Friday, May 17, 2013

First Word: Danette Beavers: Thunder

Thunder:  (Thoughts on Language)

Thunder sounds like what it is. I love that in a word.
            Storm sounds like its meaning too. The “S” is full of breath, like the first gale that brings the “T” to split the air. “OR” bangs like a drum and “M” tapers and gentles and signals the end. STORM.
            I love words. I love noticing what they do for us in practical terms, what they do for us aesthetically, and what they used to do for our forebears (the historian in me leaks out).
            Consider the word “that”.  It could be argued (that) it is one of the most boring words in the English language. And I might agree if you’re talking about it as it’s used above—to introduce a clause. In fact, when it’s used in that way, it’s often not used at all; it’s eliminated. But what about “that” as a demonstrative adjective? Imagine a mother who finds her toddler with a sharp object, a bottle of bleach or, say, a condom wrapper. Now there’s a mama who’s gonna say “Give me that!”
            This morning I was thinking about how beautifully Spanish scans. It is intrinsically melodious. And you might say that all the Latin languages are, and I guess that’s true to a degree, except the Portuguese make that “ow” sound, and it puts me in mind of cats. Now, I don’t have anything against cats—I’ve known some pretty cool ones, but cats should speak cat. Humans shouldn’t.
            French is a favorite with me. I had the bad fortune of studying it in high school instead of Spanish (another incident of unknowing bliss bearing itself out in negative consequence) but the French—they put their sounds just back far enough in the mouth to make them sound reserved, like they’re not quite willing to let go—and so that lends a little mystery and may be where the snooty comes from. (I wonder what came first, the snooty or the sound of it?)
            They do it just right, though. The Germans, the Israelis or Arabs, or anyone who speaks as if he’s expectorating is off my pretty list.
            And English? Well, I think “thunder” is pretty, don’t you?

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