Monday, October 20, 2008

Love of Language


By Malena Lott
Ramona, my protagonist in Dating da Vinci introduced herself to me in waves. First, as a grieving widow. I felt empathy for her immediately. And raising two boys on her own? As a mother of three who depends on her hubby mightily to share the load, I admired her courage just to get out of bed each day. Yet, as we moms know, that’s what we do: whatever it takes.

Her passion for teaching English to immigrants at the Panchal Center for Diversity was a pleasant surprise. I loved that she held on to her passion for teaching and language when her world had crumbled around her. In fact, her teaching was the one place where she felt comfortable. She was now like them – outsiders desperately wanting in. She was as lost as they were.

Yet I wanted her reaching for something more and I liked the idea of her being a student at the University of Texas, too. She had put her dissertation on the “Language of Love” on hold after her husband Joel died, for obvious reasons. In searching for joy again, she resumes the dissertation to get her doctorate in linguistics.

I don’t recall consciously deciding that this should be her occupation, but when a character lives within you, the ideas almost “appear” when you aren’t expecting them. The pieces began to fit, and I liked the idea of someone who can speak so many languages and have such a love of language and yet not feel that she can – or should- express herself anymore. What happens when words lose their meaning? And when it comes to love, are words meaningless? She explores these questions and more on her search for la vita allegro, joyful living.

In the book, Ramona shares her favorite words. As a writer and/or reader, what are your very favorite words? What words do you dislike? Share yours and I’ll share mine…

12 comments:

  1. Hi, Malena. I am always interested to hear how characters, who are as real to a writer as living friends, come into existence. And also, how they seem to choose their own paths. Fascinating! Favorite words of mine: Medusa. Elevator. Leopard. Intuition. Almost anything said with a Scottish accent!

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  2. That's pretty much how it happens for me. I get one idea in my head--a chance meeting, something someone says that triggers it, and it takes on a life of it's own.
    I hate words that look ugly--many of which I probably shouldn't say here!
    I love the word knight. I'd tell you why, but it's a secret...

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  3. Malena,
    You know I loved Da Vinci! What a wonderful story told in beautiful, thought-provoking language. My favorite word is implode--as in my head is going to... My list of words that make me cringe: moist, lover, panties, ointment, succulent. And yes, you can make some fascinating sentences that start with My lover's moist panties... :-)

    I too have had characters take up residence in my mind with fully formed lives. My first-ever character was an architect. I don't remember consciously deciding that would be his profession. I guess he came to me bearing rolled up plans and a drafting table.

    Cheryl,
    I've always said there was more to the story with the knights at the medi-evil place at the beach. Maybe someday you'll write THAT book??

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  4. my degree is in Spanish, so I get loving language. As for a favorite word - ask me at any given moment - whatever one best reflects my mood or what's happening around me. Right now, it's L-A-Z-Y. :)

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  5. Lovely post, Malena. My favorite word is the one I've been looking for all day, that pops into my head just as I go to bed and I have to put the light on to write it down.

    And the English language is so interestingly complex, with so many words meaning more than one thing.

    I spend a lot of time delving in my Regency dictionary, trying to find exactly the right word, so it won't throw the reader off, yet will be perfect for the time.

    And I love words that role off the tongue. How about salubrious, used in The Times of London in 1803 and in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.

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  6. Ha! Marie, I've actually written that book, but I can't publish it now because the "knight" in question has a copy of Slave, and he knows that he was my inspiration for Cat! If I publish the other one, well, let's just say it might get me in trouble! Some of it is true, but most of it is fantasy...some really good fantasy *sigh*

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  7. I like verbs that sound like what they mean. Trudge.Gallivant. Glide. Slimed. Pelted.

    For that reason, I DON'T like most of the Old English words for sex.

    And I love the history of words--especially how they migrate between languages. One thing I've always wondered: who makes the rule about when a word gets to be a "word" as in "Is that a word?"

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  8. Great post Malena, and I can't wait to read about Ramona's quest. Our characters do take on their own lives. For me it was taking the kernels begun by Jane Austen and making them mine, all mine! That is why when someone tries to criticize by saying 'it is not Jane Austen' or some such nonsense - I just smile and leap for joy! No offense to Miss Austen, but I am not her! Plus, my characters are moving on, growing with life events, and being given a future that is of my devising. I love to let them tell me what they want to do, and then giving it to them.

    As for favorite words, well too many! By the way, Michele, is there an actual Regency dictionary? I would love that reference!

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  9. Great post, Malena!

    Nice to know I'm not alone. My characters tend to reveal more and more of themselves as the story moves along (and I poke and prod them! ;-)). I always know waaay more about them than ever makes it onto the written page.

    As for favorite words, I'm with Judi, depends on the day and time. I do love the Latin based languages. They just have a wonderful melodious sound, especially Italian. Even curse words in Italian sound pretty to me.

    Least favorites words have to include: rejection, nausea, insufficient funds, overdue... I think you get the picture. :-P

    AC

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  10. I'm not sure I have a favorite word, Malena and if I did it would be friend, because it's an important one.

    Linda

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  11. Thanks for those words and the comments, gals. Sorry I'm so late to respond. Just drove 12 hours from Vail, Colorado with 3 kids in the car so my brain is about to IMPLODE. My favorite word by far is love - and I love a lot of "l" words - even when they are sad like lonely. I think I like M words because of the maternal sounding "m" and my own egoic sense of my name! :-) Marriage, music, movies, mayhem...all goodies.
    Words I don't like probably have more to do with the meaning than the sound alone - like a lot of words ending with the "t" sound like hate.
    Have a great week!

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  12. Sorry I'm so late chiming in. It's been a rough week, but I just wanted to say how excited I am to have your book on my TBR pile.

    Oh, and one of my favorite words is ominous. I'm not sure why but I do love it.

    Robin :)

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