Entertainment and Sports


If words lack succinctness, style, substance, or sincerity, what's the point? Fortunately, many people respect words and put them together beautifully.

By Kevin Somers
Published April 10, 2007

I love words and every monkey has something to say, so you'd think I'd be happy, but that's impossible. In the right hands, words can be crafted into something special, but when they gush ceaselessly or thoughtlessly, as they often do, words just add to the pollution.

If words lack succinctness, style, substance, or sincerity, what's the point? Fortunately, many people respect words and put them together beautifully.

E. B. White was a terrific writer. Years ago, my first editor, Grant Whatmough, insisted I read The Elements of Style by White and William Strunk. The book preaches brevity and omitting unnecessary words has become an obsession.

I also have a copy of White's "Writings from the New Yorker," where he was a staff writer for over 50 years. I read, re-read, and read over the book regularly. God was likely awed, occasionally, at White's ability to craft sentences out of words. R.I.P., Elwyn Brooks.

Dr. Seuss was a remarkable wordsmith as well. Stories like "Green Eggs and Ham" and "The Lorax" are lessons in life and writing delivered with rollicking pace, remarkable precision, and resonating poetry.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox could pen a poem, too. From Solitude; "Laugh and the world laughs with you / Weep, and you weep alone / For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth / But has trouble enough of its own." My Ships is a magnificent work of words.

Some of the best word-workers today are in the music industry, where they're still expected to rhyme and make sense (poets, on the other hand...). Canada has punched out a few great lyricists in recent decades.

I've long felt that Neil Peart from Rush never gets his due; he uses words as well as a drum kit. "Closer to the Heart," as an example, is heady stuff from the boy he was when it was written. Neil has had some bad luck recently and we wish him well.

Leonard Cohen can turn a magical phrase; "The Future" is a lyrical feast.

Fred Eaglesmith has simplicity down to a science. Fred can write paragraphs with a few words, a chapter in a couple of verses, and a whole novel in a "simple" song. With less than 100 different words, Fred speaks volumes.

I'm not always sure what Gord Downie of the Hip is talking about, but it sure sounds good. He waxes great rhetorical, too: "Do you like to be judged or liked?" and "Do you think I bow out because I think you're right / Or because I don't want to fight?" (That's our song, honey.)

I'm a fan of CHML's Roy Green; he was great at his job. I'll miss his morning comment. He had an obvious appreciation for words and used them well. Enjoy your retirement, Roy. Write.

My favourite guy on TV, Don Cherry, has a wonderful way with word, as well. Wifey, my fine self, and a friend lived in Japan for a couple of years in the 1990s. We watched Don Cherry's Rockem Sockem Hockey, Numbers I through V, hundreds of times while there.

In one installment of Coach's Corner, Cherry shows a clip of a Leaf game. Wendel Clark is sitting on the very end of the bench. He had hurt his knee but remained with the team. The video shows fans going to their Gold seats at MLG and they must squeeze past Wendel to get there.

Don is so incensed at the setup, he loses control of his words. He shows the clip and rants in a one-sentence voiceover, "There's the fans... the Leafs' bench ... goin' for a hotdog... and a guy with ligaments!"

Don's partner on Coach's Corner, Ron MacLean, is a quick-thinking wordsmith. If there were a Stanley Cup for segues, he'd be a perennial contender. Ron and Don; that's entertainment.

Names are just words. It's a word often heard, however, so choice wisely. Our dog is named Wendel because it brings to mind words like honest, humble, and hard working. As expected, Wendel is a good old dog. We have encountered four other dogs and cats worded Wendel.

Cousin Mickey, a word connoisseur of sorts, wasn't happy to hear a recent Ms. USA competitor respond to an inspiring message with, "Word!" It seems the cool kids are replacing "Right on!" with "Word!" Spread the word.

There is no such thing as a bad word, but some words are vulgar and they say something about the user. Words are wonderful, but words can be manipulated. Words can tell lies just as they can speak and seek truth.

Words form the thoughts in your head. Words are powerful things, so choose your words wisely.


Kevin Somers is a Hamilton writer.


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