The beauty of words

Last month, awesome Israeli Writer, Amos Oz, passed away.  His books have been translated into 45 languages.

In his book, “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” Oz describes when he was little and did not yet know how to read that his father would read to him.  Before Amos could read the words themselves (by sounding our the letters), he learned to read by shapes!

Amazingly, he saw the words in a whole new way.  The “S” in “Snake” looks like a snake.  Similarly the “F” in “Flag” looks like a flag on a pole.  Again, an “eye” looks like a pair of eyes with the bridge of a nose between them.  I have never heard anyone fully learn to read from the shape of words like this before.

Language is really quite fascinating… There are words that sound like what they are–this is called, onomatopoeia–like “sizzle” really does sound like this when you fry something up in the pan.

Further, there are word systems like Hebrew that use numerology (“Gematria”) to understand the deeper meaning of the words, such as the Hebrew word Chai (life) which equals 18 and is the “age of majority”–typically associated with attaining adulthood and the earliest you can get married (and is different than a bar/bat-mitzvah which is the age you are responsible for understanding and performing the Commandments).

With all of these facets to language, it is wonderful to gain a whole new appreciation for words and what they mean literally and figuratively.   I remember also in high school, English class used to be called “language arts” and it really is an art that is poetic in sound, meaningful in thought, and even beautiful to look at–no different than a work of art by Picasso or Mozart.

About the Author
Andy Blumenthal is business and technology leader who writes frequently about Jewish life, culture, and security. All opinions are his own.
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