glint /ɡlɪnt/

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definition: a small flash of light, especially a reflected one

According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, glint is in the bottom 30% of  words in terms of popularity, even lower than gleam, which is in the bottom 50%. That surprised me, because while I have commonly seen glint, as in “his eyes glinted in mischief”, I haven’t quite seen gleam being used in my creative writing classes. What do you know, we learn new things everyday.

linger /ˈlɪŋɡə/

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definition: stay in a place longer than necessary because of a reluctance to leave

Unsurprisingly the root form of this word is similar to that of longing. I’ve come to realise that I really like the in-between words. The words of transition. Just like how I tend to like the in-between colours. I think there’s something about the in-beweens that I romanticise, like the delicate balance between the could-have-beens and the infinite possibilities in the future. The two things that I always think of when I think of transition words are: liminal spaces and story books (surprise, surprise).

Liminal spaces, simply put, are places of transition. (thank you, tumblr) Places like carparks, like stairwells and airports. They do not exist for their own sake but for their existence with the things that come before them and after them. What fascinates me is the fact that this concept of liminal space was first coined to describe that space in rituals where people are transiting from one stage of another. The fact that rituals came out of this instinctive need to protect our transitions, the fact that we even register these immaterial transitions as vulnerable, psychs me out.

I’m currently reading “The Lustre of Lost Things” and I love it. There are so many things to love about this book. Its gentle message on kindness and changing the lives of other people; its simple lyrical prose that I find myself constantly highlighting; the serendipity of finding it on a bookstore shelf. Check it out if you need a gentle weekend break! I’m taking mine now and reminding myself that life is not as harsh as we assume it needs to be. xx

Rabbit! Rabbit!

The sharp, piercing sound shatters the silence that envelopes Xiu Xi’s home and she jolts awake, adrenaline coursing through her veins though her eyes are muddled with sleep. Moonlight cuts a decisive line across the wall opposite her bed and the clock reads 3:42 am. She brings a hand up to her face, willing herself to calm down. There is sweat beading at the back of her neck and the blankets curl menacingly around her feet. She kicks them away, sighing when her feet come into contact with the cool floor, some lightness returning to her aching arms and legs.

Her hand is on the doorknob when another sound scratches through the air. This time, she is awake enough to know that she had heard it, not dreamt it. Her fingers tighten around cold metal, feet frozen in place on the marble floor. Her heart thumps an erratic rhythm against her chest and she swallows, turning the knob just slightly.

Thankfully, the door does not creak on its hinges. As she inches out, Xiu Xi grabs the vase in her corridor because the light in her hall is glaring at her and she most definitely switched it off before going to sleep last night.

Her toes creep around the corner. The vase leaves her hands before her mind catches up with her actions and she lets out a blood-curdling scream of terror when the vase crashes against the intruder’s head and she most definitely did not intend for the vase to hit his head. She was just scared.

The intruder barely reacts even as glass showers around him like confetti. Exactly like confetti – like the confetti Yi Chen used to catch in his hands and crumple between his fingers, chuckling at the ephemeral joy they bring, filling concert halls and event venues with seconds of euphoric laughter. Exactly like how the intruder is doing. Exactly like –

“Yi Chen?” Xiu Xi chokes out, eyes widening into saucers when the intruder turns on his heels, the whites of her eyes so visible against the ebony of her eyelashes.

“Hello.” Yi Chen replies, the effect of his mischievous grin curling across his face dulled slightly by the sickly parlour of his skin. Xiu Xi stares with increasing horror, the blood rushing past her ears and thundering in her chest as she fights the urge to hurl. There is an almost violent tugging at her heart, and she has to force herself to keep still. Tears are finding their way unwittingly down her cheeks, pooling at her bottom lashes and spilling down, catching the light. Yi Chen tries to imagine how he would look like to her. He had no chance to look at himself in the mirror since he – well – since he –

“I’m not human anymore. Remember that the next time you want to punch me in the face.” Yi Chen tries for a joke, regretting his words the next instant when Xiu Xi scrambles away and the sound of retching can be heard from the washroom. He shuffles his way over to the corridor, peeping into the bathroom. He catches sight of himself in the mirror then – bloodshot eyes and sickly grey-tinged lips. Xiu Xi is pulling herself up to the basin with trembling hands, and when she catches sight of him in the mirror, a broken moan wrenches its way out of her throat. Yi Chen looks away, snatching his gaze from drinking in the lifts and dips of her face and focusing on the plain white walls instead.

