Monday, June 1, 2009

Peaches: The power of words

*My mother told me once that she was tempted to name me peach. The notion of that amused me so much that I used the word as a name for a peripheral character in my first novel. And it told a story about her(that character) that I didn't have to explain. What is in a name? A word? A perfect set of words that can express the exact moment or feeling without having to say anything else? This magic, word magic, is the holy grail for writers, and sociologists.

Sociologists know that words are symbols. They are part of the definition of culture, literally. Shared language is a culturally bonding factor. And even though the concept of words and language being symbols is odd, at first, once you begin to think about it, word magic kicks in and all of a sudden you open a whole new world of speaking, communicating, listening, and understanding.

Let's take the word "Dead." It is a dead word. It is one syllable. Is sounds like what it is. The end of something. But the use of this word can tell you how a person feels about the idea of dying. Crazy right? Think about it, if someone dies and the reaction to it is "He/she/it is dead." You can be sure that the person making the statement hasn't been duly convinced that there is anything after that. Dead. Period. BUT if they use another set of terms to convey the same message, we know something else... "Passed on." "Passed away." "Gone on to a better place." etc... we can bet that person has a spiritual belief that there is something after. All these words mean the same thing, but they tell us a story about the speaker and if we are good listeners, we can understand and communicate and empathize is a way that won't be socially awkward. If you are trying to console someone who uses the phrase "Dead." It would be socially awkward to go on and on about God or Heaven or better places. Best to just throw your arm around the person's shoulders and say, "anything I can do?"

Peaches. Peaches mean so much to humans. They seem to embody everything lush, sweet, fuzzy, well... peachy! If a child has hair on their body when born, we can use the term "hairy", or we could use "peach fuzz." Both mean "hairy" but hairy implies black, unattractive, hair... while peach fuzz implies blond, soft, attractive, almost alluring hair.

Peaches, for Italian Americans, are important. We tend to grow peach trees in our yards. We have secrets about how to make them grow and how to treat the diseases that most fruit trees are prone too. We steep peaches in red wine and eat them out of plastic cups at the end of a long, hot day while we laugh. They aid in memory and love. They accompany all things good.

If a person is a peach... they are perfect. If a baby is peachy, he doesn't cry and is a delight.

Peaches are both exotic and ordinary. They call up summer and fall. They are red and orange and yellow all together, the color of the sun right before it is about to set.

There is nothing more magical than being able to sum up something in one word. One word used in an odd way that can convey to everyone who hears it, no matter what their level of vocabulary, exactly what you mean. Today is a peach of a day.

Enough said.

7 comments:

  1. Great post. I think we all agonize over character names because we know it shows their background in one word. Roberta makes you think of a totally different person than Betsy. Have a peachy time! :)

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  2. I know! Though my WIP is almost finished, I have a third book that I began in between one and two. I was absolutely stuck so I put it down. THEN I thought of a name for one of the characters and BINGO. I am off and running again. One name breathed a whole new life into a book and a story I thought were dead. Period.

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  3. Wonderful post! I love how the words seem to have a meaning in their sounds as well as the word itself. :D

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  4. This is fun to think about. The word 'blue' came to mind...as in loneliness, until one is 'blue' in the face, yet is a cool (as oppossed to warm) color. Another eye opener column...thanks!

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  5. Nice post! Peach would've been an interesting name. I could imagine all the things the kids would say at school... ;)

    Lynnette Labelle

    http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

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  6. Deep as always! You amaze me!

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  7. My daughter and I love to have this discussion....you know, how some words sound like their meaning. Push, scrape, dizzy....

    fun stuff! And, thanks for visiting my blog :)

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