Ghost Word by Richard Kefford

You might laugh me out of the text but I think it is etymological discrimination. Just you check and see how many times little words like ‘the’ and ‘and’ get used compared to me. I understand the argument about conjunctions and articles being used a lot because they are essential to the smooth running of the prose but what about real meaning? Now there is something that is vital to any exposition, have you seen what Elmore Leonard used to do to his novels? I never rated them myself and I think some of the readers who raved about them could be described as me; I mean, he never really even describes his characters properly and leaves out the bits that readers would skip anyway. That’s no good, novels are supposed to be hard work aren’t they?

I think my basic problem is that I was born as an adjective. Now, what is the essence of adjective? What is its function?  The humans always boast ‘I think therefore I am’. The most an adjective can say is that ‘I describe therefore I am’. This means that my existence depends on someone using me to describe something or someone else. I have no independent existence; I always have to depend on a noun being available that I can apply myself to.

Don’t get me started on nouns. Do you know how arrogant they are? ‘I am therefore I am’, they always say, relishing their independent existence. And as for gerunds, they are even worse, seeing themselves as upmarket nouns, ‘we can do the job of both nouns and verbs,’ they boast, ‘I am and do therefore I am.’ Snobs, all of them.

Yes, I’m afraid I suffer from the adjective’s perennial problem, low esteem. I have been to see my Thesaurus, Dr Roget, but she wasn’t much help. ‘You should just accept your place in the lexicon and be happy with that,’ she said. ‘You have had a good life, I know you were in the Army, the Paras wasn’t it? That gave you a chance to travel and I believe Jonathan Swift wrote all about your adventures around the world.’

‘Yes, but even he spelled my name wrong. You’d think a man of the church would go to the trouble of getting that right wouldn’t you? I think the main cause of my problem is that I am still the only word that has been left out of an edition of the OED by mistake. They made sure I was back in the next edition but how do you think that makes me feel? What do you think I should do?

‘My suggestion is this. Accept your place in the order of things and your characteristics that you cannot change. You will always be an adjective for example and there is nothing wrong with that. Where would we be without the valuable work that you and your colleagues do? The world would be a very simple and plain place. I suggest that you go back to your home in the OED and make friends with your neighbours. The one before you, ‘the passage by which food passes from the mouth to the stomach,’ sounds like he may have some interesting stories and the one after you. ‘A ravine or channel formed by running water’ may have some stories of far-off places that you both have visited?’

‘OK, I’ll try that. Thank you doctor.’

‘No problem, always glad to help. If you have any more problems, you can always come and look me up.’

I walked out through the waiting room and saw an old friend of mine sitting in the corner.

‘What are you doing here?’ I asked

‘I’ve been coming here for some time, to see Dr Roget. She is treating me for my problem.’

‘What problem is that?’ I asked, a little indelicately.

‘I get frightened by old fashioned cookers in big, open plan kitchens, ‘he said, ‘the doctor thinks I am suffering from agarophphobia.’

‘Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I had better let you get on with your therapy then, I can see you have a lot on your plates.’

‘Yes, I’m cooking dinner tonight.’

He knocked on the door and walked in the doctor’s treatment room. I didn’t believe a word of it. Who did he think I was? I’m not a backward Evian. I’ve been around a bit.

I did as Dr Roget suggested and made my home in the ‘G’ section of the OED. I was getting well settled in when, one day, there was a lot of noise from just overleaf, on the next page. I looked it up and found it was gunfire, ‘the repeated firing of a gun or guns’ so I looked across to the opposite page and talked to my guardian, ‘a person who defends and protects something’. Yes, I know he is one of those nouns but he agreed to look after me. I think he was feeling quite proud to be asked, even if it was only by a lowly adjective. He was really a guerrilla guardian from Guatemala who was quite fond of alliteration so we bonded well as we went fishing for Gudgeon together.

That’s what he told me and I, of course, believed him. That is what I do.


Richard Kefford joined  the Royal Navy from school,  followed this with an engineering career.  He studied geology and creative writing with the Open University since 2008.
Richard lives in Somerset, where he enjoys wood turning, hill walking, practical geology and writing.


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