I have a great time playing with words and can easily spend a week or more mulling over a single one. It does something to my self-awareness and just as often helps me see differences in what a particular word might mean to others.
It’s fun to consider how easily we can misunderstand, given the nature of the English language.
Two people walking through a park and one says, “duck.” Does the other quickly bend over thinking they are about to be hit by a flying object or low branch, or does she assume her companion is letting her know there is a nearby bird? (It just occurred to me that a duck flying overhead might be an occasion to consider both definitions.)
How many words can you think of that are pronounced the same way but spelled differently and have different meanings? A good example of these are such words as do, due and dew, ate and eight and tow and toe. We can also play the opposite game.
How many words can you name that are spelled the same but have more than one meaning? Fine, lead is one of them.
How many fruits can you name that begin with the letter I or K?
Can you go through the whole alphabet citing an animal for each letter?
One nice thing about these activities is that you don’t have to hunt around looking for the game board or deck of cards. You don’t even have to buy anything. It’s a way to pass the time while sitting in a waiting room or in the car. We can play it alone or with a group. Of course, it can also drive you nuts lying in bed at night stuck on finding the name of a flower that begins with the letter Z. Here you go — zinnia — just in case.
Truthfully, I try not to do this because I remember my mother playing these games to help her fall sleep and it never worked.
There is one word I doubt I will ever adequately put into perspective. I love my husband and my children. I love my friends and my students. I love sunsets and flowers. I love ice cream.
Using the word “love” in recognition of the importance of each is fitting, and yet, my feelings are so very different from one to another. I do love my family and also ice cream. I can’t define love but will continue to believe it is the most important and wonderful part of my life.
There are some words that play a very specific role in my life. The word, “now,” challenges procrastination in three letters and has a way of popping into my head often.
Two, to and too started as part of the “name the words,” game but led to my seriously thinking about how often I do something too often, too long, too little or too much. It is another word that may make its appearance in my mind, particularly in social situations and it generally serves me well.
The good news with this is that amazingly enough, it has caused me to make some significant changes. There are fewer coffee cups or drinking glasses sitting around waiting for me to take them to the kitchen. I no longer wait until later to do the dishes or fold the laundry. Well, at least not as often. These are little things but make a difference and the biggest difference is how I feel. I have less hanging over me like a cloud — all from one little word.
—Author’s note: I just figured out that an ideal day would end with sitting in a flower garden with my family while watching a sunset and eating ice cream.