Huffpost Books
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Jeff Klima Headshot

Setting Sail With the Language Pirate

Posted: Updated:

There are few things more important to an author than words. The constructed components of letters artfully arranged to function fabulously in fluidity and format. Words sound good, they look good, and 1,000 of them are worth one picture. That makes words the monetary equivalent of the rupee. And yet, words are the girders of freedom (which makes me, as an author, one of the architects of freedom [cough]). With such a distinguished pedigree, one would expect words to be rigid and inflexible but I find the opposite to be true.

I take a lot of guff because I frequently "make up words" or even use "existing words" incorrectly in pronunciation and/or definition. Most say this is out of some sort of ignorance, others claim it's because I'm "lazy as a motherfucker." I submit to you a third option: I'm a language pirate.

Now "language" and "pirate" are two words that typically have no earthly business being together (see also: space rape), but because I'm a language pirate, that phrase now exists, and, has a definition. The definition of a language pirate is someone who fearlessly navigates the unforgiving Grammar Seas (they're near Lisbon if you're interested) in search of hidden word treasure. For example: the word "macabre." Now this is a prime example of word treasure. Said correctly, it makes you sound intellectual (the equivalent of actual treasure to an author), but said or pronounced wrong and you come off like the literary equivalent of an STD. But language pirates fear no STDs, metaphorical or otherwise. Quite simply, when we come across a word like macabre, we make it suit our language needs. To me, macabre (pronounced mah-cawb and meaning chilling or gruesome) can just as easily be pronounced "mac-a-brey." And it doesn't have to indicate something ghastly either. Macabre can mean a small tart yellow fruit, just as easily as "lemon" can be used to describe an ornate candleholder. Or a non-functioning car -- this is a perfect example of language pirates who came before me.

Now the fat cats in Washington don't like this sort of "tomfoolery." They don't want words to be so free flowing and beautiful. They'd prefer words to mean what they mean and be pronounced how some long dead Frenchman thought they should be pronounced. But where's the fun in that? Words have shifted constantly in meaning and pronunciation throughout the annals of time. Many of them started out in blocky Latin and were whittled and reshaped into English, so that good people like you and me can use them without being labeled as highfalutin'. The term "mauve" for instance used to be pronounced "move," as in, rhymes with "stove." Language pirates wanted nothing to do with a word spelled "mauve" that rhymed with 'stove" and so they took the steps to make our word just a little bit more colorful.

I guess the bottom line is, the next time you see me using a word that doesn't fit the construct of the sentence, I want you to say, "God bless Jeff Klima... he's breaking down the barriers of oppression that chain me to my language." Or, at the very least, don't bother pointing it out to me; I'm far too lazy to give a damn.