Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Wednesday Words from a memoir

Wednesday Words ~ cord/chord
"In the medical literature, the vocal 'cord' is a mere 'fold,' a piece of gristle that strives to reach out and touch its twin, thus producing the possibility of sound effects.  But I feel that there must be a deep relationship with the word 'chord':  the resonant vibration that can stir memory, produce music, evoke love, bring tears, move crowds to pity and mobs to passion.  We may not be, as we used to boast, the only animals capable of speech.  But we are the only ones who can deploy vocal communication for sheer pleasure and recreation, combining it with our two other boasts of reason and humor to produce higher syntheses.  To lose this ability is to be deprived of an entire range of faculty:  It is assuredly to die more than a little" (p. 54 of Mortality by Christopher Hitchens, 2012, memoir, 9/10).
Hitchens was dying of lung cancer and cancer of the esophagus when he wrote this book, so the problem specifically involved his vocal cords.  He was a writer and a speaker, so not being able to speak or put words on paper was a terrible thought.
"I often grandly say that writing is not just my living and my livelihood but my very life, and it's true. Almost like the threatened loss of my voice, which is currently being alleviated by some temporary injections into my vocal folds, I feel my personality and identity dissolving as I contemplate dead hands and the loss of the transmission belts that connect me to writing and thinking" (p. 71).
A variety of cords
The words "cord" and "chord" are homophones; they sound alike, but they're spelled differently.  When I think of a "cord," it is something like an electrical cord or the cord I use to charge my computer or a cord to tie up a package.  So why would vocal "folds" (as Hitchens says above) use the spelling "cord"?  Yes, that's the correct spelling.  More research tells me that any time the word is used in anatomy, it is always spelled "cord" rather than "chord."  Hmm, interesting.  So we have spinal cord, vocal cord, umbilical cord, etc.

Another Wednesday Word ~ inanition
"I would often find fatalism and resignation washing drearily over me as I failed to battle my general inanition.  Only two things rescued me from betraying myself and letting go:  a wife who would not hear of me talking in this boring and useless way, and various friends who also spoke freely.  Oh, and the regular painkiller" (pp. 68-69 of Mortality).
Definition:  in·a·ni·tion /ˌinəˈniSHən/ = exhaustion caused by lack of nourishment, lack of mental or spiritual vigor and enthusiasm.  An example:  "She was thinking that old age bred inanition."  Another example I found:  "Anorexia caused severe weakness in the young girl since the inanition of nutrition in her body could lead to her death."

I don't remember ever running across this word, so I also researched it and found this professor bird's list of words helpful.  I wondered about its opposite and found that Professor Birdy has another helpful list.

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme by BermudaOnion where we share new words that we have encountered or spotlight words that we love.  These are the words that intrigued me this week.


Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I've just requested this book from the library.

bermudaonion said...

Oh my gosh, Professor Birdy is so cute! Inanition is new to me too.