Xiu Xi groans, holding her head in her hands. “Yi Chen, what are you doing?”

His eyes flash fire at her and she flinches backwards, bottom lip trembling again.

“I’m the one who had to make my way back here from the cemetery. Don’t ask me what I’m doing.” He hisses. Now that their reunion is over, going exactly how he did not plan for it to go, the confusion digs its claws into his long-still heart, causing him to lash out vindictively. He is alone.

The silence between them drags out. Xiu Xi thinks that she can hear the clock in her bedroom, their bedroom, counting out the seconds. How long will you – Questions flood her mind, questions she is unwilling to answer. The gaping hole in her chest that has been gnawing at her since his funeral a few days ago makes its presence known again, but to a much lower intensity.

“Yi Chen,” she then breathes out, hand reaching out instinctively for him.

He flinches out of her reach, catching the searing hurt in her eyes, a perfect reflection of his when their gazes met in the mirror.

“I’m dead,” he snaps out. Xiu Xi recoils at that, fingers wrapping around her own wrist, as if physically stopping herself from reaching out to him again. “For all you know, I could be here to rip you apart and bring you down with me.”

Her breathing hitches and Xiu Xi feels like her heart is being squeezed into oblivion in Yi Chen’s balled up fists. She tries to catch his gaze through the curtain of tears over her eyes but the search is futile. “Don’t, you wouldn’t.” She returns instead, barely flinching even as his silhouette advances on her. When he is close enough, she throws herself bodily at him. The warmth she had come to expect never comes. Instead, she inhales the scent of freshly cut grass and dirt – so much dirt. Yi Chen stills when her arms wrap around him and her still-warm cheek presses against his stone-cold chest.

“What’re you doing,” he gets out, voice purposely pulled flat. He wraps iron fingers around her arms, but they lack resolve. Xiu Xi stays plastered to him. A wet patch soaks into his chest. They stay like that for what seems like an eternity, Yi Chen unable to bring himself to hold on or let go, and Xiu Xi attached like a barnacle to her dead husband. Everything about this evening screams irrationality, but Xiu Xi is willing to have rationality fly clean out of her window if it meant that she would get Yi Chen back. This must be it, she must have lost it. Have they both stepped out of time?

“Where do I go from here?” His voice is raspy, trembling, and Xiu Xi catches a timbre of something that was not there before – deep and woody. She holds him tighter, the silence between his ribs hanging in the air between them. She shakes her head. “Please don’t leave.”

The sun peeks shyly above the horizon. The neighbourhood is just bustling awake. There is glass scattered across Xiu Xi’s pristine white tiles. Soil finds itself in a sickening trial outside of her house. Mrs Hu, the neighbour, pounds on the door mid-morning, hollering for Xiu Xi to clean up the mess, “The corridor is a shared space damn it! Just because your husband is dead doesn’t mean you can drag the rest of us down your rabbit-hole of hell!”

longing /ˈlɒŋɪŋ/

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definition: a yearning desire 

I’m in a pretty melancholic mood tonight and wanted to try my hand at flash fiction. Out of the 13 Lucky Tips for Flash Fiction, I really liked the emotion one: Pick a key emotion to colour the story. I settled on longing. Then I realised that longing is a vague word, almost a metaphor in itself.

