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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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meaning

So, I’m a wordslinger…..

…..and words are my business.  I’m highly attuned to how word choice can paint a picture entirely different than the one you might intend.  If you use the word ‘argue’ rather than ‘talk’ to describe how you’ll make a decision between Choice A and Choice B, it suggests that conflict is the driving force behind most of your conversations.  I’ve been told more than once that I often read too much into things that are said, and perhaps the speaker might not have been intending to say what they do, but it is revealing of their mindset or perspective of the world.

Words have power.  Make no mistake about it.  They can be used to uplift and unify or incite and split.  The words you choose can either have a positive impact on those around you, or they can have a negative impact.  I often bemoan the fact that I don’t have better words than ‘should’ or ‘let’ or ‘give’, because it implies that (A.) I have control; (B.) it’s my right; and (C.) I am entitled to the other person’s life or a specific outcome.

Nothing could be further than the truth and I feel very conflicted using those words to express my thoughts or feelings.  There are a few others, but those suffice to make my example work and get the point across.  This is why it’s always a good idea to reflect and take care in the words you use.  Often, however, we use words that seem to have a positive aspect to it, without stopping to really look and examine what it actually means.

This leads me to a word that is commonly associated with romance, whether it’s novels, films or even real life – desire.  On the surface, it seems like a positive word to describe the hero or the heroine or even the situation.  The sexual tension, the passion, the heightened senses – this could easily be under the label of ‘desire’.  But what does ‘desire’ really mean?  Take a look at the image above – that is the dictionary’s definition of desire (I included desirable, because it has a similar meaning).

“To wish or long for; crave; want.”

That sounds like the definition of need – needing something or someone outside of oneself to fill in the insatiable emptiness and hunger gnawing at one’s soul.  It does not sound in the least bit romantic or even a remotely healthy emotion to have in a relationship.  I do not wish to be ‘owned’ or even regard as a ‘possession’ in any relationship, let alone a romantic love relationship.

So, for me, the word ‘desire’ has a dark and negative connotation – it implies ownership of the desired object (or person).  In the context of love, it expresses the exact opposite of what the user may intend (who believes they’re being romantic) or it is what they subconsciously and genuinely feel about the person they’re in a relationship with.

Under the context of ‘desire’, there is no potential for growth, both as an individual and within the context of the relationship.  ‘Desire’ is stagnant and stale – it wants what is to remain as is for as long as possible, to put the object on a shelf and take it down as needed.  I can already feel myself edge towards panic as I recall a similar relationship – where I was desired, but only when it was convenient.

“So, exactly what is a description of positive, healthy love?” is a question I’m hearing pop up right….about….now.

In my experience, the best examples of what love – genuine, healthy, authentic love – is, are found in the absolute truths in the cliches.  Love will lift you up; it will inspire you; it will not make you compromise your inner truths or force you into a box; it will not ask you to be less than you are, it will encourage you to be the best version of yourself.  If it’s genuine and authentic love, then with the right person, you will feel free to be just as genuine and authentic.  You will be present in the moment, in yourself and within the context of the relationship.  This is conducive to growth – both for the individual self and for the relationship itself.

Definition of Love, Part One

In the interest of fair play, I’m adding in the definition of love from my trusty (if old) dictionary that has served me so well in the last few years.

 

Definition of Love, Part 2

Please take a moment to view both pictures for ‘love’ (which started at the bottom of the page and continued on the next column) and the one for ‘desire’.  Please take a moment and really read both definitions in this post.  Please note the differences in both emotions.

Notice, if you will, the words used to define both ‘Desire’ and ‘Love’.  In my mind, the words used to define ‘desire’ are hard, sharp, unyielding.  The words used to define ‘love’ are soft, warm and soothing.

Each one describes the intense, passionate and romantic emotions of Person A for Person B, but only one objectifies Person B.  Only one views Person B through the prism of ownership and possession.  Only one can actually be hurtful, either intentionally or with purpose.

Desire is not love.  Desire is dark, it possesses, it claims ownership, it does not allow for breath or growth or freedom.

Love is its exact opposite.  Love is freedom within and without to be your truest, most beautiful and strong self.  It encourages you to fly, to be wild, to explore and grow and then, when your wings are tired, Love provides a safe harbor for you to rest.

Desire is ego.  Love is selfless.

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So, one of my favorite things is etymology….

…… which is the study and history of the origin of words. Have you ever wondered how some words came to mean what they do? I did – as a kid, I always wondered how the word ‘cup’ came to describe something that held your drink.

Well, according to the Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins, the word ‘cup’ is an Old English one, from the Latin, cupa (meaning tub or cask). Such a funny word, when you stop and think about it long enough.

I remember holding a cup, a blue one with ridged sides, contemplating its meaning and why this particular word was chosen to identify this object. I think I was twelve and it was a hot summer day. I had just made up some iced tea and sweetened it with sugar, before drinking it down from that blue cup. Mid-way through the drink, I found myself wondering about the word and the object and their strange, symbiotic connection.

It’s one of the things I wonder about, a lot. Something I try to incorporate in my writing – words are chosen for their meaning, whether it’s a place name or a character’s.

Words have meaning and meaning has power. My fascination with etymology continues to grow.

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So, when it comes to naming my characters…..

……I tend to put a lot of thought into it. Actually, I put an obnoxious amount of thought into it. I have the usual suspects, er, books on names and their meanings. I mix, I match, I sound things out. Sometimes I even take two or three different names whose meanings I like and try to weave them into something new. Those names I reserve for epic fantasy tales, in the same vein of The Lord of the Rings or Crown of Stars series or the Shannara books. Titles are a little different, but I put the same effort into finding the right one for each story.

Why the effort?

Because names have power. Names mean something, not just to the person who carries it, but to the people who use it, whether with love or hate or indifference. Sometimes, names are secret, the true name of the self, known only to the one who holds it.

In my current Work in Progress, I had one character (a pretty major one, at that) be so dissatisfied with his name that it changed seven times. It was frustrating, to say the least. He was still so completely dissatisfied, that not only did his name change for an eighth time, he switched nationalities.

I would like to say that, as the writer, I have some control over wayward characters and plot. However, I know I’m not alone when I say, no, actually, I don’t. As soon as I start writing, it all takes on a life of its own and I have to hang on for the ride.

So whatever it is you’re naming – whether it’s your characters, your pet, your child, your project – put thought into it, make it count. Even if no one else understands it, you do.

And, really, that’s what counts. It’s your secret. Cherish it.

 

Recommended Reading:

The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Source Book – Sherrilyn Kenyon

 

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