This is my annual invitation – or plea – to my friends to nominate a word as “Word of the Year” (WOTY) on the Wordsmyth website (www.wordsmyth.net). This yearly WOTY campaign is part of the Wordsmyth mission to enrich our relationship with our words – to encourage everyone to notice, observe, and experiment with words as we search for the interesting and significant ideas, and give notice to the words that bear them. Thanks for listening, and for contributing your nomination.
As I reflected this morning on how to craft this plea, I found in my email inbox a newsletter that is a regular source of inspiration for me - Maria Popova’s newsletter, “Brain Pickings”. (www.brainpickings.org) In this newsletter Popova introduces Neil Gaiman’s poetic tribute to women and their science. ( https://www.brainpickings.org/2019/11/25/the-mushroom-hunters-animation-neil-gaiman/)
It's a wonderful poem. So I decided to use it to show how words can be picked out for nomination as word of the year.
The poem begins with a definition of science:
*Science, as you know, my little one, is the study of the nature and behaviour of the universe. It’s based on observation, on experiment, and measurement, and the formulation of laws to describe the facts revealed.*
The core of Gaiman's poetic tribute to women and their science is his notice of the observations and experiments and measurements that led to the development of tools for living. Any of these words would be a good choice for WOTY. But he goes on to link these observations and measurements with the construction of a human way of life.
*The tools we make to build our lives: our clothes, our food, our path home… all these things we base on observation, on experiment, on measurement, on truth.*
The poem concludes by noting the slings the first women crafted to carry their babies, and the creation of vessels to carry the food they gathered.
*The men go running on after beasts.*
*The scientists walk more slowly, over to the brow of the hill and down to the water’s edge and past the place where the red clay runs. They are carrying their babies in the slings they made, freeing their hands to pick the mushrooms.*
It seems that Gaiman has put the word “sling” at the heart of the understanding and caring that women have cultivated as they observed, measured, experimented and invented on our human journey. Carrying the baby keeps the child close and warm, and also frees the hands.
He also mentions the need for something to hold the mushrooms – a “basket” perhaps? Do we need a word for the vessel to carry the mushrooms? I think we do. Popova’s newsletter also notes Hannah Arendt’s comment that “An experience makes its appearance only when it is being said. And unless it is said it is, so to speak, non-existent.” The experience of the first woman who used or constructed something to carry her mushrooms could appear for others when a word was made for the idea. If it is an important idea, supporting a way of life, it needs a word and we need to care for that word as we care for that idea.
Gaiman’s point is that science is built with deep care, and women have participated in the science that has produced our ways of life. This is a lesson much needed in our times.
I hope someone nominates “sling” and “basket” as Words of the Year. The knowledge they emerge from, and the caring that keeps these words in our way of life, are both ancient and important.
Don't forget to go to http://www.wordsmyth.net and nominate a word or idea you believe is important but perhaps neglected.
Thanks for listening.
-- • To understanding the meaning of life, we need to understand the life of meaning. • Each word is a window on all meaning, if we can only open it. • Community grows as we communicate, honing our words till their meanings tap into the rich voice of our full human potential. -------------- next part -------------- A non-text attachment was scrubbed... Name: not available Type: text/html Size: 9455 bytes Desc: not available URL: <https://mailman.uib.no/public/corpora/attachments/20191209/e50825b0/attachment.txt>