I am someone who loves words. That’s what that word, “logophile,” means. I had to look it up, because unlike “bibliophile,” (someone who loves books), I knew there was a word for the term, but I’ve come across it so seldom it was far enough down in my vocabulary memory banks that I didn’t remember it until I saw it again.
I am the kind of reader who will stop reading and look up a word I don’t know, even if a book is peppered with them. I have a very deep vocabulary, so that’s not something that happens much anymore, but I remember when that wasn’t true.
I’ve always wanted to be able to understand what people were trying to communicate, especially when they thought I wouldn’t get it otherwise. I’m talking about being a little kid and listening to my parents talk about something. As many parents do, my mother thought she could communicate with my father in “Pig Latin,” and little Chrisy would be none the wiser. Well, that took me a heartbeat to figure out.
I was the kid who would interrupt a conversation and pick a word out of a sentence and ask, “What does such-and-such mean?” It didn’t matter to me who was speaking. It could be a teacher, or a scholar, or any ordinary person. It never occurred to me someone might think I was stupid for not knowing, or that I might be a pain in the butt for sticking my nose in where it didn’t belong. If the person was kind enough to respond, I would forever remember both what a word meant and how to pronounce it.
It took me a long time to realize I needed to keep my mouth shut when someone mispronounced a word in front of me, or used it incorrectly. This especially bothers me today around homonyms used incorrectly in written sentences. “They’re, there, their,” for instance, or even more commonly “your and you’re.” I’ve learned to edit mentally. If people don’t ask, they generally don’t want to know. They’re insulted or think I’m being a snot if I say something.
Oh well. I’m just a different soul. I do want to know. I think if I only speak one language, English, then I really ought to speak it well. Honestly, I’m not instantly judgmental, I mean to be helpful. I rarely come across that way, however.
I learned to love words early on. It was part of my learning to read. My mother swears I learned to read from seeing ads on TV, that newly invented medium that first appeared in my house as I was reaching consciousness at age three or four. That was a very long time ago…probably the late 1950’s. Maybe that’s partially true.
I swear I learned to read because I loved Warner Brother’s Road Runner cartoons and wanted to know what all those mysterious boxes of things Coyote mail-ordered to try to catch the Road Runner were before I figured it out when he used them. Things like hot-air balloons, or dynamite, or catapults. Honestly, I remember being frustrated NOT being able to read, and then thrilled when I could.
I hold my father partially responsible for that. He worked very long hours, six days a week when I was very young. Still, he wanted to spend a little time with me every day, so he read to me before I went to sleep. I might have grown up to be the travelling bard in medieval times, or maybe have been apprenticed to the tribal storyteller. My father was very patient with me. He would read the same story or book to me 50 times if that is what I wanted. I got to know the stories by heart, of course.
We had a long-standing joke. Sometimes he must have been tired, or sick to death of what I wanted to hear. He would skip a sentence, or a paragraph, or a page. I would just shake my head as he continued to read the abridged story. He would pause, look at me and say, “I skipped something, didn’t I?”
“Yes, you skipped the part where the crow drops the cheese,” I would respond.
Caught in the act, he would return to the sentence he last read before he skipped something and continue. He especially tried to abridge the things I loved to have him read as I got older. I had volumes of fairy tales by every imaginable author. Some of them were not only long, but long-winded. It didn’t matter to me; I still wanted to hear them from beginning to end. Every word.
Eventually I picked the books up myself. I knew the story well because I’d heard it a hundred times. I learned to struggle through and mostly read the story to myself. Meaningless jumbles of letters became words. To this day I am an avid bibliophile, and retain a taste for the fantastic.
My son, like so many other kids, had a hard time learning to read. To this day he hates reading, but he loved to listen. I read every single one of the Harry Potter books to him, skipping nothing. Do you know what it’s like to read an 800 page book out loud to someone? And not just one, but volume after volume? I even put myself to sleep in my chair sometimes.
Still, he’s heard a lot of great children’s and young adult books in his life. He, like me, sometimes liked to hear the same book over, and over, and over. My father must have been a saint, is all I can think.
My daughter, too, loved to be read to. I think I read to her until she was in 8th grade. I’d still be reading to them both if I had a choice. One night my daughter said to me, “Mom, you don’t have to read to me anymore, I can do it myself.” I was heartbroken. Still, I bought her tons of books. She’s as addicted to reading as I am.
Every once in a while across my lifetime I’ve run into someone who likes to read out loud, or be read to. I had a boyfriend in college who was like that. One of us would find a book both of us wanted to read, so we read it out loud to each other. If one or the other got tired of reading or didn’t want to wait to finish it, well then we’d just finish it ourselves. I thought that was fun.
Much to my dismay, my ex-husband is severely dyslexic. He detested reading. I got him to read a lot by figuring out the things he liked, like science fiction, and then introducing him to excellent books, kind of like I did with my kids. He devoured them, much to my joy. He was, however, useless as an oral reader. He hated being read to.
Oh well. He isn’t my husband anymore. Maybe someday I’ll be interested in finding another partner. That man is going to have to be a reader. He’s going to have to like to read out loud, or be read to. I can read poetry, or science, or magazine articles, it doesn’t matter what. I just like to share time that way. “Good luck,” you say, right?
To be honest, I think I’m going to have to wait for grandchildren. Hopefully that will happen before I’m dead. I’m not sure I can read out loud from the other side.