When a new issue of Touchstone is mailed out, three or four of the articles are also put up online. But in addition to those new articles, we also make available online the issue of Touchstone from two years back. For example, this time the May issue from '09 is now up on the Touchstone archives in its entirity. Here is one article from that issue by Fr. Reardon.

 Words Worth

Words’ Worth

Patrick Henry Reardon on the Transcendent Vocabulary of Mundane Signs

I suppose that if we always thought about the meanings of the individual words we use, we should probably speak so slowly as to lose track of our sentences, to say nothing of our paragraphs. Weighing each word, as each word on its own deserves, we would probably speak a great deal less. Speaking less, on the other hand, we may actually finish by saying more.

Perhaps the best times to reflect on the meanings of words are those occasions when we are not obliged to say much, or anything at all. I am thinking of those instances when nothing much is happening, and we are simply thrown back on the contents of our own heads.

Now I confess my good fortune in only rarely being reduced to the contents of my own head. Usually there is at least a bit of reading material lying around. One doesn’t need much to read if he pays attention to the words.

Four Rich Words

One day, for instance, several years ago, I found myself waiting for a bus in a small town, and I was obliged to make do with just four words of text. As it turned out, those were words particularly dense with meaning, and they occupied my mind richly for about 45 minutes until the bus arrived.

The full text was composed on a sign on the hardware store in front of which I was waiting for the bus. The sign read: “True Value Home Center.” Even though I regretted the lack of a verb, and therefore the absence of a sentence, those four words are arguably among the richest in our vocabulary. One could feast on them all day.

The first thing to be observed was the balanced blend of Saxon and Norman sounds in “True Value Home Center,” a combination suggesting the entire drama of 1066. The alternating, reconciled, and utterly free-spirited juxtaposition of a pair of Northern words (“True” and “Home”) with two Southern words (“Value” and “Center”) stood like the solid four sides of a castle.

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