Valentine’s Day evokes its own special kind of words

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, February 14, 2007

Huggable Hippo, right, and his heartthrob, Tubbina, are snuggled up for a romantic Valentine’s Day together at the Harbeck home. Photo by Warren Harbeck

Language is such a magnificent gift the Creator has given us, and Valentine’s Day provides a particularly wonderful occasion for celebrating its magic.

But first, I want to follow up the past weeks’ columns on words with two more responses from our coffee companions.

North Vancouver wordsmith extraordinaire Philip Thatcher, author of The Raven Trilogy, disagrees with those who have a problem with turning nouns into verbs.

“In the beginning was the Verb,” he wrote. “What we know as nouns – thing-words, name-words – began life as verbs. Every noun is a verb frozen in its tracks and reduced to thingness.”

For instance, in the English phrase, “take a run,” the word “run” has been reduced from a verb to a noun. But rather than attempt inadequately to explain further what Philip is getting at now, I think I’ll devote a whole column to the subject in the near future, illustrating his point with examples from the historically verb-centered structure of the Siouan languages of North America.

Then there was this past weekend’s phone conversation with Calgary coffee companion and writer Debbie Faulkner. She’s not surprised at all that so many of our readers have responded passionately to our discussion on words.

“Words are like anchors for the soul,” she said. They hold us fast to our identity and heritage, when all around us seems uncertain and chaotic.

Which brings me back to Valentine’s Day and the kind of words that provide an especially secure anchor. Indeed, the best, the most positive and secure words are wrapped up in one three-word phrase: “I love you.” For as Mother Teresa once said, “There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

Writers down through the ages have reserved their finest wordcrafting for this amazing relationship which Oliver Wendell Holmes described as “the master key that opens the gates of happiness.”

Of such love George Eliot wrote: “What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined... to strengthen each other... to be at one with each other in silent unspeakable memories.”

Or as Robert Browning put it so simply, “Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be.”

In the spirit of this romantic season, therefore, I’d like to make an important announcement:

Huggable Hippo has found a soul mate.

Huggable is the cuddly stuffed gray hippopotamus who has made his home on my wife’s and my bed since last August, when coffee companion Elaine Phillips gave him to Mary Anna as a birthday gift. And yes, thanks to matchmaker me, he will no longer have to spend his daytime hours all alone.

His heartthrob, Tubbina – “Tubby,” for short –, is a petite, lovely aqua-green gal whom I spotted the other day among all those other sweet things at Cochrane Candies. She has already settled in with Huggable on our diamond-patterned bedspread – after all, as they say, diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

I’m sure our many coffee companions will want to wish the happy couple the very best for a snuggly future together.

And now my final words for this week – a special greeting to my own snuggly companion: Happy Valentine’s Day, Mary Anna. I love you.

© 2007 Warren Harbeck

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