The Children's Book Quote of the Day

Just another weblog

Words into Reality November 28, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Shanna @ 1:15 pm

The Egyptian word shesh means scribe or writer, but it can also mean magician.  This is because magic, at its most basic, turns words into reality. (from The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan)

I loved this quote immediately when I read it, partially because I am a writer, and partially because I am a reader, and mostly because I believe deeply in the power of words.  I am reminded of something I learned about as an undergraduate in my first literary theory class.  A linguist named De Saussure (at least, I think it was De Saussure; if you know that I’m wrong, please correct me, and if you have no idea, please think that I’m brilliant) suggested that language as we know it is a system of signs.  For example, when I say “tree” you understand that I am referring to an object.  The word is not the object itself, but a signifier for the object.  This makes sense, right?  Another example–I can say the word “run,” and that word signifies an action, but it is not the action itself.  Okay, so I remember learning about this a thousand years ago (okay, more like seven, but I’m counting in academic years), and in my class we talked about what my professor called “primary language” and “secondary language” (I think).  Our language–a system of signs–is a secondary language.  Primary language is one in which there is not separation between signifier and object.  This is the language of God; remember how in Genesis, God speaks things into being?  Remember how He says, “Light” and it is?  God’s language is one in which words and realities are the same thing.  We serve a God who speaks trees, flowers, canyons, people–His words do not signify things, but are the things themselves.

We, of course, do not have access to this primary language.  We cannot speak in things; our words don’t have that power.  But we do have the power to turn some  of our words into reality.  We can, for example, take actions that make words like “hope” and “peace” and “welcome” reality.  We all have that kind of magic, to make words real, and to shape reality with words.

[Was this too deep for a children’s book blog?  I don’t know; I’m writing papers just now and I’ve lost my sense of depth perception when it comes to ideas.  So sorry if this is ridiculous.  But I’m not erasing it. :)]


6 Responses to “Words into Reality”

  1. soosieq Says:

    Shanna, I miss you. You’re brilliant.

  2. Jon Says:

    I like this.

  3. Melissa Ledbetter Says:

    I enjoyed it! Thank you 🙂

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