Longing’s origins are from Old English, Dutch and German – langian, langen and langen – which mean prolong, present/offer and reach/extend respectively. Notice that none of these meanings relate to yearning explicitly. Of course, Old English includes the meaning of ‘dwell in thought’, which is probably where the meaning of longing came from, but what interests me is how longing could have evolved from ‘long’ literally meaning “a large amount of time” into ‘longing’ as a metaphor.

Like many metaphors, longing seems to have first stemmed from concrete vocabulary. Maybe as a signifier, the the word long initially meant concretely: “a large amount of time”, but it soon evolved to encapsulate the emotion that oftentimes co-exist with being such a long distance away from a loved one – the yearning that comes with the distance. It soon evolved into what we call concrete-abstract vocabulary – deceptively simple words but with a world of meaning and value wrapped up in them.

At least, that’s my preferred theory of how longing became a one-word metaphor, one that, I’m glad, seems to be increasing in usability. Now… back to the flash fiction prompt..

halcyon /ˈhalsɪən/

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definition: a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful

I first came across this word as part of the url of this author I admired (crazily), whose live-journal is now sadly defunct. You will probably not believe how much time I spent grieving over her decision to not only leave the live-journal community but basically delete her entire online writing presence without a trace. It was scarring, to say the least.

Still, my love for the word ‘halcyon’ has endured. Did you know, halcyon’s origin lies in greek? Alcyone was the counterpart to Ceyx, and they were very happily married. So happy were they that their tongues were loose and they often called themselves “Hera” and “Zeus” just for fun – I mean, what’s a little name-calling between married lovebirds, right..? Wrong. Zeus apparently found it sacrilegious and threw a thunderbolt at Ceyx’s ship, drowning him. Alcyone drowned herself in grief, but the gods made them kingfishers – halcyon birds, named after Alcyone herself.

The legend continues that Alcyone would lay her eggs (as a halcyon bird) on the beach and her father, Aeolus, god of winds, would restrain the winds so that she could lay her eggs safely. Needless to say, halcyon days then refer to a period of particular peace, especially in the midst of difficult times. Nostalgia is imbued into this meaning as well.

Personally, even without this research, the word halcyon itself invokes a sense of longing in me. Perhaps it was due to the strange usage of h, cy, and l and the fact that these three comparatively rare elements were combined and used in one beautiful word. I suppose the fact that it’s so infrequently used also adds to its appeal for me. As you can probably already tell, I’m pretty much infatuated with “halcyon” as a word. 😁

idiolect /ˈɪdɪəlɛkt/

Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 2.19.44 AMdefinition: the speech habits peculiar to a particular person

I first heard of this word in the introductory course to linguistics in uni and have been pretty much obsessed with it since them. I thought it would be a great word to start with, in building this collection of words.

Idiolect fascinates me, because it concerns the individual. Language concerns the population, the culture, but when you talk about idiolect, you’re talking about how the person, as an individual, chooses to use this word – chooses to use this collection of words. That’s the most fascinating thing to me – that of all 7.5 billion people (this is a cool world population clock you should check out), you have your own idiolect, I have my own idiolect, and no two are the same.

It’s a shame that idiolect is used so rarely, seeming to have peaked in the 1980s. I would have expected it to have increasing usage, seeing that the corpus available to us just keeps on increasing. Especially with the rise of tumblr-poetry (here’s a wonderful poet to start with), the way words are being used have changed so much.

I guess the rate that word-use is changing was really one of the main motives for me to start this blog. If time was rewound to a decade back, I probably would not start a blog like this, simply for the fact that words and their meanings were stable for me. I could read a word on a page or speak a word and have their meanings easily match, no matter who I was speaking to or what I was talking about. Not anymore, I feel like words are slip-sliding out of our grip, and the deconstruction Jacques Derrida talked about is picking up – not gradually but exponentially, and it’s scary as well as fascinating. Until the words fall apart, I’ll keep trying my best to keep them either here, in this space (no idea how long I’ll keep this up) or as always, on scraps of paper – which is somewhat ironic, for they will only be lost again.