Woolgathering

If you happen to be captured by a three-headed dev, knowing how to weave and write could save your life.

If you had been a slave trying to escape to freedom, you might have written warnings or directions in a quilt.

If you’re a storyteller, you spin yarns and tall tales like Rumpelstiltskin spins gold.

It’s just as well that a book or story is a tactile — or textile — thing. In fact, it’s meant to be. It says so, right in the text. The word “text”, twining with French and Latin, is a “thing woven,” and shares a base with “texture.” (For that or other etymology, the OED Online and/or the Online Etymology Dictionary are very interesting.) I like what Robert Bringhurst says: “An ancient metaphor: thought is a thread, and the raconteur is a spinner of yarns — but the true storyteller, the poet, is a weaver. The scribes made this old and audible abstraction into a new and visible fact. After long practice, their work took on such an even, flexible texture that they called the written page a textus, which means cloth.”

You can also see how words braid or unravel from each other. Doublets, or etymological twins, are fascinating — two or more words related by a root, but with different senses. “Guest” and “host” are good ones. You’d think they were total antonyms, but not quite: they’re related by the concept of hospitality, their dependence on each other — you can’t call something a host without a guest — and the word gosti. (To my disappointment, “ghost” is not apparently related.)

If you do a lot of your reading on a screen, it’s still possible to feel letters and words in your head. Take silent letters, for instance. I’m always snagging on them. I am fond of the silent G, as in “gnome”; don’t ask me why, but it feels like someone’s plucking a string against the word. It resonates.

If all this is too weird for you, we have books on plain old knitting, too.

About Amy

Children's librarian, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s