The Scene — Powerful Language
Sneetches, zillo, thneeds, wocket, kwigger, diffendoofer and floobooberbabooberbub. Chances are, these words, or perhaps similar ones strike a cord deep down in your memories. These words were created by none other than Theodore Geisel. While I have always admired the stimulating words of Dr. Seuss, I recently became aware of the actual impact of these words on language.
We instinctively begin to experiment with language from the first day we enter the world. We start the developmental process by listening to the world around us. Without the ability to communicate by forming our own verbalizations, we are forced to constantly listen to those who do the talking. Speaking quickly becomes a natural behavior that we learn just as we learn to walk.
However, it is slightly more complex. While the functions of walking do not change over time, the language that we use every day is always under the influence of a continuous evolution. It is probably impossible for most of us to trace back to our very first verbalization of language, but sometimes we are able to track down some sort of origin. A book or story being told by the voice of a parent or relative is probably a common trend. I, for one, distinctly recall “The Foot Book” by Dr. Seuss. Seuss’s rhyming flow of sounds was my first attraction to language.
Who else could tell such outrageous stories with so few words? Seuss’s minimal vocabulary accompanied by incredible adventures is appealing to most individuals because of qualities of ease and entertainment. Children specifically like the stories because the limited vocabulary matches their own, while outlandish stories also nurture their already limitless imaginations.
Furthermore, Seuss writes in a way that includes the reader. “You” are always involved in the stories. While being warned that the world is a tough, crazy place, you are encouraged to dream great dreams. Like Seuss’ fantastic language, his preposterous characters also stretch one’s mind. As children, our imaginations are comfortable with this stretch, but with age, this becomes a bit more distressing. Seuss speaks to kids in a language that is as young and innocent as their minds and hearts are. He encourages them to change the world, before their hopes are dulled by adulthood. We like our world that is definitive and anchored. Essentially, we like being able to understand the world around us without posing questions. We don’t want to challenge what we know to be true of our reality.
Instead of being caught in this dull, unimaginative continuum, perhaps we should revisit the tales of Seuss. Though more structured, our world still revolves around communication and at the heart of communication is language. Maybe we can relearn how to love words and language as we did when it was first discovered.