“The Giant Sucking Sound” of Words

You ever lost a job? You ever been “let go”, or “not needed any longer” or “fired” or “down-sized.” It is not fun. I’d like to recommend you read a blog from (http://architectofthejungle.wordpress.com/) which describes the writer’s emotional turmoil to her husband having been “down-sized.” And in her description, she demonstrates her skillful artistry with words which is my real focus here. She uses imagery that evokes experience. Words can readily “denote” in which they merely convey information but only in a prosaic fashion. And prose certainly has its place in language. But when you run across someone who can write with artistry, he/she plies wizardry and can evoke from the depths of your heart an experience which is an essential part of words being, “fitly spoken.”

When she heard the words “down-sized” fall from her husband’s lips, she reported she felt, “as if I’ve been plunged into a dream state, sucked in through the lips of a horrible word. I’ve never thought of words as capable of gobbling me up, but some of them are just that gruesome, just that hungry.” She then writes of the fear of disappearing, “entirely into the belly of this most hideous modern verb.” And she describes how this emotional experience resonated with the whole of her life and she realized that in some fashion she had been living only on the periphery of life, noting “to this day, I hadn’t known (a truth) that only lived in my head. How could I have known it (this truth) yet to make its (truth’s) heroic descent into the whole me? I couldn’t have known….I feel the truth had entered an undiscovered region.” (Note: I have deliberately edited selectively here to make my point about words and truth. Please read her blog to get the context.)

Now part of me wanted to ask, “Now how in the hell can a mere world like ‘down-size” create such a tumult in someone’s heart?” Sure, it is a scary notion as no one likes losing his/her job or having one’s spouse suffer the misfortune. But, to be “sucked in through the lips of the word “down-size”???? And, how in the hell could you even come up with the notion of disappearing “into the belly” of any damn word???? And, how could this anguish lead to a descent into “the whole of me” and “what in the hell is ‘the whole of me’”? The “whole of me” why, shit, I am just me, there is no “whole of me” other than just me. Why not just say, “This really rattled my cage!” Or, “Gosh, this upset me.”

But, she was being a gifted writer and she used words and images which conveyed nuances which just grabbed me, much like she had been grabbed by her husband’s experience. Her words “evoked” an experience with me which is what good writing will do. A simple narrative merely narrates and gives report but a “word fitly spoken,” a dynamic, vital, breathing word will always evoke and penetrate the heart. (I heard someone quote Kafka last night in a movie, “Literature is the axe that cracks the frozen sea inside.)
And we all need to be “sucked through the lips” of a word or words every now and then. If we listen, and if we read and read carefully, we will learn things which that “giant sucking sound” has to offer.
Let me share a little bit about T. S. Eliot and his awareness of this compelling, chaotic beauty of language:
Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them.
(From Burnt Norton in The Four Quartets)



11 thoughts on ““The Giant Sucking Sound” of Words

  1. Sandeep Bhalla

    Sir, I carry this to another debate, we have our share of sadness all the time. Only a few oasis of comfort in between. This is the structure of life. It is amazing how we can say we have no pain?


  2. Sandeep Bhalla

    Somethiing messed up in above comment. It was suppose t land somewhere else. See if you can delete this line and above comment.
    The kind of workmanship you mentioned above is more aptly described as ‘Wordsmith.’ They who enjoy the joy of weaving words should be called wordsmith not a writer.


    1. literary lew Post author

      Interesting and thought provoking. And, I’m given pause as I’m wondering what category I fall into. I don’t really think about it much though. I’ve always wanted to be a “writer” but was always stymied when I made any serious effort. I usually describe my efforts in “literarylew” as merely “holding forth”. Probably, I’m fulfilling the identity given me as a child when I realized I was destined to be a “preacher”, that being someone who would “hold forth” about the gospel. But, since early twenties, anytime I think of being a “preacher”, I always think, “Oh, barf me with a spoon.!” Anyway, just random thoughts….

      Oh, re “deleting” the line you described as being an error, I’m not for sure what you referred to. I might tell you that portions of this blogging machinery I am still unfamiliar with. I’m trying to find someone locally who could tutor me as there are so many technical questions I have.


    1. literary lew Post author

      Wow! As Ronald Reagan once said about another matter, “There you go again!” By that, I mean you have given me pause and I appreciate that. And I might add, your question does, as they usually do, cut right to the heart of the matter personally. Seriously, this really gives me pause. Actually, it augments the “pause” that so often visits me. Why classify? Or, to use a term that I often employ on the matter, “Why categorize” for I am a compulsive “categorizer” which is sometimes an apt way of describing a “word fetishist.” And, yes, “judgment” is rears its ugly head again. Though I am very open-minded and accepting, and fancy myself as “non-judgmental”, in my heart I am quintessentially “judgmental” in that I can only approach life through “categories.” And yes, I am just as harsh with myself as I am with the world. These are merely musings in response to your astute question. I don’t have an answer but I am working on it. Or, to employ an image I am comfortable with, “God is working on it” in my life. The bad news is that I fear I will understand it, I will “get it”, only as I draw my last breath. So, once again, I have droned on and on….mere chatter. Thanks for listening.


      1. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

        “So, once again, I have droned on and on….mere chatter.”

        Lew, what you deem as ‘mere’ chatter carries with it the essence of ‘you’. Drone on.

        As far as categorizing, I think that is nearly unavoidable because of culture and the fact that categorizing is a structure of language. We are raised to categorize/classify. We knew from a very early age that class existed. We categorize race, religion, education, income, gender, marital status, age, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, seasons, etc.

        We learn to categorize from our Christian upbringing, ‘good’ and ‘evil’, heaven and hell; right and wrong, saved and unsaved; wheat and tares; righteousness and unrighteousness, rich and poor; wise man and fool; female and male; shepherd and sheep, king and peasant; angel and demon, love and hate; cold, hot, lukewarm, etc.; and with all these categories, there are subcategories.


      2. literary lew Post author

        Thanks. It always helps to know that someone else has been ravished with the patriarchal “categorization” machinery. But, you avoid the question, “Will you marry me?” I asked my wife and she said, with appropriate reluctance, “Ok, but you you must come home at night and you must keep your fly zipped.” I reluctantly agreed…at least re the zipper part. (wink, wink)


      3. literary lew Post author

        Oh, there you go with boundaries! Don’t you know that is only your neurophysiology interfering with what would be best for you? Ok, enough. I will drop this vein of humor. You have a good night.


  3. architect of the jungle

    What a lively discussion you’ve got going overhead 😉

    Lew, thank you for such a provocative post, and very kind commentary on my own. So nice. To be granted entry into the hearts of men and women is a supreme privilege, one for which I will continue to labor, happily.



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