I’ve never been a collector. I am, in fact, the opposite of a hoarder. Like my mother, I am what she would describe as a pitcher, not of the baseball variety but as in, if it isn’t going to be used in the next ten minutes, “Pitch it.” The nearest thing I have resembling a collection is an abundance of books, but I’m not really a collector. I just don’t know what to do with the many books I read when I’m finished reading them. I sometimes give them away, but I mostly stuff them into nooks and crannies of my den, believing that someday I may want to re-read them; although, I’m really not one to re-read.
I guess, the books themselves are a collection of the items I actually do covet and most actively seek to expand my ownership of: words. I am a logophile, a lover of words. I love the way they feel in my mouth when I say them and the way they ring in my ears when I hear them, some, of course, more than others. I love how they shape and organize the mishmash that is my thoughts and translate them into meaningful, shareable ideas. I love how words have allowed me to convince people I’m a lot smarter than I actually am because I can flex my lexiconic muscles by using many archaic, arcane, and polysyllabic ones.
One of my favorite words is “plucky.” I can’t help but smile whenever I say it or even as I just typed it. Plucky is a funny word to say, and I like that its meaning has nothing to do with the verb “pluck.” It’s sneaky that way. Plucky means having or showing determined courage in the face of difficulties. Some of my favorite people are plucky. The Tiananmen Square Tank Man was plucky. Baker Mayfield is plucky.
I like to think I’m plucky, but I typically hesitate to flatter myself. My favorite example of pluckiness is the Chicken Hawk in the old Looney Toons cartoons. He constantly badgers the much larger and unfazed Foghorn Leghorn while insisting he’s going to capture the rooster because a rooster is a chicken and that’s just what a chicken hawk does. Don’t let my clever association of the word plucky with a chicken and chicken hawk be lost on you, not exactly Shakespearean-level wordplay, but hey, you’re reading this for free.
My favorite word of all, however, is quixotic. Firstly, I love its literary roots as it is derived from the name of the eponymous character in the bestselling novel of all time: Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Quixote, although an old man long past his prime, sets out on a seemingly-impossible and absurd quest to restore chivalry to a world that was fast losing its moral center. It was first published just over four hundred years ago and simultaneous to the peak years of Shakespeare’s own career. I’ll let you judge how well mankind has done maintaining its “moral center” over the past four centuries.
The adjectival form of the term derived from Quixote’s name means to be exceedingly idealistic and impractical, which, now that I think about it marries quite nicely with plucky. I like the romanticism of such an attitude even if Quixote is delusional in his quest and spends much of his time “tilting at windmills.” The song “Impossible Dream” from the musical Man of La Mancha best captures the meaning and value of being quixotic.
I think, however, what I most like about the word quixotic is its attitude of tolerance and inclusiveness. It’s a word in which the oddball and often excluded letters “q” and “x” are not only included but necessary and celebrated. I often feel like a “q” or “x” myself. I think we all do. Off the top of my head, the only other word I can come up with that contains both of these letters is exchequer, which is the treasury, as of a state or nation and/or the person who oversees it. This is actually the first time I have ever typed the word exchequer. Anyway, the point is that I like students and people, in general, who are what my Grandma Benkey would call “queer ducks,” and “x” and “q” are the queer ducks of the English alphabet.
I’m a fan of the music of Eric Church, but I don’t care for the lyrics to his song “Kill a Word.” I understand his point as he sings about killing words like “poison,” “regret,” “fear,” “hate,” and “heartbreak.” To me, however, his wish is the proverbial killing of the messenger. The words themselves are not the things they name; they’re mere symbols for those regrettable realities. If we kill words, we will be unable to name life’s vices and iniquities or to call them out, and that which we don’t name festers and grows in the darkness of its anonymity. I guess I’m the Father Flanagan of unwanted words. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as a “bad” word. I’ve already fessed up to my proclivity for the “F-word” in another blog post.
Remember that most of our greatest accomplishments as individuals or as a species were once thought to be quixotic. When I set out over a decade ago to make a dream of becoming a published author come true, it was “exceedingly idealistic and impractical” to think I would, – after nearly five years and three failed attempts at writing novels – become a Penguin-Random House Author.
Just a few months ago, it was thought absurd that the scientific community would be able to concoct a vaccine for a novel virus in less than a year’s time, yet here we here queuing up for our vaccinations. So, here’s to all of us plucky, quixotic dreamers and daydream believers. May we never lose our willingness to try and to fail.
If you enjoy my blog posts, you may like to receive an email notification whenever a new article is posted. If so, click on the Menu link above and select “Home,” scroll down to the bottom, and click the “Follow” button. You may preview or order any of my novels from the link to my “Home” page below. – Thanks, Ty