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2017-09-14 18:03
By William R. Jones



When we know all the various definitions or meanings of a word and know how to use it in various contexts, with the use of prefixes, suffixes, compound forms and others, then, we “own” that word. We own it like a perfect piece of our vocabulary that we can call upon at any time.  

I present here the word “word” with various expressions. In its simplest meaning, a word is something that is said or written. Words are the things we put together to make phrases, clauses and sentences as part of speech. Thus, when we think of words, we think of the terms and expressions in dictionaries that we use to represent our ideas and feelings.

In grammar, as a part of speech, “word” functions as a noun, adjective, adverb, verb or interjection. When learning English, we often use words as nouns, as in the following sentences: “What does that word mean?” “What is the word for _____?” “How do you pronounce that word?” “I can’t think of the word I want to say,” “I forgot the word for it.” One may have heard the expression, “Your wording is wrong,” meaning the words are not written in the right order or are not spoken in the right manner. Of course, “You are using the wrong word” means the word we chose is incorrect, while “She put in a good word for me” means she said something favorable about me in the sense of recommending me for something. For sure, we know the expression “word processor” from the 1970s, and subsequently, “WordPerfect” and ‘Microsoft Word.”

In addition to being used as a noun, “word” is used quite often as an adjective, for example, in “I memorized the speech word-for-word,” meaning the speech was memorized in the exact words, or in, “It was a word-for-word translation.” Perhaps, one has heard the expression “by word of mouth,” meaning something communicated from person to person. An example may be, “I heard about the event through word of mouth,” meaning someone told me about it.

This summary is not meant to be the “last word” on the matter or to be all-encompassing, because then it would be too “wordy.” However, it is meant to be an introduction, like in the proverb, “A word to the wise is sufficient,” meaning we only have to hint at something to wise people in order to get them to understand it. Wise people do not need long explanations. Thus, “in a word” (in short) or “in a few words” (not inclined to say more than necessary), “the good word” (good news) is that we can own every word that we use. We may even find “wordplay” (playful use of words) fun.

However, it is more important to be “a man of his word” or “a woman of her word,” meaning we can be depended or relied on to keep a promise. As “a final word,” American poet Hart Crane said, “One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper patterns at the right moment.”


The writer has taught conversational English for 15 years. He currently works for Virginia State University. His email address is wrjones@vsu.edu.


 

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