Eons ago, before anyone had the luxury of getting paid to scribble out nonsense, the word “writer” didn’t even exist. It’s true. And even if it had existed, which it totally, totally didn’t, it would’ve been meaningless. Like the word choyborp will be for the next 34 years. The only professions that really existed way back then were blacksmiths, dog breeders, and ornithologists. So this one day someone walked over to the group and was like, “Hey, neanderfellows, I just … did … something … with this stick and that dirt over there. What do you think it was?” And then someone else was all, “Um, I think you just made words, dude.” And then the first guy was like, “I think you’re right. I think I just invented wording.” And then a third guy looked past the mastodon carcasses and at the smithy’s sulfurous lean-to, and then back at his friends, and then back at the smithy, and then back at his friends, and then said, “I think we should call you a … a ‘wordsmith,’ man. ‘Cause you’re, like, a blacksmith. For words.” They all nodded for about thirty seconds and then continued not having penicillin.
Anyway, I don’t know that I’m a fan of being called a wordsmith, that’s all. I wish Trom and his friends had never introduced it into the world. There’s something unpleasant about the imagery of heating up words—and phrases and clauses—and then pounding all the fight out of ‘em. I think I’d rather be called a “wordsculptor,” patiently smoothing and guiding words into new forms while the Righteous Brothers croon in the background. Or maybe I could be a “wordgardener,” planting words in fertile brain soil and then watching as they grow into something alive and perhaps unexpected. Like when I got to spend the better part of a summer enjoying my accidental pumpkiberries. Better yet, I’d like to be a “wordwhisperer,” letting words keep their wildness while coaxing their best out of them, my skin all leathery and my Stetson sweat-ringed and smelling of ruggedness.
Some people seem to love language they way they love their cats. A teeth-clenching, bone-crushing kind of love. So hard that the words die horrible, shrieking deaths. Other people I’ve met opt for some form of linguistic taxidermy. They want to kill a word and preserve it forever in some hollow facsimile of life. They want to kill the word, pluck out its eyes, and then replace them with pretty glass baubles. Nice to look at, but definitely not a gateway to the soul of things.