Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Little OCD?

Aristotle said, "All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion, desire."

I think that for each of us there's at least one thing - be it a craft, a practice, a job in the home or in the marketplace - about which we take excessive care, the abuse or neglect of which by others we find painful to watch. Something we're willing to spend time on and polish until it meets our standards.

(I can't seem to find a word that exactly fits my meaning. Nature, compulsion, and passion all play into it, as does obsession, but none of these describes it perfectly. So, for lack of a better term, I will call it a passion.)

My passion is for words. Language is important to me. The right words in the right order, the mot juste, the neatly turned phrase, are somehow deeply satisfying. I may be a slacker (actually I am a slacker) in many areas - housework, exercise, consistently healthy cooking and eating, keeping in touch with distant family members - but when it comes to words, to language and grammar, I am diligent without trying, often without thinking. It is, indeed, a kind of compulsion.

Words, to me, have individual personalities whose beauty or ugliness extends to their very appearance on the page. Some words are lovely to speak and to see: violet; apple; maiden; apricot. Some are pleasantly exotic - amethyst; silver; mystic; rainbow. Some words are ugly in sound and meaning and look: execrate; vituperate.

Perhaps because of my lingual obsession, I tend to be a literalist. I understand that hyperbole and metaphor exist (and sometimes indulge in them myself), but, in the main, I say exactly what I mean and try to mean exactly what I say. And I tend toward the silly assumption that others want to do the same.

This can and does drive said others crazy - notably Mr. M, who's very fond of what he calls "looking at the big picture". (To me it seems more like sloppy speech.) Poor husband of a word-wrangling wife, how he hates being pinned down to a precise expression of his meaning. He'd much rather keep his communication vague and fuzzy, all the while hoping for the best (which, now that I think about it, rather describes my approach to housework).

Of course Mr. M has his own passions, the greatest of which is probably the proper building and maintenance of bicycles. A frame built on bad geometrical principles, or a poorly-tuned bicycle, are as exasperating to him as a poorly-constructed sentence or misplaced apostrophe are to me.

I suppose that in a perfect world, our passions, or talents, would become our vocations - in short, we'd all get paid for doing what we naturally do best. As it is, we must satisfy ourselves where we can, by living up to our own standards - and remembering that what's important to one may be less so to another. (Although nothing can excuse a misplaced apostrophe.)

What's your passion?

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  1. My passion is words, language in general too. I write every day, because I love it and I am good at it.
    And I am very passionate about grammar. So when I teach grammar (German is kind of a foreign language for Swiss people), students can feel my enthusiasme. Of course, I don't want to show them my affection for? (and this brings us to the prepositions, which is not at all easy) the German language not only by teaching grammar.
    I had to laugh about the misplaced apostrophe. I know exactly what you mean.

    Anyway, sorry for my mistakes (spelling, apostrophes, wrong collocations and well everything). I try to do my best.

  2. Organization and tidiness of items. A place for everything and everything in it's place. For example: My pantry, everyone who has ever looked in it has always been surprised at how tidy and organized it is (I even had offers of money to organize someones pantry). And I hate it when I open the door to find something put back in the wrong place. It's too bad a can't manage to be this organized with my time, or keep my house clean enough to match how tidy it usually is.
    I love to sort!

  3. What a beautifully written post! My passion (obsession - you're kind to coin it "passion".) is counting. An accountant by day, a crocheter by night...all the while counting away on both counts. ;-) Give me an Excel spreadsheet and a pattern to count out and I am as happy as can be.

    Hey, at least I didn't use "your" instead of "you're" in the first paragraph of this comment.

    Have a lovely weekend, Annette.

  4. Well said! Though my writing can be sloppy as my brain races ahead of my fingers I do appreciate when writing is well done.

  5. Mac n' Janet's comment cracked me up. I've been in the same boat way too many times. I would like to believe I am passionate about correct usage of words and proper spelling, but I can't tell you how many times my fingers got ahead of my brain, and my eyes were even slower!

    As others have said, great post. Love your humor, too!

  6. Mrs. M. I scoured your blog looking for contact info. Finding none, I'm leaving a comment. My publisher has an idea she'd like to discuss with you. Email:

    Thank you.


  7. You are such a skilled writer, my dear!! You always make me smile!! :)

    I'm a fan of words myself! Well crafted writing is a sight to behold!! I've been reading poetry to the kiddos lately and sometimes I need to reread a phrase in order that we all appreciate it's loveliness.

    I love it when I'm reading a book and come across a sentence that is so well done that I want to write it down somewhere to enjoy later!! :)

    I'm a big fan of the economy of words, too. Not so much minimalism, but choosing words carefully in order to convey meaning without an overabundance of adjectives. It tends to slow the story down...I need people and action!! :) Now a well placed overabundance is fun, but if it s an author's stock and trade, I glaze over. :)

    I need to stop writing now as I feel I may be breaking my own rules!!! lol!!!!!!

  8. Thanks all, for your kind comments. So glad to find fellow word lovers out there!

    Regula - no need to apologise. The English language is a minefield even its native speakers find hard to navigate. I think it's wonderful that you read blogs in a language not your own, AND leave comments as well. You're braver than I am.

    Chaotic Good - Oh how I envy your passion for tidiness. If only I had just a bit of that gene...

    Astri - I too love to count under my breath while crocheting. There's a soothing sort of rhythm to it. Hmmm...good post topic there.

    Mac n' Janet, Deb - yes, the brain does get ahead of the fingers. My rather compulsive response to that is to revise, revise, revise. Sometimes by the time I hit the "publish" button I could recite the post by heart because I've read it over so many times.

    Laura - comment away. Heaven knows I inflict enough lengthy thoughts on other peoples' comment pages! Do you ever get choked up when reading to children and a specially beautiful passage comes along? That used to happen to me in my babysitting days.


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