A Narrative Essay
By Emma Michelle Porter
I love the word ‘audacity’.
Because no one ever uses it with a neutral tone. It sounds like it’s the only word in the sentence in capitals or italics.
It’s used with vehemence or shock or a biting flabbergasted feeling. “You have the AUDACITY to speak to me like that?!”
‘Flabbergasted’ is also a great word.
Because it makes your mind think of the words “flapping” and “gasp” even though it doesn’t actually mention them. And it conjures an image of someone flapping their arms and gasping in utter surprise and overwhelming bewilderment.
Flabbergasted flapping and gasping. Isn’t that wonderful?
We complain about the English language a lot; it’s difficulties and faulty rules. The way ‘school’ is spelt and the way ‘enough’ is pronounced.
But there are some truly wonderful words and sounds and phrases and cultural changes that hit me in the poetic gut; that make me feel like a bemused child learning this silly language all over again.
I once wrote a poem simply from the desire to use the word ‘tentatively’. I love the sound of ‘tentatively’ and the feeling of my tongue tentatively tapping the very tip of my palate, and my front teeth smoothly skimming on and off my bottom lip.
I love how, growing up, I wasn’t sure if the word subtle meant overt or covert because everyone – from my parents to my TV shows, seemed to use it only sarcastically. “Wow. Subtle dude.”
I love that snakes hiss and birds tweet. It’s endearing that shy people speak in a mumble with muffled ‘m’ sounds and loud people speak in a boom with bombastic and open ‘b’s and ‘o’s.
It’s so great when a little kid tells you that the leaves went crunch under their feet, because it’s as if they crunched some leaves with their vocal chords when they spoke the word.
It’s funny to me that the English speaking world has lambasted the word ‘moist’ and can all agree on the purity of the word ‘soft’. How sweet that we use ‘soft’ to describe our favourite clothing or linen or pets but also people’s personalities or behaviour towards others. “The way he looks at her is so soft”. “She’s always protecting her friends, she’s so soft”.
I love that South Africans never mean ‘now’ no matter what they add before the word. If you don’t understand that statement it might make sense just now.
I love that Australians don’t ever say the full word ‘Australia’ and describe staggering things as being at a distance or out of reach, “far out”.
I love how encouraging it sounds when British people say “go on!” or “get in!”.
And how truly overdramatically horrified Americans sound with their stereotypical “oh my God”.
Much like a toddler, English is universally loved and feared; it can be a complete pain, while also being a sweet and crazy delight; it follows expected patterns, and it is constantly developing and changing. And sometimes you just have to sit back and realise that it is totally worth all of the effort.