Monday, July 6, 2015

Monday Flashback: What's in a Word?

by Rich

Back in May, Northern Colorado Writers lost one of its members to cancer. Jerry Eckert was gruff on the outside but also extremely intelligent, kind, and thoughtful. He was a man of many talents and, over his seven decades, numerous adventures. His memoir is scheduled for release from Hot Chocolate Press in the near future. Today, in memory of Jerry, here's one of his posts from back in 2013. I hope you enjoy.

Post by Jerry 

While rereading Beryl Markham’s classic West with the Night recently, I stumbled across an old friend, a rare word of much power. Beryl describes her 1920s Kenya as “an untrammeled country,” and in that simple phrase says so much. I was reminded of Wallace Stegner, in On the Teaching of Creative Writing, who asserts that every word counts, and we must choose each with great care.

Untrammeled – not hampered or restricted, not deprived of freedom of action.

Those who treasure wild places have seen this word before. The 1964 Wilderness Act defines wilderness as “. . . an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Nearly everybody assumes Congress simply used a highfalutin’ version of untrampled. And yes, it will be nice if the wilderness remains untrampled. But that’s such a narrow term, describing only the destructive clomp of heavy feet on fragile nature. Untrammeled, however, gives us the vibrant song of natural systems in full cry; water cycles nourishing, food chains selecting, the fire and ice, the wind and water molding, at a pace they alone choose, a Nature for the next eon. To praise an untrammeled wilderness is also to humble our own species, removing our presumptions of dominance.

In America, common discourse employs 2500 words or less. While a writer can and should use this vocabulary creatively, I believe that much of the art of writing hides in the next 2500 words, those lying just beyond the mundane. Nothing high blown. Nothing over-written. But a carefully chosen word with a special nuance, inserted at just the right place, can provide a fillip (there’s another one) to the writer’s art.

What about you?  Do you have a word or two that you consider old friends?  Is your writing untrammeled by convention or the habit of a pedantic vocabulary?


Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks, Rich. I'm eager to read Jerry's work and look forward to that release from Hot Chocolate Press.

April Moore said...

Thanks for posting this, Rich. I could hear him reading it as I read it and it put a smile on my face.

Anonymous said...

Untrammeled is brilliant to me now as I have never heard it before, even though I have my degree in English. In my schooling, I realize I never learned how to properly speak English, speak properly, or even spell properly. I mostly wrote and read works that were neither perfect, nor consistent.
So my my word, my friend for life, is "Inconsistency". No matter what I write, there's that struggle with inconsistency across the story. It doesn't matter if it's non-fiction. But somehow, SOMEHOW, the inconsistency finds it's groove. If my writing is untrammeled, I actually get some sleep by 3am. I have the ability to pause obsessing over "stuff matching up". If I worry over trying to make figures of speech sound less familiar, I may never see my children again.

So I give {inconsistency} a hug and put it to bed. I write the way I learned to speak. Like an untrammeled human. This is the way my professors left me to be. Fibonacci in nature is still controlled by nature. The bees would be writers if they had technology.

As for pendantic vocabulary... I have to go look it up...

Ah-ha! Not me!


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