Throughout my life, words have never been my forte. I could not seem to easily express what I was trying to communicate through verbal language, but I have not, until now, deeply contemplated what words are for. Why is the language that I speak so important to thoroughly understand? What depth am I missing? When I pick up a book at the store or library, am I looking for which one has more pictures? Often instead of reading a good novel, I choose to take adventures through flashing images on my television. Kress fears that “language-as-written will increasingly be displaced by image.” After reading his preface, I now share the same concern and believe there is action to be taken here.
In high school, I had a great opportunity to be immersed in, not only a new educational experience, but a new culture as well. My high school was near St. Louis, Missouri with a population of mostly black Americans. I had come from a small country town with very little variation in culture–to my naive knowledge, of course. In this new suburban town, I quickly experienced a new language throughout each day. Some words were simply slang but others seemed to be a completely different word from what I thought it should be according to the context. For example, the use of the word “grill” is generally using as a verb, but when I first heard this word at my new school, it was in reference to someone’s teeth. This example is not meant to point out how different cultures are, but how words are richly used to express culture.
Another great example of why it is so important to understand all of what a word has to offer us is the word “shalom” from the Hebrew language. The average person that hears “shalom” would probably think that it means peace. Although this is true, the meaning is so much deeper. Saying “shalom” to someone is wishing them peace within themselves, with those they interact with, and with God. It is a blessing of unity for the body, mind, and soul. I think understanding the true meaning can inspire the proper emotion spoken or written. So often, I am guilty of not caring which word I choose for a sentence as long as it make sense, but now, I feel challenged to know my words as if they were a part of me. Kress said so inspiringly that “words wait to be filled” (4). There is so much depth to be communicated through our mouths and particularly our fingers in writing. He did a fantastic job of taking an element which we all take for granted, and turned it into a longing for restoration of a beautiful language.
I think that a large portion of what Kress wanted us to absorb is that words are so much more than what we hear or read. Their value extends far beyond a group of letters arranged together to make a comprehensible stimuli to our brains. They are the foundation for verbal communication, expressing emotion, and living adventures across vast oceans for only twenty dollars. We should not allow any replacement for truly great literature; therefore, our language must also be preserved though our everyday speech. “The sun rose, the mists dissolved.” If I showed you a picture of what I imagined as I read this quote, then your vision would be tainted by what I see. Literature encourages passion and motivation uniquely which cannot be compromised–this is the real purpose of a word.