Before there was "In So Many Words," there was "A Word with you." Fifteen years ago, a time in the infancy of the internet, that unique website captured the attention of multitudes of readers. It received dozens of awards, including acclaim from Details magazine and the Dummies Daily. It was declared a "Hot" site by USA Today and a "Cool" site by Yahoo, and in little more than a year, attracted a quarter of a million visitors and several thousand subscribers from all over the world who received the column daily with their email. Alas, after several years, the site closed, not because of lack of interest, but because of financial constraints. So here we are back again — risen from the dead.
The Yolk's On You
This project has been inspired in part by two scholars, Owen Barfield and Russell Lockhart. Barfield was a pioneer in the study of the history of language who believed that language preserved the inner living history of man's soul, and that by studying it, we could see the unfolding and evolution of our consciousness. Lockhart provided the apt metaphor in Words as Eggs (1983), pointing towards content hidden beneath a shell which had to be shattered so that it might be fully revealed and made useful.
That shell he sought to crack was etymology. That is its logic. More than a principle of order or knowledge, logos (Greek for 'word') refers to the internal consistency of the message and the clarity of its claim. For Lockhart, This becomes even more meaningful when we realize that etmos means "truth." The logos of etmos is thus, "truth speaking."
Both men encouraged us to move beyond the dry literal meaning of words; to dig more deeply; to excavate the information and images buried within, and to connect with the word's interiority, i.e. its imagination. All one had to do was follow the connections that arose spontaneously through the release of images into consciousness, made easily recognizable by their having resonated for us personally.
Neither a linguistic scholar nor a student of psychology, I am simply a lover of words who serendipitously chanced upon these two scholarly works which provide the scaffolding for my passion. It was comforting, however, to know I was not alone - operating in the same spirit as the credentialed Barfield and Lockhart - one which rejected the utilitarian path for one guided by curiosity and pleasure.