Powerful Words

January 3, 2012 — 5 Comments

Wow. Today I “enjoyed” the sensation that comes from seeing an archaic word we haven’t encountered for ages. This was a word my sainted mother used when my siblings and I were mere rugrats. No, that’s not the word. “Rugrats” remains in my unsainted father’s vocabulary to this very day. Today he uses it in reference to his great-grandchildren. Besides, it’s only been seven years since the eponymous television series aired its final episode.

The modest word which inspired this post is “rigmarole.” My child-recollection adds an extra syllable, an “a.” Ri-ga-ma-role . . . now there’s a word to evoke memories from many years ago. Ah, and a further internet search reveals my mom wasn’t mispronouncing the word, she was simply using a variant.

She used the word in its primary context. Elaborate or lengthy procedures. Actually, it is through the second meaning of the word that I encountered it this morning. It is also defined as “confused, incoherent, foolish or meaningless talk.”

It’s in this context—referring to useless jargon—that C.S. Lewis describes the crippling effect of rigamarole. He writes:

“Stone walls cannot a prison make

Half so secure as rigmarole.”

Thus concludes one of C.S. Lewis’ delightful poems, entitled “The Prudent Jailer.” When I trace the quotation back to its source I encounter a wonderful poem I had never before read. And, ironically, the poem begins with a reference to “nostalgia,” the very sensation Lewis’ word choice evoked in me.

“Always the old nostalgia? Yes

We still remember times before

We had learned to wear the prison dress

Or steel rings rubbed our ankles sore.”

The master Inkling has once again impressed upon me the immense power of words. Rightly chosen words. Well woven together, their symbiosis can be awe-inspiring.

Wielded by the anointed, words can be powerful enough to tear down the stone walls our Jailer uses to imprison us . . . dark walls designed to bar us from the radiant freedom God has created us to enjoy.

5 responses to Powerful Words

  1. 

    Excellent – always thoughtful stuff here. Thanks

  2. 

    I’ve always used rigamarole (I just like how it sounds). Loved this post! Words are amazing! You have quite a way with them.

  3. 

    Thank you for your appreciation of my most recent blog post! You must have found it because you love all things C. S. Lewis! :)

    You’re right, words are so powerful. Reminds me of “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Now that’s power.

  4. 

    If you liked rigmarole perhaps, just perhaps, you would enjoy http://wordnik.com/words/rigmarole#lists. Wordnik is invaluable, generally awesome and always throwing me a few, delicious oddities.

    Like hokum. What an odd word.

    • 

      Why haven’t I seen this website before? It’s bookmarked now, of course. I did a quick test by randomly choosing a word off the top of my head (“canteen,” which I don’t recall seeing or hearing in use for ages). Found the “common” definitions quite comprehensively presented. And then learned a new one: “n. A square box, fitted up with compartments, in which British officers on foreign service pack a variety of articles, as spirit-bottles, tea and sugar, plates, knives, forks, etc.” Didn’t realize their officers traveled with their personal canteens, and it made me wonder whether American officers ever used the same term (e.g. during the Civil War when most traveled with a similar chest).

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