Repetitive word syndrome
This may not be a new syndrome, but it is abundantly clear to me, that my working vocabulary has been reduced to a few keys words (about 5, I believe). I do not think this would qualify for a workers’ compensation claim, as would a repetitive stress injury, but it is equally disturbing and painful.
Note: last night’s post included 12 (I think) derivations of the word “hope”. I’ll get back to this in a minute.
Quite a few years back, there was a song by Des’ree, someone I have not followed in the music world (is she still around?), and her song, “You Gotta Be” was one of those pop songs that while you may not have liked it (we didn’t), you/we listened anyway. Oh, and by the way, knew the words well enough to sing along, if you could stand the sound of your own voice. (I happen to like mine, but only when no one is listening.)
Since I like a lot of music on pop radio stations, if they include a mix of 60s and 70s music, I rarely bother changing the station. I typically, and invisibly, allow my mind to go into a drive-the-car void, that keeps the white noise of one-hit-wonders playing in the background, while my attention moves to thoughts of the day, and how did I just miss my exit from the freeway?
I remember an afternoon a few years back, when we were living in Bellingham, WA, and Owen and I were driving into town on Lakeway, from the Fred Meyer store to Stuart’s Coffeehouse (the original one on Bay Street), where many of us who were slightly left of center chose to spend our days and nights.
“You Gotta Be” came on the radio, and we both talked about how little content was actually included in the song. We immediately began to count how many times she repeated the phrase, “You gotta be” and began laughing so hard right around a count in the high 20s, that we lost count thereafter. I remember estimating that by the end of the song, she must have sang that phrase no less than 58 times. I just looked it up, and it was only 38 times (I think). In other words, too many times, to be effective.
That’s how I feel about last night’s post. If you repeat the same word, words, or phrases enough, people just go into a drive-the-car void, miss their exits, and the message gets lost (along with arriving at work on time). When I reread my post this morning, even I felt lost in the message. But, here’s what I got instead.
Perhaps, I have actually lost hope (let’s call this number 13, now). OR, I am trying so hard to regain it (“it” does not count as a derivation of hope – oops, that would be 14), that I subconsciously think that by repeating the word (and all its derivations) I will be able to somehow manifest it’s (hope’s – number 15) return to my life. I hope so. (I’m not counting that one, because I believe I may be back on track with the message.)
I spent a lot of time with Nat today, in person when he came to my office and we took a drive, and later on the phone…then later still, at his house. Today was a tedious and disturbing (one of my 5 key words) journey through family history and talks with the coroner’s office. All the while, it was clear that Nat is still hopeful (?) that we will someday have at the minimum, SOME answers that will help us accept, even understand, Owen’s demise. Understanding Owen’s death, may actually be something quite estranged from the message of hope.
When I think of the plethora of overused words, phrases, cliches, and pop-culture idiom, I am reminded of these: bitchen’, groovy, far out, cool, bad, EXcellent, schWING, and so many others, that after a fairly short time period lose their meanings. Their meanings in the popular vernacular, are, after all, unknown to those not entrenched in that particular time and space.
I love throwing one of these history-dependent words or phrases into a current conversation, and watching the looks on people’s faces, when they recognize the association of my age, my socio-economic background, or my musical attachments - and how out of place, even funny it is to hear them again.
Language is a living thing. I believe that’s why Owen, Lea, and Nat were/are so adept at making up words and integrating them into everyday conversations. Owen no longer has everyday conversations with us on the same plane as before he died. We’re looking for his new language. And, we are finding it everywhere. Freakin’ everywhere. It is a language derived from his commitment to getting his message across to those less able to grasp his meaning, but open to the idea that they/we just MAY someday. Someday (another of my 5 key words), we will hear with the same ears he sought to reach. Right now, we listen and interpret, as our internal translators are hard at work, and hoping to hear, understand, and use his messages to our best abilities.
At this moment, I hear the language of color. Color, you ask? Just give it time. Color, and color theory may soon be integrated into pop-culture, as a form of language that requires no words. Just vision, and an acceptance of art as a living thing. Art is, after all, a form of communication that is unlikely to force us into repetitive ANYTHING syndrome. Employers rejoice! Slim likelihood of workers comp claims.
Repetition works in poetry in only advanced poetic works. I hope to advance. Owen did.