Figments and Smithereens

As a writer I spend a lot of time thinking about words. I pride myself on having a fairly large vocabulary. But some words, even I have to admit, have limited use.

Take figment, for example. Have you ever heard this word used in any other context than as a figment of your imagination? If it’s a word, then it has to be a thing, right? But has anyone actually ever seen a figment? No. So even figments are figments of our imagination. Let that sink in for a minute.

If a figment had physical form, I picture it as being an angry, dusty little creature that lurks under your bed and disappears whenever you peek under there. I wouldn’t want to piss off a figment. There’s no telling what would happen. And if you discussed it after the fact, no one would believe you.

And then there’s smithereens. Not singular, mind you. Never singular. It is a word that is only proper in the plural. That is confounding, because in order to be plural, there has to be a bunch of single things grouped together, right? But look in any dictionary and you will only find it in the plural. So I guess if you separate all the smithereens, they cease to exist. And that’s another word I’ve only heard in one particular phrase: Blown to smithereens. As if it were a place. If it is a place, I don’t think it’s somewhere I would want to go. It’s probably a mess.

Just a few random thoughts from someone with entirely too much time on her hands.

So I’ll leave you with this quote:

“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.”

-Edgar Allan Poe


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