August 21, 2023
I knew if I was patient enough, I’d get Wordle in one. Today was the day. It’s also the first day of the semester, so I’m going to take it as an omen of a good semester.
I love word puzzles of all kinds — Wordle, Dordle, Boggle, crossword puzzles — you name it, and I’ve played it. I miss my subscription to the Sunday New York Times. I’d snatch the Magazine first thing and store it away until I could devote the hour-plus to solve the Sunday crossword. (I rarely finished it without having to consult sources.) It’s not so surprising I went into a profession that works with words.
At the end of the first class, I ask students to add to their intake form a question they have of me. It can be about the course or me or college in general. It’s a way to build trust and community. I’ve never shied away from any question. Several students in today’s class asked why I became a professor.
Simply, my love for words. I’m obsessed with syntax in all its forms and sizes. Once, a student wrote a sentence that was a page and a half in length. I spent 45 minutes parsing the sentence, phrase by phrase, in an attempt to understand what he meant. (When I told him this, in an attempt to teach him to consider his readers, he rolled his eyes and wondered, aloud, why the university couldn’t hire competent instructors who could read what he wrote. I invited him to leave my office.) I’m in awe of infants babbling their way to coherent speech. I’m fascinated by the biological structures that produce sounds which, when put together, form meaning. I am a fan of the IPA. (Not the beer, but the International Phonetic Alphabet.) How poets combine words that make me weep, how playwrights craft a dialogue that makes me laugh, how technical writers take us step-by-step through instructions to keep us from killing ourselves — what a wondrous thing, words!
I was a curious child. I found my mother’s Underwood typewriter. There was nothing more gleeful than slamming a bunch of keys causing the typebars to jam in the carriage. Of course, she didn’t like that, so she taught me to type numbers and letters, and eventually we put letters together to make words. While Dad was off in Southeast Asia, I dutifully typed him a simplistic letter every week. That was when I was five.
Now, words consume me. When I had Covid the first time, I had erratic aphasia, unable to produce words, for a few weeks. The long Covid, along with advancing age, has altered my cognition and production, and sometimes the clarity of thoughts and words is missing. The neurologist is checking out my brain. I printed off a new study on long Covid released today, and I will read it thoroughly before my next visit.
But at the end of today, I will revel in getting Wordle in one.