Why I’m a Proud English Nerd

When I was in graduate school, I took a class, “History of the Book,” I think it was, where the professor shared what he knew about how society went from Monks with feathered pens and parchment, to the latest Gaiman novel. We started at point A and ended at Z, very simple, a bit dry at some points, but still interesting. The objective was to examine how words, simple words, had changed the world. It all started with English nerds, or perhaps I should say, Word Nerds.

Words are powerful. They can consume us like the sea, defeat us, flay us like the sharpest sword. They can also save us, they can transport us, make us feel, make us cry, make us fight and scream and laugh and love. There is nothing more powerful, not one thing more magical. Don’t believe me?

Case in point: John Trudell. He’s a poet and one-time spokesman for the American Indian Movement. He was a speaker. All he did was speak. His only weapon was his words and the truth he believed. And for his words, his family was murdered. He’d been warned, in the county jail, to shut up, to stop protesting. Weeks later, after he’d continued to speak? His pregnant wife, mother-in-law and children were all dead because of words. Only words.

There are others, countless others — Martin Luther, Nelson Mandela, D.H. Lawrence, Vonnegut, Dr. Martin Luther King, and many others, some of whom are the reason we can call ourselves American. Words, my friends, simple words can change the world. So, respect them. Love them. Honor them.

In the end, when we’re all ashes, when the apes or robots or aliens (insert your chosen post-apocalyptic villain here) have taken over and memory of humankind becomes a fading myth, it will be the words — ours or theirs — that will endure.

~T.S. Tate

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