What kind of writer do I want to be? My interests are so varied that I’d hate to limit myself to one niche, and in that Roy Blount, Jr. is another writing idol of mine. In a piece on Saturday noting Blount’s birthday, The Writer’s Almanac included this description:
Roy Blount has been a freelance writer for more than 100 different publications. He has written profiles, essays, sketches, verse, short stories, and reviews. And he’s written about politics, sports, music, food, drink, gender issues, books, comedians, language, travel, science, animals, economics, anatomy, and family life.
Wow – sounds like my blog, except no one’s ever paid me for my profiles, essays, sketches, verse, short stories and reviews. Yet. The Almanac goes on to name Blount’s new book and mention that it comes out this week. The title is 34 words long, with 17 punctuation marks but I’ll call it Alphabet Juice for short.
The new book contains the following excerpt:
To me, letters have always been a robust medium of sublimation. … We’re in the midst of a bunch of letters, and if you’re like me, you feel like a pig in mud. What a great word mud is. And muddle, and muffle, and mumble. … You know the expression “Mum’s the word.” The word mum is a representation of lips pressed together. … The great majority of languages start the word for “mother” with an m sound. The word mammal comes from the mammary gland. Which comes from baby talk: mama. To sound like a grownup, we refine mama into mother; the Romans made it mater, from which: matter. And matrix. Our word for the kind of animal we are, and our word for the stuff that everything is made of, and our word for a big cult movie all derive from baby talk.
What are we saying when we say mmmm? We are saying yummy. In the pronunciation of which we move our lips the way nursing babies move theirs. The fact that we can spell something that fundamental, and connect it however tenuously to mellifluous and manna and milk and me (see M), strikes me as marvelous.
Mmm-hmmm, that’s good stuff.