A confession for words and books

Words can be such complex beings, but I really love words, and I appreciate how weird words are too! I was thinking about something to write about, and I so I thought “Why not share about my thoughts on words?”

Starting on a lighter note, I think we’ve all had moments where we don’t know how to pronounce a word.

When I was around 7 years old, I was reading Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot and stumbled across a name I couldn’t read. It was “Michael”. Now, I have never heard of that name in my life at that time, so with all the powers of my little bean brain at 7, I thought that it was pronounced like the name “Michelle”, because “chael” seemed like “sheee-ahhhl”.

Yup, I was so wrong. Funnily enough, I read it as “Michelle” for quite a few books! As you can see, 7 year old me was already a lazy ass who didn’t bother to clarify or ask adults for an answer. (I only realised I had this bad habit only when I was around 17, whoop).

When I was 14, my desk mate was having stomach pains from laughing so hard at my innocent pronunciation of a name, which I will reveal shortly. All I can say is that the way I pronounced the name rhymed with “foam”.

…The name was “Phoebe”.

I was so surprised at my desk mate’s laughter because I genuinely thought it was pronounced as “Foab”! Foam with the M replaced with a B. Foab. And it was only after she revealed to me the proper way to pronounce it that I started turning slightly red in the face. Way to go, me!

If you’ve had a similar experience with pronouncing words, fret not, you’ve got someone in the same boat as you! It makes for a good laugh and a good memory in the end.

That aside, even though words can be tricky and sneaky, I really appreciate how words can convey almost everything. I know this is obvious, but I’d like to take the time to appreciate how words have transcended generations and imagination.

When I first started falling in love with words, it was because I needed to escape from the realities of life. Words that were cleverly weaved into paragraphs, chapters and made into a book made me excited. I started reading as it was my passport to a million worlds; to minds, places and feelings which I’ve never visited and have never felt before. It was a much better place than my life, which was dull yet chaotic since I was a young child.

I remember going to my school’s library every break and combing through the fiction section looking for something interesting to read. It would either be horror stories by R.L Stine or something that wasn’t very appropriate for my age then. (I think the librarian didn’t do a thorough check on the books, haha.) I’d borrow books from public libraries as well, and tuck into my bed at exactly 8 p.m. almost every night to read. Reading was easy then, I didn’t experience neck aches so often and could read till around 12 midnight.

Somewhere along the way though, the weekly weekend visits to libraries and big bookshops stopped and I wasn’t able to finish reading all my books anymore. I experienced a change in taste for books. My go-to books used to be romances, vampire stories and fantasy worlds, but these genres just didn’t work for me anymore.

It was a period of time where I was pretty lost within myself, and realised that I was reading so much to escape from life. I couldn’t stand being lost within world after world after world, because coming back to reality was always hard and made me feel detached. So I decided to take a break.

However, I never did stop looking at books and slowly found my way into the non-fiction section where it wasn’t an escapist’s dream. It had philosophy, religion, music, a whole plethora of new goodies which I’ve never seen! I loved it. It was around 16 when I first started delving into this new pool, and it opened my eyes to a whole new ocean.

It was then I realised that in this world, there are millions of books that I haven’t read, and a million worlds and minds that I haven’t touched on. This sole realisation was breath-taking and developed my voracious appetite for ideas in books that I haven’t thought about. Now, I love reading books with unorthodox storylines and perspectives. Be it non-fiction, fiction, or poetry, I’ll take it without a second thought.

And so this journey with books brought me into another world: writing.

It wasn’t putting pen to paper and scratching ink on it that made me fall in love with words, it was how easily I could conjure up a feeling within you, the reader, with a word. It was how easily I could express my feelings out to the world with a mere phrase such as “her warm smile”, and it was how easily words could transport me to places, and let me have a peek into another person’s intimate souls. Your words tell me a lot about you!

I started writing unofficially since I was around 7 as well, in a diary which had fake pink fur as a cover. I’d write whenever I felt like it, and it was something natural, because I couldn’t express myself to anyone then (I had no siblings too). Reflecting on my childhood, I’m thankful for the ability to write and read, because it was really quite a lifesaver for me.

The years went on and I enjoyed writing compositions, narratives, and essays for school despite the rigid structures they had in place. And when I found out that I could write a poem when I was 17, it opened up a whole new world for me!

I didn’t know that writing a poem was like pooping, you just had to get it out of your system. Whether it’s a good or bad poem? Well, that depends on many factors, but putting my own inner critic aside, it feels satisfying to have bled ink onto paper in poetic form.

However, I was told a very interesting point of view: words and languages are flawed in itself because it cannot accurately portray the full extent of our emotions and thoughts. Most of the time, it might be 99% accurate, but can we really feel or comprehend what the other person is saying with just words? I guess not.

It’s like making a sculpture of a person but it’s impossible to capture every part, every pore, every atomic space. I was quick to defend for my love of words, but after thinking about it, this opinion is valid. Humans aren’t perfect, our brains aren’t perfect and we don’t have the ability to fully convey it to a 100% accuracy. Be that as it may, we can try our best to communicate in the clearest way possible.

Communication aside, I think that it’s precisely because words aren’t perfect that it opens up a whole new galaxy of humans making art out of words. Especially for poetry! If it were that obvious, then there wouldn’t be different interpretations of a poem. That would be kind of boring.

So to the people who feel that an English degree is useless, well, it might be in a capitalistic society, but I feel that on a personal level it’s brought me so much joy and so many insights.

There is a certain kind of magic in words that is spellbinding, and I love it.




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