Monday, November 26, 2007

An Exercise in Definition

I've spent much of the day searching for a word. I've looked like a proper writer (albeit one with a poor vocabulary) with dictionaries littered all over the desk, Roget's Thesaurus lying about, and a study full of loving children. (I'm bored. Can I play on your computer? Oaww, but that's not fair. Waaaaah.)

The word I was looking for was verbal. I think. I'm still not sure. It was the best fit.

Now, please, before reading the rest of this post, read my Message (20:46), and tell me how you think the writer is describing her cousin - this exercise is optional, but I am interested in your thoughts!

I wanted a word that meant "formed of words" (not letters, not parts of words, not spoken words, etc.). I wanted to convey an image of the writer's correspondent as a person formed only of written words.

This has been a fascinating exercise for me, and verbal is not the word I expected to settle on. I have learned a lot about the structure of language, in telephonic company with my Dad (to whom I turn at times like this), and also about various art forms using words.

During the course of the day, I met: semantic, morphemic, calligrammic, epistolary, syntactic, and many others. None of them the right word, but all very interesting. Do you know what they mean? I didn't.

The word I really wanted was logoral, but it doesn't exist.

Next day Addendum: My father phoned back this morning, just after the 8am Messages deadline, to suggest verbiform. This doesn't exist either, but it is perfect, and I reckon I could have got away with it. He would have rung earlier, he said, but he didn't want to wake me up (I think he forgets sometimes that I have kids).


HelenMH said...

That's the trouble with words that don't exist. You have to make them up. I think I know what you mean, and verbal is a nice word. if there's anything closer, I can't think what it is x A brilliant, brilliant message!

womagwriter said...

LOVELY message, Leigh.

I'd have used 'epistolary' I think. But maybe only because I was just reading Emma Darwin's blog post on epistolary novels!

Lane said...

Excellent message.
Verbal seems to fit, loquacious/verbose imply talking too much which she didn't. Going to have to look up your other words:-)

Leigh said...

Thank you, Helen (I seem to be saying this a lot recently!) Verbal is okay.

Womagwriter - Mmm. Yes. I thought long and hard about this one, but rejected it in the end because it only defined the writing; it didn't convey quite the image that I had in mind.

Thanks, Lane! What did you make of the others? Good, eh?

HelenMH said...

Your dad sounds like a total star by the way!

Rebecca said...

wow Leigh. You sure CAN write. That was a lovely message and left me wanting more, more, more...