Living in northeastern Nevada where cattle grazing in a prominent business, most ranch kids understand forage, the feed of grasses and desert plants that make up food intake for livestock during the spring and summer. Large herds wander the vast acres in search of vital provisions and they most often flourish. Even during dry years such as we are in now, the desert produces nutrition. Adequate foraging results in meals supplied.
There is also the phrase “forge on” which means constructing and shaping achievement through hard work and determination. Even when the going gets rough and roadblocks appear, dedication to task can build success. With my eighth grade students I love to tell them, “Forage on!” This play-on-words allows me to see who “got” the joke – cattle forage/people forge – and who did not understand the terminology. It also permits me into the minds of concrete and abstract thinkers. To forage on, as in cattle, delivers a picture of cows and bulls wandering the hinterland with a hearty meal quest in mind. To forge on conveys the idea of a ship plowing through water seeking safe harbor and a desired destination.
Having fun with words makes up a joyous part of my daily routine. I love to write and so words become the magic of the moment as they string and stream across the page. I examine them for potential and possibility, multiple meanings and interpretations, rhythm and rhyme, letter patterns and sounds. While I could say “busy bodies” a phrase most individuals know and recognize, you would also agree that is worn out through overuse. We see those know-it-alls who whirl in delight of expressing opinions and narrowed views as they solve problems whether you like it or not. We might also visualize kindergartners focusing on seventeen objects at once. They grab glue, scissors, paper, sparkles, crayons, and rulers while yipping in glee. These are definitely and literally busy bodies
Let’s replace “busy bodies” with “rambunctious ruffians”. How do these phrases differ? Rambunctious, to begin with, is an extraordinary word. It lilts and tilts around the mouth and then pops out into the air. It is smooth – ram- – and then rough – bunc – and then uneven – tious. It reveals a high-spirited and disorderly bunch (notice -bunc- and bunch and how they interplay). The riotousness of the rollicking scene creates noises that resonate and echo uproariously as these ruffians, better known as 5-year old hooligans, engage in learning and fun. Ruffians may be defined as thugs and hoods, but have you ever witnessed a tiny kindergarten villain? And so the brain skips over the negative import and replaces it with wild shenanigans. Yes, kindergartners exemplify rambunctious ruffians.
Now consider “old” words that hang around, denoting meaning within new connotations. Take “record” for instance. If you are over fifty, you remember records and 45s, needles and turntables. You recall tossing on an LP, flipping the switch, watching the arm drop and slipping into music mode. While kids know records and the reference of vinyl records, I wonder how many have every seen one in action: stacking favorites, watching them drop, and seeing the needle wave along as the record spins. “Changing the needle on the arm” draws a quite different picture for the teenager of today and me. Just as shuffle and iPod mean more to them, a Victrola and 78s add to my musical knowledge.
Fun with words fashions a tremendous, mind-expanding activity. Whether it is just one word – hyperbole, for example – or a string of words – itinerant interloper on a peripatetic pathway – interacting with words opens up worlds of imagery and delight. Try it today!