"But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think."
- George Gordon Byron
While out running this morning I was thinking of music and words and such. I decided to call these thoughts ruminations after checking my trusted dictionary to make sure that was just the word that I wanted to use. Last week I moved my OED into the living room. I was reading Walter Miller's A Canticle for Liebowitz and too many words that I did not recognize were appearing that I was pretty sure that I could not find elsewhere. However, my best source for definitions and clarification of words is my Webster's College Edition that I've had by my desk for almost fifty years.
When I graduated from high school I received two very practical gifts. One was a portable Smith Corona typewriter (manual, not electric) that served me well through college and beyond, but it has been replaced by the computer on which I am composing this commentary. I wonder how many typewriters there are these days, outside of museums. The Smith Corona Company has survived, but merely as a supplier of thermal tapes, typing supplies and such. That is perhaps a better fate than Wang Laboratories. Do you remember Wang word processors? We used them at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago where I spent two decades plus managing financial reporting and other support functions. Following its bankruptcy Wang has been reborn as a subsidiary of a subsidiary of a Dutch telecommunications company. This provides more evidence that Schumpeter was correct in his description of capitalism. The other practical gift I received upon my high school graduation was the above-mentioned Webster's Collegiate dictionary. I am still amazed, but no longer surprised at its ability to answer almost every question about words that I encounter in my reading and writing. The dust jacket wears tape that covers the scars of decades of use, but the pages are intact and still deliver the linguistic answers when I turn them over.
But I started these ruminations with a comment about running and music and it is that to which I turn in conclusion. I like to reflect on music as I run and this morning I started with a particularly appropriate reference to the main theme from the first movement of Mahler's first symphony. To those who know this work, or the song on which it is based, it is a wonderful melody for walking or running, slowly as I am want to do, in the park.