Monday, December 02, 2013

Want to Be a World-Class Wordsmith?

I was blessed to have an exacting, exciting English teacher in high school who loved language as much as life itself, and was on a mission to see as many students as possible embrace it ardently. His work could have been called, "Extreme Literacy." I earned highest accolades for penning a 7-page essay without once using the word "thing" in lieu of a specific noun.

Those of us who signed up for Mr. Boyce's Advanced English class worshipped his precise pedagogy. One of the enduring expositions he shared is Leo Rosten's The Power of Words. I rediscovered this luminous learning in a file today and want to share it with you:

The Power of Words
by Leo Rosten
They sing. They hurt. They teach. They sanctify.
They were man's first immeasurable feat of magic.
They liberated us from ignorance and our barbarous past.
For without these marvelous scribbles, which build
letters into words, words into sentences, sentences
into systems and sciences and creeds, man would be
forever confined to the self-isolated prison of the cuttlefish or the
"One picture is worth ten thousand words," goes the timeworn Chinese
"But," one writer tartly said, "It takes words to say that."
We live by words: Love, Truth, God.
We fight for words: Freedom, Country, Fame.
We die for words: Liberty, Glory, Honor.
They bestow the priceless gift of articulacy on
our minds and hearts — from "Mama" to "infinity."
And those who truly shape our destiny, the giants
who teach us, inspire us, lead us to deeds of immortality,
are those who use words with clarity, grandeur, and
passion: Socrates, Jesus, Luther, Lincoln, Churchill.
Give thanks for words' endless riches.


Caryn Starr-Gates said...

I was fortunate to have Mr. Boyce for 10th grade advanced English;he was one of the best if not THE best teacher I ever had. Several classmates (PHS class of 1974) met over the weekend and we all extolled Mr. Boyce's abilities as a teacher. Thank you for mentioning him in your blog post (one of the friends shared it with us).

Amara Rose said...

Hi Caryn ~

Thanks for reading and commenting! I agree; Mr. Boyce was probably my best teacher ever. What he taught us has been useful throughout my life; those word etymologies have helped in all sorts of arenas, from health and medicine to general life.