend that has just passed or is about to come. We stick to the everyday, using well-worn phrases that could mean anything or nothing at all. But the words aren’t important. We are just using them to convey a mutual sense of warm regard. It’s good to see you. What a day? How lucky we are!
Walking home from the shops, thinking about our brief conversation, I was reminded of my favourite line from Louis Armstrong’s, What a Wonderful World. I see friends shaking hands/ Saying ‘How do you do?’’ They’re really saying/ ‘I love you’.
This is the careless, imprecise, usefulness of words. Mundane and unremarkable though they might be, they nevertheless allow us to share a world together.